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Elizabeth Cook

A Conversation with Elizabeth Cook

Puremusic: I really like this new record.

Elizabeth Cook: Thank you.

PM: I like very much the opening song, even though it's not the title of the record, "Times Are Tough in Rock 'n' Roll."

EC: Yeah.

PM: Because you're saying things. I like that big fat juice harp right on the downbeat. That made me smile.


EC: Oh, I know.

PM: That's your husband playing the juice harp, right?

EC: Yeah, that's Tim. And I just noticed a juice harp on a Dandy Warhols record the other day.

PM: What?

EC: Yeah. There's juice harp on--I can't remember which song it is, but there was juice harp this Dandy Warhols record. So it crosses genres, and that's really my plight as an artist is to sort of demystify the juice harp and knock down barriers that have caused all this prejudice against the juice harp.


PM: Oh, that's great.

Now, you wrote that opener yourself, right, "Times are Tough"?

EC: Yeah.

PM: What prompted that? I mean, there are a couple of lines from that I would like to zoom in on. But what prompted that song?

EC: I don't know. I mean, I can't claim that there was like some sort of great deal of forethought.

PM: Yeah. But you sat down one day and--

EC: It was New Year's Day. I had a hangover.

PM: Really? My birthday.

EC: Oh, is it really? I have a hard time writing at home sometimes because I get too distracted, too ADD. So I had some stuff burning in my mind, so Tim got in the truck and drove me to--I think we went to Hartselle, Georgia, and back, just like drove down 65 and back, and I wrote "Borrowing Trouble" and "Times are Tough in Rock 'n' Roll" on the way there and back.

PM: In the truck.

EC: In the truck. And then when we got home that night he threw up a mic and we recorded it.

PM: That is unbelievable. I've never heard the likes of that from a songwriter before.

EC: Yeah, both those on the same day, just kind of spit them out, had them in my head musically, how they go. As soon as I got home I pulled out a guitar to put the chords with them, and we work-taped them. So yeah, I wrote both of those on the same day.

PM: He must have been excited to be your chauffeur for the day, and have you come up with two songs in the truck.

EC: Yeah, it's a little bit gooey, but part of our romance is sort of this understanding that hopefully I have of him, and that certainly he does of me, in that sometimes we just go riding, and sometimes I write in the car, and he knows that. We don't turn on the radio. We don't talk, we just sort of ride down on 65, on a winter day.

PM: I always think relationships are very interesting, how people do them, and especially how fellow musicians do them, and fellow artists do them. That's a very interesting story there. How about the line in that song, "a thousand lies are being told, times are tough in rock 'n' roll," did you have any lies in mind that you remember when you were writing that?

EC: Probably just the overall farce that a lot of what we accept as commercial music today, what a farce it is. I think it's a real cheapening of the art form.

PM: Yeah, the stuff that they're shoving down people's throats.

EC: Yeah. And the people that are singing it aren't the people that wrote it, and the people that are writing it aren't necessarily musically anointed people.

PM: Right.

EC: And I hate to cast that judgment, it's not that I want to, it's just that it's an unfortunate awareness that I sometimes wish I didn't have. Be a lot easier to just go through life and not notice all the shit that bugs you. But I can't help it. I see it, and it breaks my heart. And sometimes it makes me mad.

PM: I do forget how fascinating you are until we get on the phone. When we meet in town or something I always get three to five minutes with you, and we exchange the pleasantries. But when we get beyond five minutes, I remember how deep and fascinating a character you are. It's really something.

EC: Well, some people can't get past my ponytail.

PM: You're killing me.

EC: Well, it's true, it's true--or my accent or whatever. And that's okay, you know. I have to work harder, I feel like, with my writing and my music, to prove myself. And I've still got a long way to go.

PM: Another line that I really like is "some would like to cramp my style, I keep on walking my country mile." Do you take a lot of flak for your music being, as one hears these days, "too country for country"? You still getting flak for that?

EC: Not directly. It's just the thing is that people that are aware of me that have the wherewithal to give that haven't given it to me because they don't know how to fit me into the box that they know how to sell. And I feel sometimes I get a little bit patronized, because sometimes it seems like it's, "Oh, we love you and the critics love you, and it's cool to love you, so we love you, but..."--that's where it stops. They go home and love me, and I go home and--

PM: Be loved.

EC: Yeah, there you go.

PM: Yeah, to me it's still one of the three great mysteries of Nashville, why isn't Jonell Mosser a star, or why isn't Jeffrey Steele an artist, and why isn't Elizabeth Cook a major star. It's just one of the mysteries of Nashville that may not be a mystery that much longer, because I think this album is going to bring you a little further into the spotlight.


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