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  • Interview: Elizabeth Cook

    Mon, 11 Jun 2007 11:44:57

    Interview: Elizabeth Cook - The ballsy country singer talks about going where no female country artists have gone (at least recently)

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    Country artist Elizabeth Cook has been around the Nashville block. Since recording her debut five years ago, Cook has bounced between labels with her sophisticated bluegrass sound—earning critical acclaim and comparisons to Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris, but no breakthrough hit. Her latest release, Balls, may well change that: a modern mix of feisty foot-stompers and subtle ballads, it showcases her lyricism and ear for a perfect melody.

    ARTISTdirect caught up with her in Nashville to chat about the pleasure of new collaborations and staying off the corporate trampoline.

    Tell us about making the new record, Balls—was it the first time you've worked with Rodney Crowell?
    [Crowell has worked with artists such as Rosanne Cash and Beth Nielsen Chapman.]

    Yes. Rodney and I have been acquainted for some time. We almost worked together on my very first record in 1999, but when that deal fell through, he was in the midst of releasing The Houston Kid, and our paths drifted apart.

    His name came up when the label was looking for someone to steer the ship. The schedules matched and it was on. It happened very fast. Rodney has a very calming effect in the studio. He brings a wealth of experience to the console. The man knows how to make records, and even though at this point I feel I can do it too, I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn from him.

    What was the process like—did it differ from your previous recording experiences?

    This was the first time I felt like I was really making a record. Finally someone, specifically, David Macias and 31 Tigers allowed me an opportunity to boldly go where no chick country singer I know of had been in a while. Alas, I wasn't piecing together demos or under pressure to make something mainstream. Most of the songs I had written by myself and they seem quirky to me so that was cool. And I felt confident because I think Rodney's greatest strength is his sense of song and he was totally on board. I felt like I was sneaking and getting away with something. Like someone gave me some money to go buy some paint and sent me on my way.

    We tracked all 11 cuts in 2 days. The record was finished in two weeks. I'd never got to go in and knock it out all at once like that. All the players are friends and my husband Tim Carroll was there as chief musical chameleon, generously at me and Rodney's fingertips. Friends and family buzzed in and out. I catered the session myself everyday (with a little help from mama and my girlfriends). It gave me something to do with my anxiety and we all enjoyed the "dinner on the ground" feel. It was beautiful and I'll never forget it.

    You graduated with degrees in Accounting and Computer Information Systems, and were working for Price Waterhouse before you got your first publishing deal. When did you decide to give that life up for the music industry?

    Basically I decided as soon as the deal was on the table. I talked it over with my family even though I knew they'd always wanted me to make music. My parents being of an older rural generation were mystified when I went to college. This however was something I was doing that finally made some sense to them. I felt the opportunity was genuine though I knew there were no big promises, no guarantees. But since I wasn't feeling too groovy with my current circumstance, there was nothing to lose but my 401k and health insurance. So here I sit with a couple of cavities and a sinus infection, but album number four, a really cute guitar-slinging husband, a little house in East Nashville, 2.5 cats, and a half-alive herb garden. I feel proud.

    Talk us through that first break and what happened with your earlier records.

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