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Three solo acts making noise in Columbus

In Columbus there’s no lack of hubris when it comes to wide-eyed musicians starting bands, playing shows, and gassing up the tour van.

Our music scene is defined and dominated by bands of all stripes. But what of those who choose to go it alone each and every night? Those solitary souls who can only command the ear of a crowd at a noisy bar or an intimate art gallery with their own two hands? Now that takes guts. It can go either way—you either have them in the palm of your hand or you have their complete indifference. Fortunately, Columbus has been of late a healthy place for those who have more singular, personal ways of expression. It’s not as if the folksy/coffee shop/journeyman scene of open mics and neck harmonicas has never existed, it’s just now it’s becoming the feature rather than the wallpaper. As a primer, here are three artists spearheading a growing community of solo acts.

When asked what he admires most about being a solo musician, Andy Cook instinctually said it was the “artistic freedom” that being with oneself allowed. Cook’s vision as a songwriter is kaleidoscopic. Though most nights he’s on stage alone with his guitar, in his head and in the psychedelic pop of his latest release, All Turns Blue, he’s exploring a world of sound. Perhaps that’s why Cook rented a warehouse, which he calls the “Final Frontier,” where he hid away for two-and-a-half years to complete the album. For what he wanted to express, he needed a place bigger than an apartment and more personable than a studio in which to create.

“This record kicked my ass. It drained me both emotionally and physically,” said Cook about making All Turns Blue. “Right now, my soul and everything feels beaten down and dead. But it’s all in this record, so it’s worth it.”

Cook’s enthusiasm and drive have never been in question. He learned guitar at an early age in his hometown of Oberlin from Kevin Jones, a teacher of the delta blues, and as soon as Cook could leave the “boot-camp” that was the liberal arts campus, he and his first band, the Ghost Town Trio, migrated from Ohio to “make it” in Los Angeles. Cook found the band a constraint on his songwriting and his aspirations to tour constantly. Soon he found himself hanging out at the Stink House, a house show house in Columbus, scrapping to make a name for himself.

In recent years though, his persistence has made his craft a viable endeavor, and he returns frequently to L.A., “hungry for advice” on how to reach the next level in a music industry that has changed dramatically.

“I just want to make pop in the sense of what it used to be,” said Cook, referencing Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Randy Newman as spiritual guides. “I just want to let the art that comes out of me do its thing.”