Categories: Arts Music Pop

Phil Cook shares love of music on his jacket

Like a knight errant, North Carolina singer-guitarist Phil Cook has sworn his sword to so many musical clans, he can barely remember them all.

He’s a member of Gayngs, Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger and Shouting Matches, fronted by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Somehow, he also found time to complete “People Are My Drug,” his third folk-bluesy solo effort. But he has 2018 so carefully choreographed, starting with upcoming dates with The Blind Boys of Alabama, that he’s been turning down most new assignments. “With some serious regrets,” he says, sighing.

How many bands are you in?

Well, I’m a collaborator, and I like the expansion that happens in a community where you’re sharing music with people. It can get very stressful to keep up with that. But old people do sudoku puzzles to keep their brains going, so I just need to have 100-plus songs in my head on any given day just to be prepared.

In almost every publicity shot of you you’re wearing the same patch-and-button festooned jacket. You sure like that coat, huh?

Yeah! That’s a birthday gift from my wife for my 38th birthday last fall. And I haven’t taken it off since, pretty much. It probably needs to be dry-cleaned at this point, as the guys in my band can attest to. In fact, it’s like my armor. I put that coat on, and I just feel taller.

What are the patches?

I’m not what you would call a typical sports guy, never have been, So for me, the closest thing that can embody being on a team is while living in Durham is in my panda skull patch that says Pinhook on it, which is the local Durham everybody bar, where it really does feel like the team spirit of the city I live in. So those are the two patches; everything else is buttons.

Go on…

Well, my wife and I got a button maker for our anniversary, and it makes one-inch buttons. And I discovered I cold crank out dozens and dozens of buttons while I was watching Netflix, after the kids were in bed. So I just started making these ‘hero’ buttons, honoring people that have given me the most, musically. And when I wear them on my jacket, it’s like wearing them on my sleeve.

Like who, for instance?

On one pocket, I have people that I personally know, like my drummer J.G. Bates and Sister Lena May Perry, a gospel singer from Raleigh. And on the other pocket is Curtis Mayfield and Professor Longhair. And if someone says, “Wow, is that Professor Longhair?” then I say “yes” and I give them that button. I have a backpack filled with 400 more.

Daniel Norgren, Phil Cook
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 1
Tickets: $22
Contact: (415) 771-1421,

Tom Lanham

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