Following the release of his second album, Tadhg Cooke tells George Morahan about evolving as a musician and his love of Elliot Smith
Tadhg Cooke (aka Tiger Cooke) admits that five years is too long a time to spend between albums, but he looks at the man who made 2005’s Wax and Seal and he doesn’t recognise himself: “God, I’m a completely different person.”
He sees a young man just finding the ropes of the music industry, let alone learning them, although little has practically changed for Cooke. He even continutes to book his own gigs. However, the last half-decade has seen him evolve as a person and a songwriter.
Cooke was lucky enough to have Bell X1’s David Geraghty to guide him through tumultuous beginnings: “It was just invaluable to have someone who knew the industry. It’s great to have someone who has a definite opinion about things, because sometimes democracy doesn’t work in music.”
Every release is a new milestone, a distillation of Cooke at any one time. “When you finish an album, you listen back and it becomes someone else. I almost feel detached from that person. For me writing is an act of catharsis, helping me to exorcise my demons.”
On the verge of releasing his second studio album, Fingertips of the Silversmith, Cooke takes the time to explain its rather striking title. “A friend of mine was training to become a jeweller, and in the treatment of silvers they use a lot of acid to clean. If the acid gets on your hands, these black and grey marks appear on your hands a couple of days later.”
He sees it as a metaphor for our coping mechanisms, only noticing the less appealing aspects of truth in retrospect. The songs continually burrow their way into Cooke’s niche of jazz-infused folk, but the revolving cast of backing musicians keep the sound fresh.
“The musicians on Fingertips… bring vast amounts of experience in so many different areas and genres. It makes work a lot easier; we can pick and change things very quickly.”
Cooke’s musical inspirations, such as Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith, hang at large over his creative process and output. ‘There’s an Elvis in Us All’, taken from the new album, was originally written in the wake of Smith’s suicide in 2003 and slowly evolved with its writer. That generation of wasted American talent roused Cooke during the slog of recording.
“It’s easy to become a magpie; picking out sounds from your favourite records and trying to emulate them in the studio, and in doing that, you can come across something completely new and better to your ear.”
Cooke cuts a singular figure in modern Irish music, and surely enough he is getting the hang of things.
Fingertips of the Silversmith is out now.