Elizabeth Cook, a Central Florida native (Tom Petty country), is everything you’d want in an outlaw country singer and more. She is a regular at the Grand Ole Opry, award-winning radio hostess, guest star on “Squidbillies” and a David Letterman favorite. You don’t get to that status by just watching the grass grow. After a few past records, Cook gave us the topnotch “Balls” in 2007 (including the single “Sometimes it Takes Balls to be a Woman”) followed by the awfully popular “Welder” in 2010 (do yourself a favor and check those out). From there, she cemented herself as an outlaw icon. Listening to her for the first time, you’d probably liken her to an uncensored Dolly Parton — and she’d probably welcome that description. In 2016 Cook released “Exodus of Venus,” which was six years in the making. During that gap of time, Cook braved some tough elements of life. These experiences have, without a doubt, bled into her newest work. Recently, Cook’s beloved dog, Floyd, passed away. He was equally loved by Elizabeth and her fans. However, now Elizabeth Cook is back on the road and like the phoenix from the ashes, she has risen from some hard times and proved to the world, once again, that, “Sometimes, it takes balls to be a woman.”
I got the opportunity to ask Cook a few questions through her manager. The responses I received tickled me because they are so obviously Elizabeth Cook. Her tour is in full swing now and, luckily for us, she’s stopping by the Pour House on Feb. 13. If you’re looking for a “pre-romantic” evening, you can join me there. Check out the interview below:
Henry: What’s it like being on the road again? Anything in particular that makes this tour special?
Elizabeth: This tour is truly special. It’s a homecoming. The routing has me on roads that go right by the house I grew up in — I will see family and friends almost every night, of course meet up with fans new and old, be churning out new songs right there on stage. I find myself most inspired in the South.
H: What does a day of relaxation look like to you?
E: I wear whatever I fell asleep in. Take a slow walk. Drive windows down and music blasting to the grocery store and buy all kinds of things to cook. Cook all day listening to music. Eat and drink all night. Maybe friends, a fire and guitar. My dog just died so I miss him.
H: You’ve been working hard on the circuit for decades now. What keeps you driven? What inspires you and how many damn times have you performed on the Grand Ole Opry?
E: I have no plan B. And I will work or run. The experiences I get to have and often bring others along for are insane. I’ve been on the Opry over 400 times.
H: I spent a lot of my young life listening to you on the radio. I rode everywhere with my Pops driving to and from work, school and such. He’d leave the Outlaw Country station on his XM and I grew to like your music and sense of humor. From listening, my love for country and western grew, I even tried to figure out the chords for songs like, “If I Had My Way” — I’d still love to have em’. My Pops was the guy who wore the hell out of a “Best of Merle Haggard” record on a drive from Bluffton, SC to Cape May, NJ to pick up my brother from boot camp. So, people like you became something like a hero to me. How important do you think country/western music is in today’s world? Artists like you, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price and loads more are far from what dominates today’s “country” music charts.
E: There are fans out there for what we do. It’s just a matter of connecting the dots. SiriusXM Outlaw Country has been a major catalyst for that. We don’t need mainstream country radio, which is nice. We’ve got our own thing going. It feels electric. With visionaries like David Macias and Thirty Tigers, and Jeremy Tepper and his programming commitment to out satellite radio channel, just a lot of things are coming together. And “If I Had My Way” is a tricky one chord song. It’s just A. Never changes.
H: Not to be like all the other fishwrap but you’ve had some incredible ups and downs in your life in the past few years. Some extremes like deaths in the family, divorces, major fire, a recent mental health diagnosis, etc. and it’s been awhile since “Welder” and “Gospel Plow,” both fantastic and popular, but there was a gap of a few years. Were you writing during all this time?
E: Yes and no. I’m always writing. I have neurotic mountains of color-coded notes. But I have to be in a very specific and elusive space to make songs out of those.
H: The new record, “Exodus of Venus,” is this a new beginning or rebirth for you? It’s beautifully dark but different from your previous work.
E: Everything feels like a new beginning, but I’m not detached artistically to who I was before the crisis era. I hope the next record will be a blend of ‘Welder’ and ‘Exodus.’ But I will tell you that ‘Exodus’ was supposed to be a country funk record [laughs]. So who knows how it will come out.
H: These new songs like “Methadone Blues” and “Slow Pain” are just killer. I’m excited to hear them live. How did you develop this new tone?
E: I think I was always a chipper happy girl….oranges and sunshine but I like a good party and can be a total smart-ass. After all the traumas and dramas, I simply had a new, if unfortunate, depth to write from.
H: What music are you currently listening to?
E: A lot of Jim James, Kevin Morby, Kendrick Lamar, old REM and I like the new Mike and The Moonpies record. It’s all over the place.
H: What advice do you have for all the young artists out there?
E: Get on top of your mental health.
Thank you to Elizabeth and to L, her manager, for the interview opportunity. I know y’all have been busier than a moth in a mitten. To all Elizabeth Cook fans and soon-to-be Elizabeth Cook fans, remember to check her out at the Pour House on Feb. 13th. R.I.P. Floyd.
“Why You Should See…” is CisternYard Media’s music column highlighting artists with upcoming shows in the Charleston area. Written by your fellow students and music fans, we’re here to make sure you don’t miss the show.