[PREMIERE/ESSAY] Andy Cook – New York Time

Last featured on this site back in 2019 around the release of his EP, Modern Man, Andy Cook is a musician and pandemic response worker, originally from Minnesota and now based out of Brooklyn. While understandably somewhat busy with non-musical pursuits over the last year, Andy has still found time for creativity, resulting in his new double-EP; Stuff I Made at Home While Other People Made Stuff at Home & The World Was Falling Apart But We’re Putting It Back Together, out tomorrow via Good Eye Records.

Photo by Mariah Crabb

Ahead of the EP’s release, today Andy is premiering a brand new video to the record’s opening track, New York Time. Alongside the accompanying video, New York Time is designed as a reflection on Andy’s experiences over the last year, “I hope people find the video more funny than depressing, that was my intent at least”. Musically, the track has a certain uneasy quality, as the just-getting-by shuffle of the drums is contrasted by hazy lead guitars, that sound a bit like The Shadows if they spent a bit more time in Honolulu. Andy’s easy vocal, like the middle ground of Cass McCombs and Jeremy Tuplin, is mixed fairly low, creating a certain engulfing quality, that makes getting lost into the tracks charms all the easier.

You can check out the video to New York Time below, and then read on for Andy Cook’s essay about remaining creative while working against Covid-19, which also features an interview with acclaimed musician, Matt Sweeney.

Stuff I Made at Home While Other People Made Stuff at Home & The World Was Falling Apart But We’re Putting It Back Together is out March 5th via Good Eye Records. Click HERE for more information on Andy Cook.

Test, Trace…and make indie music? Staying creative while working in COVID response

I look at the clock—it’s 1:30pm on January 9—turn off my speakers and shut my computer, and head out the door. Arranging a track must wait, I have COVID-19 vaccines to accompany!

For the last 10 months and for as long as I can foresee, my work during the day is in pandemic response. First in my hometown of Minneapolis working on healthcare worker safety, and now in my new home of New York City for NYC Health and Hospitals Test + Trace Corps. The magnitude of everything that has happened in those two cities and across the country—across the world—is honestly too much to hold in my head in this moment. But if there’s one thing I can takeaway right now, it’s that each little slice of time we have to create something is a gift. And that live shows rock—loud ones, where you feel the sound. Man do I miss that.

Two weeks before the pandemic hit the US, my band and I recorded together in a studio about an hour north of the Twin Cities and on March 6 we played our last show. Who knew at the time that how we made music together would change so much in the blink of an eye? For as long as I’d made music to this point, I’d make the rough sketches of the songs and maybe record a voice memo, then get together with my band to come up with parts and the final arrangement. I didn’t know how to record, mix, or really even play a lot of the kinds of guitar lines I wanted to hear.

Quarantine changed all that. Without live shows, and with increasingly demanding work during the day, I knew that I needed to maintain a creative outlet. I also wanted to get better at my instrument and my songwriting craft, and try to record and mix too. At the time, my intent was simply to keep my creative muscles in shape. What started as an exercise soon became the the way I spent nearly all of my time outside of work. My bandmates put together recording setups at home too, and we started to work on songs—real songs!—while in quarantine. Whether it was an hour of recording at night, or 20-minutes of mixing in headphones before my morning run, whatever time I had with music became precious and my favorite part of the day.

I do of course love my work too. I’d wanted to live in NYC for a couple of years, so when the opportunity to join the Test + Trace Corps arose, I jumped. Sure it may seem like an odd time to move to New York City, but it was my chance to be a part of getting the city and the country back to the things we love—like touring and live music.

So, I packed gear and clothes into my little Subaru and made my way to the Big Apple. My job—managing the mobile COVID-19 testing units—enabled me to see more of the city in the first few months than I’d probably ever see otherwise. I get to work with amazing people, from the front line team members to the executive leaders and everyone involved. Sometimes I’m on the brink of feeling overwhelmed. Yet having only small opportunities of time to work on music has made me all the more diligent about using that to the fullest and staying creative. Less time also means more of “first idea, best idea” and I think that’s turning out alright.

As I write this, I recognize it comes from a place of privilege. I’m a straight white man with a full-time job and a masters degree. The world doesn’t put many barriers in front of people who look like me. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out what to do about. In the midst of it all, I hope that my COVID response work is contributing to the larger good. And I’m grateful that I get to make music. When we get to the other side of this pandemic—and I know we will—it’ll be the best show we’ve ever been to.

I could go on, but that’s enough from me—I wanted to also hear from a true rockstar on what these last months have been like, and his own creative learnings during this strange time. It’s a true honor to share some time with Matt Sweeney, who you may know as host of Guitar Moves and who holds album credits on pretty much every great thing you’ve heard.

AC: Hi Matt! How is this day treating you?

MS: I’m alive! Can’t complain.

AC: Live shows and touring have been a big part of your life—what was that change like, and how did you navigate it?

MS: I don’t have kids and don’t have to take care of an elderly family member. That’s why I can’t complain. My coping device was to remind myself that most people have something happen to them that takes them out of the rhythm of their life—a shutdown for an extended period of time. So that happened to me: my musician life has been stopped cold by the pandemic. Fighting this fact only hurts. And these trials are trying as hell. So to not be crushed by depression I run every day if weather allows, do a dumb 15 minute workout, meditate using that headspace app (every day! jeeez). I navigate this time by being that kind of boring motherf***er and take care of myself. And it works ok, for real.

AC: Are there any projects you’ve worked on over the last 10-months you’d like to highlight?

MS: Somehow made and released “Make Worry For Me” a video by Freeman and Lowe for Superwolves. Also recorded a single at home for Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy called “OD’d In Denver.” Worked on a bunch of music in the last 10 months- I hope 2021 will see the release of that work in the form of albums, singles and EP’s by Superwolves, Iggy Pop, Country Westerns, and Garcia Peoples.

AC: In addition to being an amazing musician, you’re also an avid runner—how does running factor into your daily life, and does it influence your creativity at all?

MS: Running keeps me out of the way of myself, so it helps with everything!

AC: Is there any parting advice you’d give fellow artists as we cross into the new year and look towards what’s next?

MS: Use this down time to practice the hard stuff. Learn how to do some aspect of your craft you claim you aren’t good at. For real. All artists are hurt bad from COVID destroying life as we knew it. Everyone is shredded inside from it. Hang tough. Be kind to yourself and to others cuz we’re all upset. Stay healthy—don’t die!

It’s about 6:30pm, I’m back home and pickup my guitar to practice. I think Matt said it best—hang tough, and be kind. As my two worlds of healthcare and music come together in a strange and unique way, I hold on to the confidence that we will see each other on the stage again soon.

Andy Cook is an Indie singer/songwriter based in Brooklyn, NYC and originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Andy has an EP and a full-length out on Brooklyn-based Good Eye Records, and more new music on the way in 2021. When not making music, Andy works for NYC Health+Hospitals and is also a perhaps OCD runner/triathlete with 7 Ironman races and 1 NYC Marathon in the books so far. @andycookandy

Matt Sweeney is a guitarist, vocalist, and producer known for his online series “Guitar Moves” and for his playing on records by artists including Johnny Cash, Cat Power, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Adele, Neil Diamond, and Iggy Pop. In addition to the astounding list of album credits, Sweeney is one of the forces behind Lower East Side marquee Superiority Burger, as well as an avid runner along the East River. @theheavyjamz

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