The Yarra Sessions, Episode 2: Scott Cook @ The Yarra Hotel

295 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
HIS SONG: Learning to Let Go
(jump to song info)
MANDY’S SONG: The 4am Song
(jump to song info)

COVER: Heather Styka’s Careful With My Heart
(jump to song info)

“Scott Cook has distilled his travels down into songs powered by a sharp eye for imagery, a healthy dose of humanity, and that unforgettable voice, that at the same time intones the rigors of the road and the most comfortable couch you have ever slept on.”

– David Francey, 3x Juno-winning songwriter.

I first heard Scott Cook at one of Rhea Caldwell’s Dear Monday sessions at the Retreat Hotel on Sydney Road in Brunswick. He played on the bill with Mary Webb, and everyone melted. I bought his fourth album One More Time Around. Since then he’s gained a big following around Australia, and is widely loved for his incredible jam sessions and mesmerising stage presence.

Scott had only one or two days in Melbourne on this tour, and it’s a happy chance that we could get him for episode 2 of  An Otherwise Quiet Room.

Our producer Clare Bligh (Producer) and I had had a beer and admin session at the Yarra Hotel Abbottsford in February, and Jules (manager) was lovely and encouraging. The Yarra does great pub food, and Jules always seems to remember our name our orders. I’ve had a couple of great shows there- including one with Damon Smith’s The Night Sky Is A Jewellery Store Window. It’s had a management change since I first fell in love with it-  but has maintained a relationship with live music. The bands are very different, and the music is now hosted in what was the function room, but the beer garden (with open fire), and staff are still really welcoming. Together with Leaps and Bounds and Creative Victoria, The Yarra will  host the Launch of “The Yarra Sessions”.

We managed to complete filming with a half hour to spare, before Jules opened the bar to the public. It was perfect timing because then Aaron and I met with Ben Campbell, who came in to discuss helping with the audio. Ben joined the team that day, and was on set to manage mic placement and sound for the next episode with Brent Parlane at A Fan’s Notes. 

His Song:  Learning To Let Go (top)

Scott’s original Learning to Let Go is a parcel of wisdom for artists and alcoholics, passionate people who like us sometimes struggle to move on, sleep, take care of ourselves. Scott’s thoughts of our place in history always make me humble but also so much calmer and happier to be who I am in any moment. I love this song for that comfort. And I got to sing a backing vocal line that makes me feel like Emmy Lou Harris!

Mandy’s Song: The 4am Song(top)

Maybe too, it’s because we have sung together socially so much, that I asked him to learn my most come-hither lyrics. The 4am song would have made me blush to hear anyone else sing it but Scott was perfect for it and nailed the energy better than anyone I can think of. With a broad range of topics, Scott’s heartbreakers and beautiful seduction songs are interwoven with some cracker politics. He is a master of the uplifting sentiment. To me it feels maybe like prayer would.

Cover: Heather Styka’s Careful With My Heart(top)

Scott has a deep respect for strong women and the artist he chose to cover (Heather Styka) is a brilliant example. Her song Careful With My Heart is at once vulnerable and staunch. The lyrics describe a self that is fearless in life but guarded in love, and the concentration that it took, learning to match Scott’s phrasing, gave me a real attachment to the story and the emotion in the words.


A roots balladeer with a rare personal warmth, Canada’s Scott Cook has managed to distil the stories collected over a decade of near-incessant touring across Canada, the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia into straight-talking, keenly observant verse. Road-worn, painfully honest, and deeply human, his tunes weave threads of folk, roots, blues, soul and country over spacious fingerstyle guitar and clawhammer banjo arrangements. His fourth release, One More Time Around, was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award, and its opening track “Pass It Along” won the Folk and Acoustic category in the 2013 UK Songwriting Contest, with UK magazine Maverick Country naming him “one of Canada’s most inspiring and imaginative storytellers”. In 2015 he put together a seven-piece honky-tonk band for his rollicking fifth album, Scott Cook and the Long Weekends Go Long, and in 2017 he released his sixth album Further Down the Line, packaged in a 132-page softcover book giving a look back, in words and pictures, on his last decade of rambling. Cook is one of the hardest-working DIY troubadours on the road today, averaging over 160 gigs and a dozen festivals a year. All the hard miles notwithstanding, he still believes that songs can change your life, and your life can change the world.