Bringing a Tempest to the stage
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Bringing a Tempest to the stage

Jesse Cook starts the Canadian portion of his Tempest II tour Thursday night. [Submitted]

With his May 12 show at the Centre In The Square, guitarist Jesse Cook is getting set to start the Canadian leg of his Tempest II tour celebrating the release of his first album 27 years ago.

Cook, who started the tour in the US in January, says he is thrilled to be back on the road. 

“You don’t realize how much you enjoy it until it’s taken away. And then even just playing with other musicians was such a joy after two years of really just sitting at home playing concerts for my dog. It was fantastic to get together and play with other musicians and go out on the road and play in front of actual audiences,” Cook said.

“It’s almost like skydiving: sometimes when you’re about to walk out on stage and you’re kind of a little bit nervous, and then you step out on it. It’s this mad rush that happens with the stage and I forgot about all of that and just how wonderful it is,” he added.

The tour was originally scheduled for 2020 for the 25th anniversary of Tempest. Playing in Kitchener is like a local gig, said Cook.

“I know that theatre so well. I kind of have my favourite dressing room all picked out. I live in Toronto. Normally we’re on a tour bus and every day we wake up in front of some theatre and we don’t even know where we are half the time, whereas Kitchener is a local theatre. I get in my car in the morning, drive to Kitchener and do the show, and drive home after the show.”

The tour follows the release in December of his album Libre, which he wrote during the pandemic lockdown. COVID-19 was not the only inspiration for the album, however.

“Lots of things went into that album. I kind of feel like an album, especially an instrumental where there’s no lyrics, … they’re just notes floating around and somehow it’s kind of an expression of what you’re feeling, because that’s what came to me while I was sitting there in the middle of the pandemic.”

There is also a new element to the album that he hasn’t included in his previous releases, Cook explained. Influenced by his daughter’s love of trap music, Cook tried to combine that genre with his music, however it took some experimenting.

“At first it didn’t really quite work because I think I was going a little too heavily towards trap and then at a certain point, I went ‘OK, I need this to sound more like me’ and experimented some more and found that place where the two kind of come together in a hopefully good way,” he said.

Trained in classical and jazz guitar, Cook is known for  his hybrid flamenco sound influenced by world music, pop and samba.

Although he has been performing a long time since his debut with Tempest in 1995, Cook said he is never trying to send one specific message with any of his songs. Instead he wants the fans to come up with their own meaning.

“It’s funny because people will often come up to me and say ‘What is it about, because I’m picturing you on a cliff and it’s raining.’ OK, that’s what it is for you, but it’s wide open for interpretation,” he said.

“Even when I come up with titles, I try not to be too on the nose. I don’t want to tell people what a song means to me because I feel it should be open for other people to interpret,” he added.

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