Mudflat Walkers: As Long As It Takes

by Sarah Bryant

Matney Cook is a busy woman. The Skagit Valley singer-songwriter and leader of the Mudflat Walkers, is less than a month away from releasing her band’s debut album, Sky Valley High. On the same day they’re playing a record release show that’s set to be a certified carnival, complete with performances by the Bellingham Circus Guild. To top that off she performs and hosts the Green Frog’s open mic nights every Sunday. And that she is the person responsible for all of her band’s promotion and booking, an unremarkable feat until you consider the fact that Mudflat Walkers paid for the recording of Sky Valley High from money they made playing shows constantly around the Pacific Northwest for the past few years? Plus a day job working with horses! All done with an astounding amount of drive, enthusiasm, and heart, Cook’s passion for life and for music is infectious.

Mudflat Walkers: “I want people to take away a sense of playfulness  and lightness no matter what happens in life.” PHOTO BY SARAH DAY

Mudflat Walkers: “I want people to take away a sense of playfulness and lightness no matter what happens in life.” PHOTO BY SARAH DAY

Cook has been performing her songs at open mics across Skagit and Whatcom Counties since 2010. It was at an open mic at the Fairhaven that she eventually met Mudflat Walkers’ drummer/soundman Jeff Lacy and asked him to help record her first solo album. From there the two searched for a bass player, and eventually enlisted the help of mutual friend Kevin Onley. After only one jam session the Mudflat Walkers were born.

“We have been playing together… it was two years in March, so almost 2 and a half years now,” explained Cook. “As a group of friends we’re really strong. It’s cool because as we’ve been together, all three of our lives have changed but we still have the same commitment (to the band).”

Throughout their time the Mudflat Walkers have morphed from a solo artist with a backing band, into the genre bending, cohesive group of musicians that is about to self-release their debut record. As a band that collaborates with different lead guitar players often, the concept behind Sky Valley High was to showcase some of their favorite collaborations.

“We wanted to create a time capsule for collaborations we’ve had as a group,” Cook said. “Playing with different leads at different shows, it was a different sound every set. Each lead put their own spin on our songs and I really liked that.”

With that idea in mind, Mudflat Walkers took eight months to capture the sound they wanted for Sky Valley High, incorporating six guest lead players, each player collaborating on two songs, and all of whom the Walkers had been performing with and admire. This was an ambitious concept for a debut album (that even Cook admits she was skeptical about if and how the entire process would work), but somewhere in those eight months the Walkers adapted an “it’ll take as long as it has to take” attitude. This belief seemed to pay off, and now that the album is finally finished, the band is throwing a record release show to celebrate.

Hosted at the CirqueLab, home of the Bellingham Circus Guild, the show will include performances by Hot Damn Scandal and Spoonshine, as well as the Circus Guild. As if a night of amazing folk and bluegrass isn’t enough, the band has promised food vendors, a beer garden, and even face painting for the kids (and adults!). But the coolest detail of the night by far is that Mudflat Walkers will not only be playing Sky Valley High in its entirety, but joining them will be all but one of the album collaborators.

“The idea was to host an evening carnival for family and friends,” Cook explained. “It’s there (the CirqueLab) because I really like what the guild does. I like every type of performance art, anything with passion. We also wanted a large space because we have a horse involved in the performance.”

Cook is keeping her mouth tightly shut as to what exactly the horse will be doing during the performance, which may be reason enough to catch the show (this writer is hoping for something involving a horse on backing vocals or playing the triangle). Despite the spectacle of the night, Cook is still focused on the music and how it makes her and everyone who hears it feel.

“When I sing I can fully be myself and I think sharing who you really are can empower everyone,” said Cook, opening up a little. “I want to captivate. I want people to take away a sense of playfulness and lightness no matter what happens in life.”

When people are as genuinely positive and passionate as someone like Cook and her bandmates, it’s hard not to be captivated, especially if they can capture that feeling in a song. It’s this sentiment that makes the Mudflat Walkers such an engaging act to watch, they make you want to relate and feel right along with them.

With such a huge show in the works and new album, the band is looking forward to a little “decompression time” after the big release. They also have plans to eventually go on a bigger tour of the Northwest in the spring and Cook mentioned the possibility of solo shows, and maybe even a short solo tour.

In the meantime, you can catch Cook every Sunday at the Green Frog and the Sky Valley High record release show on Sept. 19. For more about the Mudflat Walkers, see www.reverbnation.com/mudflatwalkers.

Published in the September 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine