Teresa Eggertsen Cooke is branching out
December 11, 2015
When the Egyptian Theatre presents its Holiday Spectacular, one of the performers to look out for will be Teresa Eggertsen Cooke.
Eggertsen Cooke, who is known by most fans as just Teresa, is no stranger to the nightlife in Park City. She’s played everywhere from the Riverhorse on Main to O.P. Rockwell.
She is also a frequent guest with Kurt Bestor during his annual Christmas concerts in Salt Lake City.
This weekend, she’ll be in New York giving the Big Apple a dose of Intermountain showwomanship at the Metropolitan Room with the American Music and Dramatic Academy on Saturday, and she’ll be the open-mic spotlight at Etcetera Etcetera on Sunday.
"There is a group called The Salon that has a Facebook page and it’s comprised of musicians and Broadway singers who use it to talk about music and performances," Eggertsen Cooke told The Park Record. "This group holds open mics at Etcetera Etcetera, and they have a spotlight artist. I was able to become the spotlight artist this time around and the theme is movies and music, which I love."
Eggertsen Cooke isn’t exaggerating. The first song she learned on the piano when she was a child was the theme from "The Godfather," a piece called "Speak Softly, Love" by composer Nino Rota.
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"I was five or six years old and I vaguely remember being in preschool and the teacher telling my mom that I had a good ear for music and that I should play the piano," Eggertsen Cooke said. "He actually found a teacher for me and they taught me ‘The Godfather.’
"The thing is I’ve always loved movie music," she said. "When we were growing up in Provo, my parents took me to see everything from ‘The Sound of Music’ to ‘Oliver,’ all of those musicals and we went to the movies every Saturday."
The budding musician also liked playing songs that she recognized.
"Since I learned to play by ear, a neighbor told my mother that I needed to learn how to read music," Eggertsen Cooke said. "I hated that because reading music was so laborious. But for a while I tricked my piano teacher. She would play a song and I’d go home and play it by ear. Then after a while, she figured out what I was doing and had me count all the music out."
Eggertsen Cooke’s fascination with music followed her into her preteen and teenage years.
"I got into singing groups and remember wanting to be Carole King," she said. "When her album ‘Tapestry’ came out, I couldn’t get enough."
Eggertsen Cooke was also a huge Elton John and Heart fan.
"I was 12 or 14 and I had all of his albums, and I had his posters all over my room," she said. "I also fell in love with Ann and Nancy Wilson and wanted to be a rock star."
When she got into high school, Eggertsen Cooke began playing piano in a local French restaurant called La France.
"The owner, who was my mom’s friend, said I could go perform on the weekends for tips," she said. "So, during my junior and senior year, I went down on Friday and Saturday night to play for dinner and tips. It was great practice and it got to the point where people would come in because I was there and make requests."
Just before Eggertsen Cooke moved to Park City in the late 1980s, she was in a rock band and played keyboards and synthesizers.
"That was really fun because I also sang backup and leads and played percussion," she said.
After moving to Park City, Eggertsen Cooke stopped playing to become a professional bike racer.
"I totally quit music and raced mountain bikes and road bikes," she said. "I enjoyed doing that for 12 years and then towards the end of that career in 2000, I decided that I wanted to make some extra money. I asked myself what I could do and music popped into my head."
At that time, local composer and singer MaryBeth Maziarz had just finished her run at the Riverhorse on Main.
"The timing could not have been better," Eggertsen Cooke said. "I called up [original owner Jerry Gilomen] and he got me in on an audition. After playing two nights a week, he put me on the schedule."
Shortly afterward Eggertsen Cooke’s musical interests began to expand.
"When Diana Krall came out, I decided that I needed to learn jazz, so I took jazz piano lessons," she said. "I was taught how to feel it and how to understand jazz chording and the tonalities."
Learning jazz reconnected Eggertsen Cooke with her roots.
"I grew up listening to that stuff because my father was a huge Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett fan," she said. "He also listened to Marty Robbins, Charley Pride and Willie Nelson and John Denver, so, now, when I play, I have a mix of jazz with some Willie Nelson and the ’60s and ’70s singer and songwriter tunes."
Last year, Eggertsen Cooke’s music took her to New York for the first time and stumbled across a nonprofit organization called Road Recovery, founded by the late Jeff Buckley’s tour manager, Gene Bowen.
"He keeps at-risk teens and young adults off the street through music, and they are headquartered in Jeff’s studio," Eggertsen Cooke said. "In fact, there is this wall that has all of these photos and things that Jeff had written and it hasn’t been touched since he died."
Eggertsen Cooke performed a fundraiser for Road Recovery and had the opportunity to talk with the kids in the program.
"They really wanted me to come talk because there aren’t a lot of musical role models who are female," she said. "So, I went and sat with them last December and it was the coolest experience."
It was so cool that Eggertsen Cook wrote her first original song, "Circle," which was inspired by the experience.
"On the way home, all of these lyrics and a melody popped into my head," she said. "I didn’t think it was going to be any good, because I had never written a song before. But I went home and played it and started to work on it and it came together."
She recorded the song at Rigby Road Studios in Salt Lake, and the owner, Joel Pack, helped put the tune together.
"It’s available on iTunes," Eggertsen Cooke said.
"Circle" will be included on her upcoming debut album, which features songs with lyrics written by Andy Jackson, a friend and tourmate of Willie Nelson.
Eggertsen met Jackson after last year’s Metropolitan Room show.
"A guy in full cowboy regalia came up to me and introduced himself and talked with me for about an hour," she said. "It turned out that he was a good friend of Willie Nelson."
The two kept in touch and in early February, Jackson sent Eggertsen Cooke some songs he had written.
"He told me to do anything I want with them," she said. "The thing is I didn’t know he had cancer until his girlfriend posted something on Facebook."
Eggertsen Cooke last talked with Jackson the first part of October, just before he died on Oct. 15.
"So, I decided to finish his songs and put them on my album," she said.
For more information about Teresa Eggertsen Cooke, visit http://www.teresaeggertsencooke.com .
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