I will never forget the first time I heard James Cook perform live. It was in 2013. He opened with Tonic – “If you could only see”. The crowd seemed to really enjoy this cover tune, so for song number two, in the back room of Toby’s on a chilly December night, he play a Tenacious D song, an extremely raunchy, filthy, nasty Tenacious D song. Now, this may seem like a big deal…… but let me back track for a minute. James wasn’t at Toby’s that night to play music. It was his night off and he was there with his wife, Stacie, and hanging out with friends. It was my band that was playing Toby’s that night, and I asked if James would do a couple of songs. Two songs later I regretted it. Never the less, James does a lot less raunchy music now days. He has become one of the top singer songwriters in the area and tours the entire state of Texas on a regular basis.
James has played in several bands and with countless, amazing musicians over the years. Many years. Twenty years, to be exact. His music career began right after graduating from Wichita Falls High School. His early days consisted of mostly rock and blues cover tunes. While progressing, and learning from other musicians around him, he began writing original tunes. “I played in rock bands, so every song I wrote ended up getting rocked”, James said. His final attempt at the rock band began in 2010 when he founded James Cook & The Audacity, with Ricci Amador and Douglas Boyd. Here he was able to rock out covers and originals, but he really wanted a platform to do only original songs, and in 2015 made the decision to dissolve The Audacity and venture out solo. This decision provided James the opportunity to write a wider variety of tunes. His lyrics became more heart felt and story like. “I loved entertaining. I had to learn how to do both, be a good writer and entertainer”, James added. James started attending singer/songwriter competitions where he said he got inspired to dig deeper into the craft of songwriting. He said, “You have to go into those competitions not expecting to win. There are so many great artist there to learn from, and if you happen to win it’s a bonus”. James did win studio time at Fort Worth Sound at a Rattle Magazine competition. This allowed him to record his first album.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2017. James recorded his latest project this year, Lullaby For The Rapture, which he describes as one continuous idea with no real radio single. He explains, “It’s a concept album. I love albums, but I get nervous about that because I’m in radio and know that people no longer listen to whole albums anymore. It’s all about singles. Now days, people are just creating Spotify, one hit wonder singles.”
James is promoting this album with a Texas tour named after one of the tracks on the album, Failure’s Not An Option, and is also tying that in with raising funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters which has raised over $500 in donations so for. Being one of the busiest musicians in the north Texas area, James isn’t just coasting on this tour. He is planning a new album that he intends to begin recording in January. He will be backed on this project by, now regular, band. He has been touring with Ricci Amador on drums, Christopher Brackett on electric guitar, and Tim Maloney on bass. Without question, this is an extremely solid group of musicians.
Also on the horizon for James’ music is a distribution deal. Cook penned a deal with Fort Worth based Smith Entertainment to have, not only his new album, but his past work distributed around Texas. This is the same company that distributes the Billy Bob’s Live projects.
James is not only popular locally for his music, he is also a radio personality. He recalls that his interest in the field spiked in 2003 when 106.3 The Buzz hit the airwaves. “I never heard a station like that in this town”, he stated. They were playing current hits and had a bit of a jagged edge to them. James decided that he would love to be a DJ for them and walked in to interview with no education or experience, just his personality. Well, he had enough personality to land a position.
He started on 92.9 NIN as a co-host, but only lasted a few months before the time slot was replaced with the Kidd Kraddock show. He then moved over to The Buzz. James began pushing the boundaries with the content that he discussed on air and came to the realization that “the higher ups” were’nt listening to his show. James recounted his approach to his show at The Buzz, “I’m going to take it as far as I can”. James did just that. He, as well as many of his listeners, described his show as “raunchy”. He got away with his edgy show until, once again, a syndicated show filled his spot.
When they heard the news, Kieth Vauhn and Lindy Parr from Cumulus Media told James that they had a place for him. James moved over to The Bear for a bit and then KLUR before ending up at 94.9 Outlaw. He loved The Outlaw and found a permanent home there. Other stations played nationally popular songs repeatedly, but James “loved the authenticity of the music scene” associated with The Outlaw.
The Outlaw was birthed 11 years ago to fill the void left with Jim Nash stopped doing his Honky Tonk Friday Nights, where he played up and coming Texas country artist such as Stoney Larue and Roger Creager, artists that are now highly successful, but at the time just wanted to be heard. When James took the helm at The Outlaw he had to reinvent himself. Raunchy wasn’t going to cut it with this audience. This took place in the spring of 2010, a renaissance year for James. 2010 was also the year that he met his wife, Stacie, who aided to his desire to mature and re-evaluate his antics and his future.
So far James has 14 years of radio and 20 years of musicianship under his belt and he has no intentions of slowing down any time soon. In fact, he’s more active than ever. His current Failure’s Not An Option tour has taken him and his band from Amarillo to Houston. Follow him at facebook.com/jamescookmakesmusic, and be sure to catch a live show.