2020 has finally come to an end and we've seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Even through all of the bad this past year, Will Joseph Cook has still found something to feel good about.
U.K. artist Will Joseph Cook, 23, released his second album "Something To Feel Good About" on Nov. 27. Following the 2017 release of his debut album "Sweet Dreamer," Cook realized that he wanted to step away from Atlantic Records and start his own venture, thus creating his independent record label Bad Hotel. Cook said that working with a major record label was great, but it wasn’t allowing him to grow in the ways he wanted since things were done so democratically.
Returning to his core as a singer-songwriter, Cook worked with LA-based producer and friend Matt Parad. Musically, Cook said he wanted to “recenter the album around my acoustics and come back to the biographical way of writing.”
His debut album is more of the cookie-cutter pop album you usually see. It’s upbeat and all of the songs are heavily centered around pop-sounding music. Cook sees "Sweet Dreamer" as his exploration piece but not really where he wanted to end up. On STFGA Cook wanted to “get the songs across and let the lyrics do the weightlifting.”
The message behind this album and the concept of "Something To Feel Good About" is something that really resonated with me. Cook wanted to portray “the duality of on your best days you still have bad moments and on your worst day you might find something absolutely hilarious and have a blissful moment.” There is always something there, even if it’s something bad clouding over your good moments, you can find peace and clarity in the fact that there’s still something to feel good about.
Cook became an open book on this project, trying to find as much honesty in all of the songs as possible.
“I wanted to make a pop record that was accessible for people, so you can throw it on in the car with your friends, and it can be a good vibe but then the reason why someone put it on in the car is because they like it on their own first," Cook said. "Maybe there’s a couple tracks that really hit a spot or even just one line that resonates with people. I wanted it to feel personal to them."
Cook wanted to create an album that people could relate to. They could hear the lyrics and think, "well yeah, I’ve had this happen before," or, "I feel this way too." He took his own personal experiences and wrote about them in a way that could relate to others' experiences as well. You can really connect with an artist when they make music that speaks to you on a deeper level. Cook let us into his heart, healing his own while also giving us some healing as well.
The album was released in two parts and kind of does a 180 in the middle. Cook released the first six tracks before the end of summer, leaving the rest a surprise. The first half was the more upbeat and pop centered side of the album. “Driverless Cars” and “Be Around Me” are the two songs that really made their mark for the rest of the album before it was fully released.
“Be Around Me” really put Cook on the map – well, the TikTok map – after it’s release. The monologued lyrics in the song blew up on TikTok with over 1 million videos made with the sound.
"That moment in the song is so what that moment is in real life; an awkward pillow talk conversation that accidentally starts to slip into this relation-shy mode,” Cook said.
That’s how this song and the album all together were accomplished so well. The album is raw, real and depicts exactly what happens to us in real life. Cook is visually creating these moments in listeners' minds and allowing them to create their own story with the lyrics.
“Driverless Car” is where the album started to make its switch.
“It was written about a period in my life before I had written any of the other songs," Cook said. "I was trying out all of these different sounds and methods of writing. Nothing was really working. It was kind of written about just the lack of direction, and I was in a very boring place. It was very solitary and just quite weird. I was lacking direction massively.”
Being the first song written from STFGA, the lack of direction sent him in the right direction for the rest of the album. The track is about being lost; not really knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing. Kind of just floating around aimlessly waiting for a change. Putting this song in the middle of the album was a little hint about the switch coming in the second half.
Cook takes a step back on the rest of the album, going back to that soulful groove and guitar and vocal-centric sound that his music was founded on. The inspiration from this album stems back to his earlier influences. The '90s band Eels and their 1996 album "Beautiful Freak" have that perfect happy/sad limbo that Cook wanted to portray on his album. He also gets a lot of inspiration from his friends. Minnesota artist Okudaxij (Eric Radloff) collaborated with Cook on the album. Cook loved that Radloff wrote his lyrics so honestly that it felt like you were looking through his drawers.
“I see the album as shrinking down throughout it until you get right to the end song, and it was intentional that “Last Year” was one guitar that’s barely being played and the vocal," Cook said. "It’s like being able to get right down to the [nucleus] of the record and it’s just my lyrics left at the end.”
It’s Will Joseph Cook stripped down completely, the kind of style that he made when I started to love his music.
STFGA is the album that anybody going into their 20s needs to hear. Cook said that it is a coming-of-age album, but not in the teenage sense, rather in the adult-it’s-time-to-really-get-your-life-going sense. He had trouble adjusting to adult life.
“The stuff that hit me more was the complexity of relationships, losing family, really being personally responsible for whether things are going to go well in your life, like even feeling good each day takes effort and work,” Cook said.
Cook describes the album as romantic, hopeful and -- my personal favorite -- unflinching. It’s not trying to be something that it’s not. It’s not trying too hard to be pop or trying too hard to be relatable. It was 20-year-old Cook’s diary.
“I see it as personal growth, something I started in a really unhappy place and I feel great now, I feel so much better than I did,” he said.
The takeaway from the album is that no matter what’s happening now or how bad things seem, there’s always something to feel good about.
A personal shoutout to Will Joseph Cook for taking the time to talk about this album with me and letting me into his mind, making my last article so special. And to the KRNL staff and editors for allowing me to express myself this year. All the love xoxo.