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The long road to Athabasca

Scott Cook performs at the NAT Wednesday
Pamela Mae (left) and Elliot Thomas (not shown) are joining Scott Cook as he performs for the first time in Athabasca Dec. 7 at the Nancy Appleby Theatre at 7:30.

ATHABASCA — Musician Scott Cook took a more non-traditional route to become a folk musician — he started off teaching in Taiwan.

Never really feeling it was his calling, he came back to Canada and has since released six albums, plus his first which was recorded in Taiwan, and a single. Then to make it more interesting he started including his writing – 240 pages of art, photos and musings with his 2020 album Tangle of Souls.

“I loved (teaching); I never felt like it was my calling really. It was great, it was a great job. It's great to be around kids, they've got so much energy and imagination. It's just cool hanging out with them,” Cook said in a Nov. 25 interview. “But music, I would come back to Canada in the summertime and do little tours ... and I had the thought that if I didn't give music a go, if I didn't really try to do it full time, I would probably wonder when I was older.”

He released his first album, Long Way to Wander in 2007, which he recorded in Taiwan. The title track is almost nine captivating minutes of Cook weaving his memories with his music.

“Along the way, I feel like there's always been enough to keep me interested and it's gotten really quite wonderful in the last few years,” he said. "I've been able to travel where I want and I have been able to make a living and being able to bring other musicians along at times and all that, so it feels like success to me, even if it's under the radar.”

When the pandemic hit, Cook drove back to Canada from Texas to the house he had just bought after living mostly off the grid for over a decade.

“I had just moved into a house,” he said. “I was living in a minivan or backpack for 13 years, but I had just moved into a house with my sweetheart Pamela Mae, right before the pandemic hit, like a month before. That was really fortunate timing, I had a place to flee back to and a place to be.”

Like everyone else, he thought it would be a few days, maybe a few weeks at most, then his tour dates started melting off the list.

“We started playing these online shows,” Cook said. “Pamela named the band The Indoorables. We did a bunch of that. I started learning flat picking guitar and learning old time tunes. Just figuring out ways to stay connected to people even though we were all apart.”

He used the time to author a book too.

“I had been working on this album Tangle of Souls. It comes with a book, and I'd been writing the book, but it was taking longer than I expected,” he said. “And so there was just this sudden gift of time. To have the time to write and edit it and then all the time with releasing it.”

He took pre-orders and sold 1,000 copies, then started delivering them in person when he could around Edmonton and Calgary.

“In Edmonton, it was mostly bike deliveries,” Cook said. “I did about 100 around Edmonton and it was super cool just dropping them off. I caught maybe a third of the people at home, so I got to have chats with them. It was really another way to staying connected to people despite the isolation.”

Cook is playing for his first time in Athabasca at the Nancy Appleby Theater Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. with Pamela Mae and Elliot Thomas.

Tickets are available at Value Drug Mart and Whispering Hills Fuels in Athabasca or by calling Harvey at 780-675-4158 or George at 780-698-3957, or at the door.

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