Gifted songwriter Emma Cook had established herself as a successful national recording and touring artist when an unforeseen accident turned her life upside down.
Emma simply walked out her front door, in Toronto, when a tree branch dislodged, fell and hit her. Recovering from the initial shock and gash on her head, Emma thought she had luckily escaped serious injury. Little did she know, on that June 2013 day, that her life, career, and family life would be transformed and set in a new direction.
By 2013, Emma Cook had toured over 100 shows throughout Canada, the UK, and the US. With her silky voice and atmospheric songwriting, Emma emerged as a rising star in the indie folk-pop world, often being compared to Canadian legends Sarah McLachlan and Jenn Grant. Her two highly acclaimed album releases garnered rave reviews and favourable radio airplay on campus stations and CBC.
The accident resulted in a three-year struggle with Post-Concussive Syndrome, a severe depilating impairment that Emma thought would completely derail her ability to perform again. Not only did it curtail her chosen profession, but Emma’s husband, Andrew had to care for their young child and household affairs, while she convalesced.
“I was completely incapacitated for at least a year and for a couple of years after that, I was only really functioning doing the bare minimum. It didn’t affect my guitar playing but affected my ability to be in the world. I couldn’t go anywhere where there was noise or light. Even going to the grocery store was hard, so playing was impossible”.
In 2016, Emma bought a piano and surprisingly the songs flowed out of her. By 2018, she had written enough songs to produce her album, Living Proof, “a collection of stirring and deeply earnest pop balladry”.
“The album landed her in the finals of the CBC Searchlight competition and a headlining show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She was chosen to represent Canada on a musical trade mission in South America in 2019, with official showcases at SIM Sao Paolo and Fluviale Festivals.”
Emma toured in Western Canada in support of the album and was preparing for more performances when the pandemic stalled her plans. With the birth of her second child, still coping with the lingering effects of her concussion, and her career once again in limbo, Emma and Andrew decided to move from Toronto to Huntsville.
The area had always been a favourite of Emma’s. With her husband’s ability to work from home, it seemed a solution that presented an opportunity for a fresh start. They found a house in Huntsville in 2020. They also found a property in Baysville to realize Emma’s dream of creating a net zero eco-resort on a 60-acre parcel of land.
During her recuperation, she ached for environs that would not overstimulate her post-concussive sensitivity to all the activity, noise, and light that make up city life. Emma daydreamed about escaping to a cabin in the woods. After three years of working on the project, rezoning, and meeting other municipal requirements, Foret Cabins is now an exciting reality.
“The resort will have 11 tiny cabins in the forest for people to come and unplug in nature as well as a forest sauna, hot tub, and cold plunge, hiking trails, and picnic platforms. The power will come from solar although in order to achieve net zero, we will be hooking up to the grid in order to use it as our backup and not rely on generators and fossil fuels”, explains Emma.
Along with moving her family to Huntsville and busily preparing her newfound resort, Emma continued to compose, releasing her fifth album in 2021, Fight Left In Me, a set of eleven new songs produced by Andrew Rasmussen.
“I would say that there is a bit of a progression. When I was younger, I was writing really personal stuff, really about my own experiences. You tend to be more in your own world when you are younger. On my last album, I still write about personal stuff, but I do write about what I see around me…most of the songs are looking at other people’s experiences… putting myself in other people’s shoes”.
In the liner notes of Fight Left In Me, Emma describes the tracks thusly. “Many of the stories that circulate on the album draw from the nooks and crannies, from the unsung and under the radar experiences of (mostly) women who are in the time of their life when their own personal identity is often tangled up with those close to them, be it partners, children and parents.”
Slowly, Emma Cook has also begun to bring her music onto the public stage. In Huntsville, with the support of local musicians and CKAR 88.7 FM, she has graced stages throughout the area. This June she is embarking on an ambitious tour throughout Ontario, starting out at the very popular local venue the BarN, in Sundridge.
Resilient, fearless, and passionate are a few easy words that come to mind to describe Emma Cook’s personal and musical ventures, but her songs say it more elegantly, and her life actions more demonstratively.
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