A common saying for artists is that they try to diversify their sound as much as possible, so as not to get “pigeonholed” into one specific style and become repetitive.
Wichita Falls, Texas native James Cook diversified his sound by adding elements from all of musical stylings that he grew up with, and he is seeing the results. He’s earned several thousand streams across his newest album Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo, and the album’s newest single, “Wake the Dead” is currently on its way up the charts.
Read along as Cook describes his wide array of influences, bringing a more energetic sound to Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo, how 2019 has been the biggest year of his career so far, and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
James Cook: Otis Redding and Joe Cocker are some of my favorites vocally. Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Shel Silverstein pushed my songwriting. Harry Nilsson and Willie Nelson inspired me to do whatever I want.
PC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
James Cook: I’ve always wanted music to be a part of my life, so making it a career was an easy choice. About 4 years ago, I started taking it seriously and moving in the right direction to make it a profession.
PC: You won the Rattle Magazine Songwriter Award in 2015, where they also praised your diverse sound. What did it mean to you to earn that recognition at that early stage of your career?
JC: The songwriting competitions allowed me to hear different styles from all over Texas and to meet wonderful people. Being recognized as being diverse meant I could continue to do it any way I want and not have my music live in a box.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Flat, Foolish and Despised” single?
JC: I was pretty relaxed because I didn’t think anyone would pick it up. It didn’t sound like anything else on Texas music radio, so I assumed it would just make a small wave and I would get little recognition for it. It turned out to be a very big turning point in my music career.
PC: While your debut EP Lullaby for a Rapture featured a more acoustic-driven sound, your album Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo is more electric-driven. Was that something that you did intentionally, or something that happened naturally as you were writing/recording the album?
JC: I wanted the first one to have a very somber theme because I knew that I would use the album to book acoustic shows around Texas. After playing with the band for a few years, I realized we had an energetic sound, and I wanted to capture that for the second album.
PC: “Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo” opens up its album on a rocking, energetic note. Why did you decide to name the album after that song and have it serve as the lead track on the album?
JC: I wanted a completely different sound for the second album, so right off the bat, I wanted fans to hear how energetic our live show was. Plus, the song works as a good kickoff point to an album that I was hoping would be listened to all the way through.
PC: Of the songs on Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo, “Foaming at the Mouth” is one of my favorite songs on the album and is currently the highest streamed song on the record. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with people the way it has?
JC: The hook stayed in my head for quite a while, and I wanted to write a song about my reckless years in my early twenties. In the song, I decided to take a look at how I hurt other people and how vengeful they felt toward my actions. It’s a tit for tat type song.
PC: What went in to the decision to release “ Wake the Dead” as the latest single from the Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo album?
JC: I performed the song for the Texas Regional Radio Music Awards in 2019, and a lot of radio people asked me if that was my latest single, and I received a lot of positive feedback about it. At that time, it wasn’t what I had planned for my next release, but I decided to bump it up to immediately follow “Let ‘Em Run.”
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the Tall Tales of a Brown Buffalo album after listening all the way through?
JC: Hopefully they recognize that I come with a variety of styles and influences in my music, so they will hear changes and my growth with every album. Plus, I hope they have a good time while they listen.
PC: Throughout your catalog, you’ve touched in to various different musical stylings, including Texas soul, country, Americana, and rock. How important has it been for you to tap in to each of those sounds on your releases and to showcase that level of versatility in your sound?
JC: Growing up in Texas, you hear Texas Soul, Texas Blues, Texas Country, Americana, and other forms of music which all helped shape my sound. These different styles are like ammo that I get to use at any given time.
PC: What are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
JC: 2019 has been the biggest year for my career and my favorite. I am ending the year with some great festivals, but I like to keep things close with my family. Lightening up the heavy schedule will allow me some time to start working on new music. I have a lot of projects I want to release in 2020.
*Images courtesy of Jenerayte Promotion and James Cook Website*