written by Meghan Ianiro
Megazine is thrilled to be premiering Heather Cook’s haunting new single, ‘Ghost Ocean’ off her upcoming solo record Spiritfear!
Originally from Woodstown, NJ, Heather Cook has been a vulnerable contributor to the Tri-State music orbit since she played her first live show at 14-years-old in a Nirvana cover band. She quietly carved herself into the DIY music scene of northern NJ before moving to New York City for a taste of sweaty Brooklyn basement gigs and Lower East Side dive bars. Spiritfear marks Cook’s first solo debut record release.
“I’m thankful to be releasing my first solo record! Some of these songs I’ve had in my pocket since high school, so it’s satisfying to finally breathe life into them,” says Cook. “The engineer, Doug Gallo, recorded Spiritfear at AGL Sounds in New Brunswick, NJ, which was a sacred and collaborative experience for me. The whole team there, Ryan Hillsinger, Savan Sekhon, Anthony Comi, and Doug all contributed something special to the album. All in all, I’m pretty jazzed.”
The songs on Spiritfear are a confessional portrait of Cook’s battle with PTSD, heartbreak, and hometown nostalgia. Ethereal layering harmonies and indie acoustic melodies are the canvas for her lyrical reflection of emotional paralysis.
According to Cook, ‘Ghost Ocean’ was written when she first began experiencing debilitating panic attacks. “A PTSD episode would happen and it was like I was quickly losing oxygen, had a knife in my side, and flooded with paranoia all at the same time. Yikes. I remember sleeping in my car for several hours one night because I just felt too anxious to leave it,” Cook recalls. “There were a lot of unprecedented moments like that, driven by the attacks. The opening of ‘Ghost Ocean’ summarizes that suffocating cycle. The first half of the song should really be a tutorial called How To Have A Panic Attack by Heather Cook,” she states.
Cook stresses the importance of using pain to grow, and believes writing is the most necessary part of that process. Writing Spiritfear helped her to to address the emotional weight she had been experiencing, and while she loves to write lyrically using a stream-of-consciousness approach without thinking too much, Cook says a good portion of the songs on the record were not constructed so freely. Instead, they came from calculating the weight of being in an emotionally abusive relationship last year—a source of so much anxiety, heartbreak, and therapy, that she felt obligated to capture that chapter.
“Several times, I’d sit down with my guitar and verbally say, ‘This is it. I’m going to write about it. I have to write about it.’ And then when I was done, it was as if a wounded layer was peeled back, revealing my raw self again for the first time in a long time,” Cook says of her writing process. She claims that while catharsis is not guaranteed when writing about pain, it certainly helped her this time around.
Cook has always been on a death-kick, and as a lover of scary movies, tales of serial killers, and most of all, ghost stories, it’s only fitting that she refers to this particular track as a ghost story in itself. She explains, “I wanted to write about the instability I was struggling with last year, but personify those vices in an anecdotal way. So, this song developed into a story about me being trapped in a phone booth while ghosts essentially flanked the booth and tipped it over, leaving me there to lay in the shattered glass and tangled wiring. I think that orchestrates how I was feeling most of last year. …Or maybe it’s just creepy,” Cook goes on to say. “Sometimes the way we feel is a little creepy.”
Themes of anxiety, abuse, and trauma are all relatable to some extent, yet always feel taboo to speak openly about. Cook’s vulnerability, emotional honesty, and talent all take that darkness and create something beautiful and ultimately inspiring. When asked if she had any advice for someone who may be experiencing similar struggles, Cook had encouraging words to share.
“Something I learned by being in an abusive relationship is that if your friends and family are telling you that your partner is manipulating you, then they definitely are. It’s undeniably important to listen to the people that care enough to warn you and look out for you. I wish I listened to those people sooner! And the only advice I feel capable of giving to anyone struggling with issues like PTSD is to confide in someone,” she continues. “I’m blessed to have incredibly supportive parents, and yet I regretfully wait too long to tell them what’s going on, but that's something I'm working on. Don’t be like me! Talk to someone right away! And don’t listen to the people that say ‘this too shall pass’ because sometimes it just takes too long to pass, and it’s harmful to feel unnecessary pressure to move past something. Take all the time you need, go running, talk to a professional, punch a wall, make music, pray, volunteer… You’ve got this.”
In January, Cook went on a trip to San Diego and Mexico to a place called Friendship Park, where families who have been separated by deportation can briefly reunite on weekends. All Bandcamp proceeds ‘Ghost Ocean’ receives will be donated to the volunteers at Friendship Park, who Cook says are keeping this essential and necessary space alive. More can be learned about their efforts at friendshippark.org.
Spiritfear is set to release on March 22nd. Cooks says that we can expect some “purely organic non-GMO rock and roll, an ode to Santa Fe, and the anthem for robots falling in love” on this album. She and her new band, the “lovely goof crew” of Savan Sehkon, Doug Gallo, and Ian Wolsten, will be playing a record release show at the Chocolate Shoppe in New Brunswick on April 13th. They also plan to celebrate the release by playing additional shows in the Tri-State area.
You can keep up with Heather Cook and the release of Spiritfear by visiting her website at heathercookclub.com, liking her Facebook page at @heathercookmusic, or following her on Instagram at @heathercookstartedthebeatles.
Listen to ‘Ghost Ocean’ below!
Track credits for ‘Ghost Ocean’ include:
Piano and Vocals: Heather Cook
Lead Guitar: Doug Gallo
Bass: Savan Sekhon
Drums: Ryan Hillsinger
Recorded and mixed by Doug Gallo at AGL Sounds in New Brunswick, NJ
Mastered by Adam Cichocki