Scott Cook wanted to write a love song for America, the country where he was born. He also wanted to write a song of protest that didn’t divide people based on whether they are right and left, their beliefs on gun control, religious freedom, reproductive rights, or what to do about the borders. His reveals this folk-driven plea on “Say Can You See.”
“I was thinking of my relatives, people I love, good people, who voted for Trump,” Cook tells American Songwriter. “And I was thinking of Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I wanted to write a song I could sing to all those Americans if they were in the same room.”
The Canadian artist, who recently released “Leave a Light On,” off his upcoming, seventh album Tangle of Souls (July 31), which will be released as part of a 240-page hardcover book of stories from the road and other ruminations on life and politics, penned an ode to what he hopes for America on “Say Can You See.”
Clearly somewhere in the midd of it all, Cook croons This ain’t a partisan song / It ain’t about right and left / It’s about right and wrong / We’re fighting over the scraps, while a few are living like kings / Because screwing us over is a bi-partisan thing.
“This song could just as well be about a different country,” says Cook. “Demagogues are having a bit of a moment right now, but I decided to use American sacred symbols, because America still leads the world in so many ways, and America’s ripe for a revolution. Many of my friends have already given up hope for America, and some have given up hope for the human race altogether.”
Still, Cook says even if they are proven right, he hasn’t lost heart yet for the country. “I still smell possibility on the wind,” he says.
Open to listening to all sides, Cook says he listens to everything from NPR to right-wing radio, and even some fundamentalist stations.
“I stop in little towns and talk to people in diners and bars,” says Cook. “I visit relatives around the country, almost all church people. I get a sense of the vastly different worlds people inhabit, and I still believe that most people are fundamentally good and decent, and want a lot of the same things—a fair living wage, health care they can afford, an end to wars of aggression, and a country where everyone has a chance to make a good life for themselves.”
Cook says the problem is that everyone is disagreeing on how to get there. “I have friends and family on both sides of the question,” he says. “And to those who’d say, ‘how can you have friends on that side?’ I say that’s exactly our problem. We can’t understand how anyone in their right mind could be on the other side from us. We’re listening to different voices.
* Cook shared excerpts on ‘Say You Can” from his 240-page companion book to the forthcoming album Tangle of Souls.