Phil Cook is busy. Since taking a break from his four-piece psych-rock band Megafaun in 2012, he’s produced and played side guy for Kathleen Edwards, Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls, Alice Gerrard, The Mountain Goats, Hiss Golden Messenger and Richmonder Matthew E. White. In addition to those heavy hitters, he’s been working with the Blind Boys of Alabama as their musical director. The Wisconsin native also has just released his debut solo album, “Southland Mission.” The album is chock full of collaborations; including his former bandmate and Bon Iver’s frontman, Justin Vernon. When he steps onto the Friday Cheers stage tonight (May 13), he’ll be freshly back from a gig in Ireland opening for the Tallest Man on Earth (Kristian Matsson) with his six-piece band, The Guitarheels. Cook took a few minutes out of his schedule to offer some insight into the show he’ll put on as he opens for Shovels and Rope. Expect low-simmering-energy gospel and folk with some doleful introspection.
Richmond magazine: You just released your first album in which you wrote the lyrics. Talk about your songwriting process.
Cook: I'd describe it as steeped and simmering, like marinating chicken breasts for a good fortnight. I'd also describe it as very slow but worth it.
RM: Where is the inspiration coming from?
Cook: Music from the South has always resonated in me — that being all the gospel and country, and anything from New Orleans, of course. Also my friends in Durham (North Carolina) inspire me as well. We all push each other to improve our craft and skill.
RM: Your obvious talents are music producer, manager and serious musician. Do you have a hidden talent?
Cook: I'm not ashamed to say that I have a gift at noticing when people change even the slightest thing about their hair.
RM: What do you think of when you think of Richmond?
Cook: D'Angelo, Spacebomb, Butcher Brown, Kuba Kuba.
RM: You talk about your surroundings as being important to you. What do you listen to on the road?
Cook: Lots. Everyone's a good DJ in my band. Deep listeners and diggers. Lots of Louisiana for me lately. I’m always crate digging for gospel 45s.
Phil Cook takes the stage at 6 p.m., with the rousing duo Shovels and Rope following at 8. Brown’s Island. $10. 788-6466 or venturerichmond.com. Here's a preview: