Heartfelt, melancholy, exuberant and aggressive contribute to the all-around uniqueness of New Jersey Shore based indie/alternative singer/songwriter Matt Cook.
Drawn to the piano since the age of five and growing up with Beach Boys harmonies throughout the house, Cook instinctively knew he was destined to make music. “My mom’s record collection got me obsessed with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys,” says Cook. “Sitting at the piano was my favorite place to be. I had always loved singing for as long as I could remember, but it wasn’t until high school when I really attempted to write songs and test my creativity.”
Cook performed regularly with best friend and singer/songwriter Jeff Ulrich at various events, coffee houses, and church youth groups, but his breakthrough artistry moment did not occur until the age of nineteen, when he began recording his debut album Coast To Coast at Submergent in his hometown of Middletown, NJ with friend and engineer Pete Andrews. “It was a really exhilarating experience, yet something I had been preparing for seemingly my entire life,” says Cook. “I had written several songs and recorded two full-length demo albums in high school. I basically picked what I felt were my strongest and turned that into Coast To Coast. Producing came very naturally to me and I felt at home in the studio.”
Upon completion of the album, Cook relocated to Southern California, officially beginning his professional career. Based out of Orange County, CA, Cook independently released his debut Coast To Coast in June 2005, a collection of original pop and folk-rock tunes. Studying English and Music at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Cook began performing his album live along with the first incarnation of his live band, joined by Gus Pannarale (drums) and Rob Thompson (bass), known cohesively as Matt Cook & The Heardsmen. Cook’s efforts even led to being handpicked by influential singer/songwriter Bob Lind of Elusive Butterfly fame as pianist and bandleader for a live in-studio performance at West Hollywood’s Blue Palm Digital Studios of Lind’s songs for his autobiographical Bob Lind Perspective documentary DVD, in 2008.
Graduation and a multitude of family circumstances led Cook back to his home state in 2009 partially inspiring the writing/recording of his sophomore album. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that Cook gained significant notoriety for the first time in his professional career, releasing the self-produced single and Ronald J. Tomaino Jr. directed music video Go Ahead (Live, Laugh, Love!), garnering airplay on both Cook’s official YouTube channel and on News 12 New Jersey’s Spotlight NJ television program with Della Crews, after a near-death experience which almost claimed the life of the young singer/songwriter. “I fell dangerously ill in the summer of 2010,” says Cook. “I was under an inordinate amount of stress but was suffering from undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes, which ultimately landed me in a diabetic coma. Through God’s grace and the family, friends and hospital staff that surrounded me, I was able to survive. It was the absolute worst period of my life, but I was able to pull strength from my faith and it helped inspire the creative process in completing Live, Laugh, Love!”
Recorded with engineer/drummer Pete Andrews at Submergent with various musicians, but most notably The Heard backing band musicians Emily Bennett (vocals/synth) and Rick Pachman (backing vocals/bass), Cook’s second full-length album, the 14-song double album Live, Laugh, Love! was released in October 2013 after running a campaign on the music artist website PledgeMusic, generating fan support and donating a portion of the album’s proceeds directly to JDRF, which helps Type 1 Diabetics, the very disease Cook suffers from. “When I was diagnosed and nearly lost my life to the disease, I knew I wanted to use my music in a way that could help others,” says Cook. “In many ways, it’s a miracle and a gift from God that I’m still alive and I wanted Live, Laugh, Love! to represent that very personal message.”
Cook’s love and admiration for Ben Folds led him to form his own piano-rock band, Matt Cook Seventy-Five, with friends and band mates Alberto Munoz (drums) and Matthew Pucci (bass). It was decided from the start amongst its three members that the group would be guitar-less, but the simple set-up of the band allowed space for all sorts of creativity and also allowed the bandleader’s skills as a pianist/vocalist to shine. “Matthew Pucci came up with our name,” says Cook. “It was meant to be light-hearted and show our sense of humor. We also loved Ben Folds Five and where they were able to go with the piano being the center of everything, so it was also a tribute.”
MC75 proved to be not only an extension of Cook’s solo work, but also led the trio to build a local following and perform regularly at The Saint, Langosta Lounge, and Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ, The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ, out of state tours to The Smiling Moose and Café Du Jour in Pittsburgh, PA, and headlining The Belmar Arts Council on three separate occasions, most recently with a Ben Folds Five tribute performance in October 2015. The band also raised funds for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation with the release of their first single Luiza in July 2015, followed by the release of their first and only full-length album Laughing On the Outside, Crying On the Inside in November 2015 before disbanding in September 2016.
Cook’s passion for music has not only allowed him to perform at bars, restaurants, coffee houses, and music venues, but also has led him to another passion of working with children at schools and hospitals and leading fellow Christians as a worship leader and musician at several churches. Cook continues to perform regularly along the Jersey Shore and beyond, including a monthly residency at Belmar’s Stay Gold Café & Lounge while also continuing to record his third original album and fourth overall, Girasole, releasing the album's first singles and music videos Caffeine and Ghosting in October 2017.