Serving Up Much More Than Coffee

The thing I like most about Baked Café is it has the most-talented baristas on staff.

Miriam Cook is no exception.

As a singer-songwriter in Fire Escape (formerly The Secret Project) and as a solo artist, Cook stands out from the Whitewater Wednesday crowd.

“I love Miriam,” Peggy Hanifan says, “she’s got the nicest voice.”

Cook’s nice voice perfectly complements the songs she writes, soft and sad on Home Soon and loud and wilder on Lately.

She started playing guitar as a teenager when her brother told her to. “Matt told me I needed to be cool. I didn’t really want to play guitar, I was more into writing than music.

“I didn’t start writing in song format until recently. Patrik has shown me a lot about songwriting,” she says, referring to her boyfriend and Fire Escape collaborator, Patrik RJ. She smiles, picks at her banana bread and adds, “I’m a work in progress, yeah.”

I was lucky enough to be at one of Cook’s first performances. Just over a year ago, she came over to our condo to sing a Jewel song for RJ.

She smiles, embarrassed, and remembers, “Oh yeah. I was so shy. I didn’t know I was actually auditioning for [the band] The Secret Project at the time. It was kinda unfair. He tricked me.”

She must have passed the audition because she started singing backup with The Secret Project. “It was an abrupt lesson in learning how to sing with someone. I had to figure it out on my own, which I’m still trying to do.

“I’m singing some lead now, since that’s what Patrik wants it to be.

“It’s hard to co-write with people, but it’s cool to see what comes out. Like Lately, Patrik had a riff for another song he was playing with Derek Wyatt, and I sang my lyrics and yelled out the chorus.

“That song is all about the chorus.

“It’s kinda fun. You have to get into someone else’s head space. I’m doing it with McKenzie Grant now. He’ll say, ‘Write the next part,’ and I’ll write two pages. He’ll use two lines and say, ‘Now write two more.’

“I have a lot of Jewel-inspired songs. I like the female thing. I never knew there was other stuff but Jewel until just a little while ago. Home Soon is one. I wrote it sitting on the front steps of the house around supper time.”

She props her head up on her hands and turns away, “I like playing guitar when I’m sad. That’s why so many of my songs are sad. But I’m really a happy person.”

As I’m leaving Baked, Cook talks to Angel Hall. They’re arranging to jam with Andrea Burgoyne and a drummer. It sounds like a fun combination.

You can also find Fire Escape’s music at and on the Whitewater Wednesdays Facebook group.

Five things you should know about Miriam Cook:

1. She was born on Mother’s Day during National Nurses’ Week, coming home in a free car seat.

2. She likes to play in the snow, but she doesn’t ski or snowboard. She says, “I have no need for speed.”

3. She and a friend once had an imaginary band called The Wretched, with a rotating series of imaginary drummers.

4. She learned guitar to play Blowin’ in the Wind, but she still can’t play it.

5. She loves purple.

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