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A cello, a cassoway and a career: Greeley Central graduate writes children's book from one of his most popular songs

December 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 05--Ian Cooke spent a lot of time at the Denver Nature and Science museum and, while wandering through the animal dioramas, the musician got an idea for a song.

He passed by the animals of Australia and saw a cassowary and a fruit bat. Their pairing seemed out of place, a bird that couldn't fly and a mammal that could. So naturally, he thought of a song about their imaginary misfit relationship.

Though he enjoys touching on environmental issues, Cooke isn't a children's songwriter.

He grew up in Greeley and went to Greeley Central as a cello player and singer. Now he's a traveling musician based in the Denver area who will sing to his cello onstage, and he uses a loop device to accompany. He's probably one of the few in the country to make that combination work.

But if can you overlook the fact that the Cassowary has brief thoughts of suicide because she's so upset she can't fly, Cooke's song is a whimsical story about love and dreams and finding a way to make both happen.

That's how it grew into a children's book.

Cooke will come home to sign copies of the book and give a performance Saturday afternoon at the Bean Plant Studio in downtown Greeley.

Cooke makes his living as a musician, not as an author. When he was 5, he lived in Houston with his parents, Bryan and Carolyn of Greeley, for a year in a house that had a piano. Cooke was fascinated with it. His parents noticed that and got him music lessons. That, and their Abba and Carpenters and classical music records, inspired Cooke to continue with music.

Later, a band, Rasputina, not only inspired him but influenced his musical direction. The band members used cellos to drive the music but also sang and wrote dark pop music. It toured with Marilyn Manson among others and released six albums from 1996-2010.

The trio made it seem possible to play popular music using a cello as the primary instrument with vocals.

Cooke will record with a four-piece backing band and sometimes gig with them, but usually it's just him and the cello.

Many more bands use a cello today.

That's how UNC graduate Neyla Pekarek got her gig with The Lumineers. But they still just accompany the music, not drive it.

"But that's what gives me the idea that I can pull this off as a profession," Cooke said in an interview. "If I do something no one else is doing, then my chance of making a living is better. So far that's been the case."

Cooke's book in many ways is unusual as well. The words in the book are the lyrics in his song, and the pictures are stills from a music video he created with a friend, Adam Singer. It took two years to animate it. The book was released in October.

"Once I wrote that song, it became this obvious visual thing," Cooke said. "I adore how it came out."

The book's selling relatively well. It stands alone, though it also comes as a package with a CD of the song and a live version of Cooke's second album, "Fortitude," and a DVD of the music video and other material. He sells the self-published book on his web site and usually sells a few copies when he performs.

"It's a weird thing to try to market," Cooke said.

Cooke said his music is designed for active listening, so he prefers concert halls more than loud dive bars. He's played more concert halls recently.

"But I'm certainly willing to play to either audience," he said.

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(c)2013 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

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