Sarah Cook’s YouTube channels aren’t what you’d call viral. Her videos sit quietly with maybe 150 views per song. Each video features nothing more than a hesitant Cook sitting in her cluttered bedroom and singing songs with unvarnished honesty; to use the phrase “production value” would be a misuse of the term. In these days of Lady GaGa excess, there is something refreshing about that. In place of all the expensive embellishments is something unpretentious, sincere, and unconcerned with fame. Her first album, Sheeps and Such, was recorded by a friend studying engineering at HCC and her follow-up, Symmetry in Motion, is being recorded this summer as she prepares to enter Southwestern University this fall (major: Philosophy. Minors: Ancient Greek and Computational Mathematics). Ask Cook of her musical ambitions and she will smile and a shrug saying, “I don’t know where it will take me or even if it will take me anywhere. All of the music I’ve done so far has really just been for fun.” Wow, people make music just for fun? Apparently, the answer is yes.
FPH – Do you play out in Houston?
Cook – I’ve only played a couple of shows – one at the Mink and one at the Jet lounge. I don’t play out often; most of what I do is at home. I’d love to play out more but I’m just really busy and this isn’t the biggest part of my life right now so it has to go on the backburner a lot which is unfortunate but it’s true.
I goofed around with Cari Quoyeser; she was in Suburban Warfare before they broke up and now she has a solo project. We went downtown with our guitars and played on street corners. It was incredible and so much fun! We didn’t make much money but it was a great experience to sit down and play for no one and everyone at the same time. We got in trouble so we then set up outside of a Starbucks downtown and they were mad because we had our cases open for tips. They told us we could play but we couldn’t get paid because it was against corporate policy or something. Sorry, Starbucks. They really didn’t want us to play but there was nothing they could do about us sitting outside and playing as long as we had our cases closed.
FPH – How is it playing live compared after playing at home for so long?
Cook – Playing live or in my room don’t feel as different as I would have expected and I think that’s because I’m not really into showmanship of playing in front of people like “All right!! How’s everyone doin’ tonight?!!!” I’m not into that.
FPH – How did it feel making those YouTube videos?
Cook – It felt creepy because I didn’t know where to look. If you notice, I avoid making any kind of eye contact. It feels egocentric to just stare at the camera. “Hey, everyone look at me!” That’s not what I’m trying to market; I wanted people to hear my music and not be distracted by who was playing the music. I feel that a lot of people who do videos or performances will sell their appearance instead of their talent and that bothers me because that is not the most important thing. I know that’s backwards from what the industry is saying right now but that’s what I think.
FPH – Is there any difference between playing live and YouTube?
Cook – A big difference is that, when I am doing a video, you don’t know who is watching. When you play a show, people have come to see you so it’s a lot more positive than just putting it out there for anyone.
That’s been the worst part of doing music. It’s scary to put yourself out there – not just putting yourself out there, but when people are rude about it. When people tell you that you are not good, that is the hardest thing to hear but I‘ve learned that you aren’t going to please everyone ever in anything you do. Just do what you love and love what you do. If people don’t like it, they can listen to something else.
There was one comment that was really funny. I got it the day after Christmas and, at that time, it was really hurtful because the album had only been around a few months and I was really self-conscious about how people were going to feel about it. I’m over it now but at the time it was “Oh my goodness.” (Cook then finds the e-mail and reads it while laughing)
Subject: Awful and Shameful
This music stinks. I feel I’m in a funeral. This music makes me want to cause myself bodily harm. All the sounds sound like one big teen angsty song. It would be terrible if this was real. Was this someone’s science fair project? The answer is yes. I want to crawl under a rock and cry. I wish this was upbeat and positive like Hannah Montana.
I guess, I’m sorry you wish my music was like Hanna Montana’s?
FPH – Wow, that’s hilarious – he really went to extra mile. So, so why put yourself out there in the first place? What’s the purpose of music? What does it allow you to do?
Cook – A great purpose of music is to honor God. Even if you look biblically – the entire book of psalms is music to bring glory to God. But I also think it’s a way to clarify and to have an excuse to say things about life that wouldn’t be socially acceptable if it wasn’t in a musical context. There are lots of things in my music that I don’t feel I could just stand in front of people and just talk about but because it’s in the frame of being music, then people will listen. Music bends the norm of what we’ve been socialized to say.
You can see Sarah Cook
July 8th Sarah Cook @ Bohemeo’s with Clory Martin
July 14th at Warehouse Live Studio Room.