Everybody knows the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, and the celestial has always been proudly represented in Lone Star culture, be it bands (Explosions in the Sky), sports (Houston Astros) or the state nickname itself. Amy Cook also sees something unique up there, but the alt-folk singer-songwriter isn’t content simply marveling at the enormity of what lies beyond earth. On The Sky Observer’s Guide—written in a prolific four-week gush—she tells simple, bittersweet, earthbound stories, refracted through the panoramic scope of the heavens. Things like this happen when you leave the industrial clamor of L.A. for a humble, weirdly-named West Texas town like Marfa.
“I named the record at the very end after I realized, going back on all these songs, there’s a song about an eclipse [‘Coming Home’], one called ‘Bright Colored Afternoons’—it really was all about the sky, the weather, the planets, the stars,” Cook confirms.
“Marfa’s nothing but open sky and a million stars and I think that got me on those sort of analogies—thinking about the bigger picture of it all, putting yourself in the place of just being here on this planet, where you can cover the moon with the tip of your thumb like an eclipse. It doesn’t make you feel insignificant, but it changes your perspective to be somewhere with a wide-open sky.”
Although her songs popped up all over the teen drama continuum (Dawson’s Creek, Laguna Beach, Veronica Mars), Cook grew weary of the industry grind in 2005 and packed up for Austin. Along the way she took a timeout in Marfa and met Leisha Hailey of Showtime’s acclaimed original series The L Word. The actress and the songwriter made fast friends; Hailey not only got Cook her best show placement of all (“The one on The L Word is my favorite because [Leisha’s character] was doing a radio show and she said, ‘That was Amy Cook on Marfa Records,’ which was better than being background music at a party somewhere,”) but encouraged her to write The Bunkhouse Recordings (slated for re-release this year with bonus live tracks), a full-length so intimate that Cook and her acoustic are backed by chirping crickets and a restless dog. Falling in love with Marfa—a quirky convergence of Mexican-Americans, artists and musicians where Ray’s, the bar with the “best coffee in the world” is inexplicably called Lucy’s—was inevitable.