Tradition runs deep in the veins of Nova Scotia country musician Ryan Cook, performing Saturday night at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge.
With his third full-length effort, Wrestling With Demons, Cook’s authentic country sound reflects his desire to pay musical tribute to the very roots of a genre that has lost its way over the past two decades. Cook indeed holds the country torch high.
What is rather refreshing with Cook however is that he is also able to inject a significant dose of humour into his songs. After all, not just anybody could get away with singing of the perils of dating in the age of social media as heard in Cook’s song “Facebook Waltz.”
Although the title of Cook’s newest album might not make the casual observer think twice, the credits in the record are billed as wrestling matches while he also manages to name-check legendary wrestler Andre The Giant in the track “I’ll Love You Until The End Of The World.”
Clearly, there is more to Wrestling With Demons than it just being an album title.
“I was a very big fan of the World Wrestling Federation when I was a kid,” Cook explains. “When I was five or six years old, I became totally obsessed with wrestling to the extent that my parents help me convert the bed in my room into a fake wrestling ring with posts and ropes and the whole nine yards.
“Too bad it was a waterbed though,” he deadpans.
Cook’s infatuation with wrestling waned after he became a teenager. His interest in wrestling was somewhat rekindled in the last few years however not in the way that one might expect it to be rekindled.
“For one reason or another, I became aware of the wrestlers that were dying young and tragically, in seemingly large numbers. All those guys that I idolized as a kid were gone. I started researching and watching videos and old interviews of these guys, learning their back stories and found out that the truth was indeed stranger than fiction. The lives they lived behind the scenes was almost like kids living in an imaginary world. I became completely fascinated by that whole side of the business.”
Like those members of the World Wrestling Federation (known as the WWE these days), Cook is able to draw some parallels between the lives that his former heroes lived and that of a musician.
“Over the last two years, from March through November, I have been so busy that I haven’t really been living anywhere specific,” Cook says. “My life was in a constant state of flux, living one week here, another week there, not unlike wrestlers who would travel town to town to perform for audiences. Mind you, my level of intensity and theirs are pretty different but in some ways, the lifestyle is the same: you get up every night, perform in front of a crowd of people and when the lights go down, you’re still full of adrenaline and ego.”
Cook will be the first to admit that he is not the most prolific songwriter. Rather than churn out a bunch of predictable, paint-by-numbers songs, he has instead chosen to always put his best foot forward and completely flesh out ideas before committing them to record.
After having participated in a number of songwriting sessions in Nashville, he has learned to trust his instincts when it comes to getting what he wants out of his music.
“I have discovered that I just so happen to take a long time to write songs. I’ve written less than 35 songs in my life even though I have probably 100 ideas that aren’t finished. To only have that amount of material over the past six or seven years shows the clip at which I work. I just want to be sure that I am putting my best foot forward when it comes to my material.”
With his own R.V. as his tour chariot and a dog in tow as well — “Because what could be more country than that,” he laughs — Cook expects to remain busy throughout the remainder of the year.
Although touring is by and large a solitary experience which few can relate to at the end of the day, Cook wouldn’t trade what he is doing for the world. It is the suspense of not really knowing exactly what is coming down the line that serves as his motivation.
“A couple of years ago, I had the chance to open some shows for Travis Tritt and almost immediately after that, I felt as though my career had some momentum for the first time. It was incredibly fulfilling. The next I know, two years have passed. If there is anything I have learned, playing music for living is kind of like a never-ending story of sorts. You just never know where or how the story ends. That is exciting to me.”
Article published in the March 29, 2013 edition of The Times & Transcript