The romantic notion of life on the road as a traveling musician, sleeping in his van and on couches as he crosses not only the vast spaces of his home continent, but journeys across the world, is embodied by Canadian artist Scott Cook.
Last in Taiwan almost two years ago, he has returned to his former home away from home on a tour to promote his third solo album, Moonlit Rambles.
“I’ve come back to Taiwan to reconnect with the reasons I started doing this in the first place,” said Cook. “Traveling, playing music, meeting new people, spreading the love and understanding — the reasons I started and the reasons I continue.”
Making a living as a musician in Canada has been “a long, hard slog,” he said. “Progress is slower than I would have liked. Four years ago I would have set my sights a little further down the road. It’s really hard to get your foot in the door, there’s a lot of talent … Everybody’s brother is in a band. It’s hard to get those people, radio DJs, to listen to your music.”
But things have been looking up in the past couple of years: Cook is “starting to make a profit” and he’s been able to sustain himself in North America through house concerts. This has nothing to do with electronic house music, and everything to do with an unplugged, authentic experience in individuals’ homes.
In a job where “meals, drinks, rooms are a big part of it,” and there are “gigs where that’s all that’s on the table,” the trend has been a lifesaver.
“House concerts have taken off in North America in a big way. Some are established venues now, 80 people at each show, booked two years in advance,” said Cook.
“It comes from some people realizing musicians need places to play and don’t always get fair deals or a listening audience in the clubs. For artists, [these are] the most profitable gigs. You get to stay there, meet the people, meet their friends — it feels like it means something, people listen and [they] don’t have conversations while you are playing.”
Usually the night will begin and end earlier than at clubs or bars, with an acoustic set from 7pm to 9pm. Cook already has five house concerts lined up as part of his Taiwan tour.
Though he will also play the big cities, he has included a string of smaller gigs in the tour. “It’s the same in North America as in Taiwan; if you play a small town, your show is likely to be the only thing happening. If you play in Toronto, musicians are used to not being paid because so many shows are going on,” he said. “If you go out to a smaller town, you can do quite well. People are happy to have music. It’s more satisfying to play where people appreciate it, listen to what you are singing and have interest in what you are doing; [you] get to know people.”
As of today, Cook has already played shows in Taipei, Taoyuan, and Jungli, with a show tonight in Jhubei at Titty Tea, and a sold-out house concert in Taichung on Sunday. He’ll be in Tainan on Friday next week at Tin Pan Alley and at the Brickyard in Kaohsiung the day after. Cook will continue around the country with shows in Taitung and Hualien before taking a break next month.
In March, he’ll continue his Taiwan tour with his former band, The Anglers. For a full list of venues and dates check out his Web site at www.scottcook.net.