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Solo Sounds

A portrait of the artist as a young man

Ask anybody and they will know someone who knows Tadhg Cooke – the singer-songwriter whose voice, talent and music is familiar to those who know him and to those who want to. And ask Tadhg Cooke, and he’ll know someone who knows you.
Picture the scene: a hazy, lazy day in the Hamptons, Irish students fresh with the J1s, sitting in a small bar just finished work, tapping their feet to the friendly summer beats from the sound system and looking forward to a crazy summer ahead. Then from somewhere in the corner of the bar a guitar is being strummed and a soft, yet powerful, voice is commanding everyone’s attention. This was the scene in which I was first introduced to Tadhg Cooke and the scene that sets the story of his musical journey over the last nine years.
According to Cooke, he should be making a small fortune in applied computational linguistics. Instead he says he opted to apply his linguistic charms to music. The result: Wax & Seal. The debut album from the Meath man was released independently in record stores across Ireland in March 2005. The 12-track record features tales, both tall and true, buoyant lyrics that remain at arms length from melancholia and a gentle, uplifting voice, which carries throughout the material on offer.
Hailing from Dunboyne, Cooke began his musical adventures at 14 with the purchase of a guitar and a few lessons. He claims the tender age of 16 as the year he wrote his first real song. Through the Junior and the Leaving, Cooke continued to write and play, form bands, suffer artistic differences and take the lonely solo route. He found himself a few performance slots in various songwriters’ havens and honed his musical skills to a mixed audience of peers and oul fellas at the bar. With the Leaving Cert out of the way, and a place in Dublin City University wrapped up, he headed to Germany for the summer with a few mates. It was here that he met with producer Shane Brady, an uncle of a friend. Brady had holidayed in Germany in the ’70s and never came home, working there as a musician and producer. He was in receipt of two jammed pack 90-minute Maxell tapes, nearly 30 songs in all, that Cooke had written over the course of his teens. Brady immediately recognised the potential and invited him to come to Germany to record an album.
“On the non-optional ‘advice’ of my parents, I deferred my trip to Germany and headed for DCU, where I managed to learn how to build a computer,” Cooke told Solo. “Nine lonely months were spent in Paris where I lived in a small flat in Chinatown. Summer breaks were spent in the bars and clubs of New York and Long Island, playing my way through the months, learning to sing over drunk punters and giant TV screens. It was after my second summer trip to the States I returned to Ireland determined that if I was willing to put the hard graft in, I just might get an album together.”
Heading into his final year exams, Cooke did what every self-respecting computational linguist would do, and went and recorded his debut EP. With the help of BellX1’s Dave Geraghty, The Sparks EP was recorded in a flat in Dublin’s Docklands and immediately became an A-list hit on Dublin’s indie pirate, Phantom FM. With college over, Cooke spent just over a year establishing himself on the Irish live scene. He is a seasoned performer, having shared the stage with the cream of the Irish crew: Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Mundy, Ronan O’ Snodaigh, Damien Dempsey, Jerry Fish et al. He even managed to blag a number of supports in the UK with Jem Finer, ex-Pogues man and co-writer of ‘Fairytale of New York’ and a nationwide support tour with BellX1.
Finally Cooke headed for Freiburg, Germany, where he put a new band of red hot musicians together and recorded Wax & Seal, his accomplished debut release. Since releasing the album, he has appeared everywhere including two prime-time Irish television talk-shows and playing prime slots at the Hard Working Class Heroes, Bud Rising, Tennents Intro and Birr Vintage festivals alongside many other unrecgonised Irish musical geniuses. Cooke has gone on to receive rave reviews across the board, becoming the DJ’s favourite on the radio, the presenter’s music choice on television and the journalist’s album choice in the press.
Now in 2008, he is setting the ball rolling again with a forthcoming album due out in October. His single for release features an all-star Irish musical cast including Sean Carpio on drums, Dave Redmond on double-bass, Colm Quearney on guitar, Cora Venus Lunny on violin, Justin Carroll on organ and, of course, the man himself on vocals and guitar. Check out Whelan’s on Sunday, July 13 and see what all the fuss is about. Cooke will be the one explaining to his US fans that ‘it’s pronounced like Tiger except without the ‘r’’, and then you will hear some strumming and the familiar voice that commands your attention.



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