Country Music People May 2019 - Page 58

my dad’s a very traditional musician, and so I always try to keep that in mind when I do the records. We’ve played at festivals that are straight traditional and we will even kind of change our set list to accommodate that festival so we’re playing more traditional tunes. We still stay true to ourselves and the music that we make but we do accommodate the audience and make sure that they’re pleased.” Stepping into the producer’s chair finds Cook adding another string to her mandolin. “What I’ve done in the studio so far…I’ve done a very traditional, great band, a contemporary band and then a Gospel band. There’s all elements of the bluegrass genre coming through the studio. It’s exciting because I get to work on things that are not necessarily what I would do myself. It’s neat to see the different versions of the music really.” With her producing credits and her unusually lengthy record deal Cook would appear to be very well thought of by Mountain Fever. “Yeah,” she confirms enthusiastically, “It was definitely an exceptional thing for them to offer me that and then it’s exciting because I know I’ve got five more records to make — and much more than that — but I know right now I’ve got five records ahead of me and it’s exciting to be already pulling material for another record. We have a record out and I’m already pulling material for the next album. “We went in to do this new record, Point Of No Return, and it was time for my contract… so Mountain Fever, Mark Hodges, they offered me a seven year, five album contract… It was very humbling that they had that much faith in me.” The search for songs has previously found Cook interpreting Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings and Guy Clark and she says, “I put out feelers for song writers, that’s one thing that I do, but I also write by myself and I co-write with others. Carolyne, my banjo player, and I, we do a lot of writing and we try to just have these sessions where we sit down and we listen to obscure music. We’ll go back and pull songs that we really like from the 70s and the 50s and we’ll just kind of play around with them. The Gillian Welch tune, Caleb Meyer, that was one that I had come across years ago and I loved the song and we just sat down with it and kind of made it our own. It’s that creative process that’s so exciting about coming in and doing a new record because you get to meet with these songwriters and some of these people are incredibly famous people and you’re communicating with them on a one to one level. And then on the next level the creativity of writing and then the third is taking a cover and making it our own. So it’s a three way type process of getting material for the record because I feel like I don’t want to have all original material because people do like to hear things they recognise, even if it’s done in a different way. People like familiar tunes so I will always do a couple of covers. I like to hear what other people do with songs when they put their own spin on it.” Sometimes, that ‘own spin’ can come from sources outside the world of bluegrass. “I think there’s definitely room to take any kind of genre and make a bluegrass tune out of it,” proclaims the blonde bluegrasser. “You don’t have to be hemmed in to, ‘It’s gotta be bluegrass’, I think that it’s just got to be good music. That’s my philosophy. “I think that any good music, no matter what it is, I think that any of it can be taken and broken down acoustically and made into real music. And I think that’s my love of this music genre, because I know these people. I know the people that are playing the music and these are real musicians, these are real people and the music is just broken down. There’s not a lot of production, there’s not a lot of any kind of electrical influence, so to speak. I enjoy it because I know it’s real music.” Helping Amanda Cook grow an international fan base has been a tie-up with Australian bluegrass artist and label-mate Kristy Cox for live dates in the US and Down Under on the Southern Sisters Bluegrass Tour. “I just got done with an Australian tour. We were gone about three weeks from January into February and it was really an awesome experience — travelling internationally and playing for an audience that shocked me that people knew who I was already when we got there. It was just a really huge response with everything there. I got a lot of followers on social media from fans that have joined up with us in Australia and have downloaded music and bought albums. I’ve had people order albums off my website from Australia and it’s really neat. I feel like it absolutely put me in a new market that I would never have known about.” Success for Amanda Cook has come more quickly than she expected. “I did my first record independently back in 2013 and we released it in 2014, and I was…It had a good response. It got a little chart action and I dipped my toe in the water. But when I did my first record with Mountain Fever in 2017 we released Deep Water and we were immediately recognised. The radio DJs grabbed hold of that record and it just spread like wildfire. This last Summer when we really started touring heavily, we started getting out into the Northern parts of the country, and we would play and people would recognise the songs. That was a really eye-opening, humbling moment for me that, ‘okay, this is happening’. And I still struggle with that, that this is all real, because I have so many people now that reach out and say, ‘your song touched me’ and ‘I just love your music’ and…I don’t know…It’s just humbling. I just never really expected it to go quite that fast.” One of the tracks on Cook’s latest is the country waltz of My Favorite Memory which highlights how suited the Floridian songstress might be to a full-blown country record. “I’ve never done any country albums or anything,” she sighs, “but I have done country fill-ins and gigs and it’s fun. I love 90s country. I love the old fashioned country that we had when I was growing up.” In the meantime, Amanda Cook is settling into life in Virginia and with her multi-album deal we are going to be hearing a lot more of her. Amanda Cook: Point Of No Return is available now