Jesse Cook – Born this Way

If someone wants to know exactly when Jesse Cook started playing guitar – just like Jesse himself, that person must ask his Mom

” I do not remember the early years, it’s my Mom who filled me in on that part of things. According to her, I started playing guitar at the age of four. Sorta. I had a toy guitar and I would imitate the Flamenco music which the Gypsies  were playing around that time in the South of France.” Says Cook.

Jesse, originally from France, is preparing for a Wednesday night gig in Ottawa before arriving in Montreal for his performance at Place des Arts on Thursday. He is on tour promoting his new album; The Blue Guitar Sessions.

The disc is very different from his previous seven and for Cook, a simple explanation can be summed up in one word; simplicity …

Simple eh?

” The inspiration came from Adele’s album ’21’.  I was amazed how she put together a pop album with her voice and a piano. Normally albums in the pop category are made with infectious grooves and hooks. Habitually  involving dance music which is written to erupt. These type of songs or albums also have many people in a group or with several session guys. Adele was able to produce the same result with simplicity – I was really floored.”

Cook’s inspiration was not to rush out and do a similar album on the spur of the moment. The  idea to do a disc with a toned down feeling had been in Jesse’s mind for a while. Thanks to Adele, Cook decided it was the right time to do something.  Possessing experience and confidence also helped his plight …

“I wanted to record a disc where ‘nothing erupts!” Laughs Jesse. ” The album has no happy tunes, it is just one sad song after another. Because I had the songs in my head for a while, the writing was effortless. I pretty much wrote a song a day. Of course, afterwards I had to arrange them in my home studio but I’d say the album was finished  in a few weeks.”

Most of the songs were also written while he was vacationing with his wife and two kids. Something which shocks Cook.

“Normally I needed to be away from the family to write. For some reason, this time, hearing the kids ( boy and girl) in the background sounded right. Then ( the bonus was)  right after I finished, the kids were there to hang out with.”

The kid Jesse – started taking guitar lessons at the age of six. His Mom trying in vain to find someone who wanted to teach her young, gifted son.  Most so-called ‘teachers’ refused citing Cook was too young. Until one day …

” My Mother found Eli Kassner  who was very open to teaching me. It was great because he believed that a young child is more open to learning than someone older. I started to learn classical guitar and all the techniques that come with it.”

By the time Jesse hit thirteen years of age , following excursions into Jazz, Rock and pop music – Cook discovered himself burnt out. He lost the joy in playing and had come to the point where he had ‘learned too much’. It wasn’t until a return to the south of France with his Father and a re- introduction to Flamenco music through Nicolas Reyes that Jesse  learned to love  playing guitar once more.

By the time Jesse was nineteen, his cousin – a dancer with the Canadian National Ballet Company, introduced him to a man by the name of Robert Desrosiers. Robert was a filmmaker and this opened the door for Cook to start writing and producing soundtracks for films.

“People always told me to make my first album. For a long time, I did not want to for the simple reason I wanted to still have a career into my sixties. Music is fickle. They ( the fans) love you one day then hate you the next. I was never sure it was the thing for me.”

As time went on, Jesse discovered that nagging feeling would not go away. He decided to make his first album because he did not want to have any regrets floating through his brain. No what-ifs …?

” The first record, we made a thousand copies.” Says Cook. ” I thought they would stay piled up in my basement and that would be the end of it. Suddenly, they started selling like hotcakes and we had to keep printing more. The first thousand sold in one week, then we sold another thousand in the next two weeks. I was really surprised!”

That first disc; ‘Tempest”, soared to number 14 on Billboard’s World Music chart and according to Jesse, it was all because of the  Catalina Jazz Festival in California. Cook was scheduled and played in a small setting offset from the main stage. His performance was so well received – an invitation to the main stage followed. An invitation which changed Cook’s world forever.

Cook has recorded eight studio albums, three live DVDs and has traveled the world blending many different music into his style of rumba flamenco. In addition to headlining concerts and festivals, he has opened for such legends as B.B. King, Ray Charles and Diana Krall. Cook has also performed with Welsh soprano Charlotte Church on The Tonight Show and toured with legendary Irish band, The Chieftains.

It was through music where he also met his wife. A woman by the name of Nancy Cardwell. Cook admits it was not easy ..

“I performed at the 1999 Juno Awards.’ Explains Jesse. ” They had hired a bunch of Flamenco dancers to perform with me. I met Nancy backstage and was smitten by her. I kept flirting every chance I got but she did not want anything to do with me! About five years later, we met again and I was able to win her over … Fate is a funny thing.”

Along with being a Father to a young boy, girl and new album – Jesse is in the middle of a tour which is bringing himself and his mates to places he has never seen. Cook attributes this to the PBS special;  ‘Jesse Cook, Live in Concert‘. It was  released in 2012 and was broadcast on the PBS and Public Television networks in the United States. Cook has never been more popular than he is at the current moment.

“My fan base is growing immensely thanks to the exposure gained through that special. It is amazing to be able to explore different cities and meet new people. My wife is so supportive and strong which makes my life so much easier. Not only that, we also perform together every once in a while – which is amazing also ..!”

If someone wants to know exactly when Jesse Cook is  playing guitar – that person may just have to ask his wife …

Jesse Cook is playing tonight at Salle Wilfred Pelletier at Place des Arts – showtime is at 8pm

2 thoughts on “Jesse Cook – Born this Way

  1. Pingback: Steve Hill; Back Where he Started | Rick Keene's Music Scene

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