SongwriterLink Spotlight: Alex Cook

By | December 30, 2016
Alex Cook SongwriterLink Spotlight

Photo of Alex Cook by Ben Pugh / CC BY 2.0

In this month’s SongwriterLink Spotlight, we’re getting to know Alex Cook, a Cambridge-based composer, producer, pianist, and violinist who’s been a SongwriterLink member since 2016.

When and why did you start writing songs?

I began writing music about 15 years ago, at the age of 7 or 8. I think it started just from that urge most kids have to create things – drawings, stories, crafts – but for me, it was music. It soon became quite an obsession. From early on I had this sound in my head that I wanted to create, but [I didn’t have] the skills or knowledge to get there. This pushed me to keep going and keep trying new ideas; it just grew from there.

How would you describe your music?

This is such a difficult question! I suppose most of what I do falls somewhere on the spectrum between contemporary classical and electronic dance music, but that’s an essentially meaningless statement as those two areas of music are so completely different. In short, I love to combine recorded or live instruments with synths and bass and drums, with a result that could be minimal and ethereal, a great wall of sound, or anything in between.

Who is your biggest songwriting inspiration right now?

At the moment, I am inspired to create new sounds that are unlike anything that’s been heard before. I love Ólafur Arnalds’ music. His combination of orchestra and electronics in his album For Now I Am Winter is so beautiful and quite unique.

What does your songwriting process typically look like?

There are a number of ways I approach composing. Sometimes I’ll write everything out on paper first, without a piano or any other instrument, just hearing the sounds in my head. Or sometimes I just sit at the piano and improvise – that can be a great way to come up with new ideas for melodies that I otherwise might not have thought of.

More recently, since I became interested in electronic music, I spend a lot of time composing at the computer, recording layer by layer from a keyboard. If I’m writing something for both instruments and electronics, however, then I’ll usually write the score for the instrumentalists separately from the electronics, hearing them together only in my imagination until it’s all been recorded.

What made you decide to join SongwriterLink?

There are a couple of reasons. First, I’m looking for lyricists and singers for a quite specific project – an electronic/orchestral album which I’ve been working on for a while. And second, thinking a bit more broadly, to get in touch with new people and potential collaborators with the hope of creating some unique and really special new sounds.

It’s important for any kind of artist to keep pushing the boundaries of what they do, and up until now I haven’t worked with many singers or songwriters, so this is a direction I’d really like to try!

How has being a SongwriterLink member impacted you as a songwriter?

Well, it’s early days at the moment, but already there are some very promising conversations going on, sending ideas back and forth, and I’m sure it won’t be long before some exciting new sounds emerge! SongwriterLink has put me in touch with some very creative people I would otherwise never have known about. So, watch this space!

What’s your favorite thing about collaborating with other songwriters?

For me, the best thing about collaborating with another composer or songwriter is that the end result is always so different from what either of us would have created individually. When I begin a project that’s basically “mine,” I usually have a pretty clear idea of what it’s going to sound like before I start (and, of course, I enjoy the experience of hearing my own concept realized in sound). But when collaborating with someone else, that all gets thrown up in the air and some really unexpected things can happen.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far about co-writing that you wish you knew when you first started out?

As a composer, it’s very easy to become self-obsessed and precious about material, without even realizing it. When writing with someone else, that becomes so limiting. Breaking out of this bubble for the first time was a challenge, but was so essential to allow the collaboration to take on its own personality and flourish.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (living or dead), who would it be and why?

My childhood hero, Ludovico Einaudi. His music is so well crafted and he speaks so intelligently about it. Yeah, I’d love to be in a room with Einaudi, each of us with a piano, and just play.

Are you currently working on any songwriting-related projects that you’re excited about?

Yes! As I mentioned, I’ve got this electronic and kind of orchestral album that I’ve been working on for quite a while now. So far, I’ve got all the instrumentals (including five violins, two violas, two cellos, two pianos, two recorders, two clarinets, two trombones, and two horns) recorded, and now I’m looking for singers and lyricists who can help me take it to the next level. I’ll post a sample in my SongwriterLink sounds area so you can hear what I’m talking about.


Listen to Alex Cook’s music on SongwriterLink, SoundCloud, or YouTube. You can also keep up with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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