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Singer and songwriter Nancy Cook let go of deadlines and expectations

Kimberly Nicoletti

BRECKENRIDGE – If there’s one constant about ever-evolving singer and songwriter Nancy Cook, it’s her willingness to take risks.

She began her music career in the late 1970s – a time when not many women were willing to perform on stage as soloists.

“I’m not saying I had any business out there, but I’m also a clown,” Cook said of her solo days in Boulder.

When she moved to Summit County 14 years ago, she played mostly covers. But in 1991, she began writing and performing her own songs.

“I reached a point when I was making just great money doing the standard apres ski songs, but it was not rewarding to me, so I had to follow my heart,” Cook said. “I had to crawl out there and just trust my bills would get paid. I only had a season of holding my breath.” Then backers for her CDs showed up.

Since then, she has released four CDs, and her latest, “Practice,” was just that – practicing letting go of the outcome.

“In the past, I’ve felt obligated that the commercial aspect of the CD be No. 1 – that it be a marketable thing,” she said. “This time around, with my backers’ approval, I really wanted it to be an artistic process, so that entails a certain amount of mystery. The big thing about this process this time was I really had to face my own delusions about giving up control. I had to let go again and again. I really had to let go of deadlines, and I had to exercise a lot of patience, mostly with myself – just with realizing how long it takes to look at something carefully. I’ve always been

intellect-driven. I wasn’t used to not knowing and saying that’s OK – following my heart instead of my brain.”

On “Practice,” Cook’s heart took her from more personal songs to a more universal level.

“My intention was to really try to do something true, and I really feel like I did something true,” she said.

“Her songs are very reflective and can go very deep,” said Gail Smith, who played keyboards on “Practice.” “It’s not superficial stuff.”

Cook wrote the first song on her album to remind a family member that even though some problems seem to have no solution, you have to assume there is a way out and there are no lost causes.

“Be Still” is in memory of Summit County resident Mary Johnson, who used the title’s words to help people enter centering prayer at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church. She died of cancer last year.

Tibetan monks inspired “You’re Not Mine” when they visited Frisco and created sacred sand paintings, which they ultimately swept away and released into a nearby creek.

“The most profound love you can have for a person is not a love that entails ownership, because you can’t hang onto anything,” Cook said about the song’s message.

A group of high school students requested Cook’s song about bullies last weekend when she played at the Blue River Plaza in Breckenridge. “Virginia and the Neighborhood Bully” talks about standing up to abuse.

And, “How Do I Tell You” is a wish come true. A National Public Radio interview with an Afghan mother fleeing to Pakistan inspired the song, which imparts a message to all mothers whose lives are shattered by war. Cook longed to send a personal message to the women on the other side of the world, and next month, she’ll have the chance to tell them in person.

“I put a wish into a song, and a year later it comes true,” she said. “I get to go over there and just say it and be with these people.”

She’s joining Breckenridge residents Jan and Phyllis Updike on a trip to Jordan to help build community. She expects the experience to transform her, but one thing will remain:

“Basically, I want to share joy, humor and hope and also ask people to be willing to look inside at where we are right now … as individuals, as a community, as a culture. How can we grow? How can we make it better for all of us?” she said. “Then again, sometimes – heck, lots of times – it’s enough just to make sure folks are having fun.”

Event: Nancy Cook and Acoustic Soul

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12

Where: Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge

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Help feed your community

Bring a bag of nonperishable food items for the Summit County Food Bank and receive a 20 percent discount on Nancy Cook’s CDs and a raffle entry for a door prize worth more than $50.

Cook will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Riverwalk Center with Acoustic Soul members Randy Kelley, Gail Smith, Chris Engleman and Ed Billeaud.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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