Jesse Cook knows a thing or two about unexpected turns in the road — his whole storied career is based on one.
More recently, the internationally acclaimed guitarist, composer and producer had one foot out the door to his highly anticipated Tempest 25 Tour — a celebratory 25-date cross-country concert special marking 25 years of music — when the country shut down for COVID-19 in March. The unforeseen delay inspired Cook to pivot; he released a new version of the song, the creation of which also served as an experiment of sorts.
“The recording started as a simple idea,” he explains. “I’d use this pandemic time to record a new version of Tempest and see if it would sound different. Have I changed as a musician, or as a producer? Oddly enough, the process seemed familiar — 25 years ago, the original was created with me alone at my house, playing all the instruments because I couldn’t afford to hire musicians. This time, it was me alone because of social distancing.”
Having the 2020 version of Tempest propelled by a global pandemic as an impromptu happening in Cook’s career rings similar to the song in its original format — it delivered unexpected results from its release as well.
“25 years ago, I released this little song called Tempest on a record bearing the same name,” Cook considers. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what would follow. At the time, I had no idea it would change my life. Considering I didn’t rap or sing, no one was more surprised by all of this than me.”
He’s referring, of course, to his 10 gold and platinum studio albums with combined sales exceeding two million copies, five concert DVDs and live discs, five PBS specials, multiple awards including a Juno win, 11 nominations, three Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, a Gemini Award, and an Acoustic Guitar Magazine Player’s Choice Silver Award — plus thousands of concerts around the world, over and above millions of views and streams across platforms.
“Hearing your songs on the radio, or in the Olympic Games, or in Sex and the City… And then there was that massive Bollywood hit … ” he muses. “When you write these things, at first, they’re like your kids. You think of them as yours. But then they grow up and start to live a life all their own. Other people record them, use them in their own work, or get married to them, live, celebrate, even heal to them.
“If you had asked me at age 22, I would have said I would never, never make music for the public,” Cook adds with a laugh. “If you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you I was happy in my solitude. I would have told you the public is much too fickle… They may love you one minute and forget you the next. Well, it turns out I did the thing I said I’d never do, and somehow it’s worked out. I owe a huge debt to this little song. It opened the world to me and allowed me to live a life beyond my dreams. For that, I am forever grateful.”