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Michael Cook: Leaving an 'Imprint' on the World

By Jennifer E. Jones
Associate Producer JENNIFER: How did you end up being a worship leader?

MICHAEL: I got a part-time job doing worship at a church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings while I was still in college. And then when I graduated I started doing it full time at a church here in Noblesville, Indiana. I really enjoyed doing that but then the opportunity came along to tour with Jaci [Velasquez]. That's what I felt my gifts were more towards -- songwriting, storytelling and just sharing my life in that way. So I ended up leaving but we still go to the church. I lead worship every once in a while.

JENNIFER: Did you meet your wife there?

MICHAEL: No, we met in college. We've been married two and half years now.

JENNIFER: How has that been starting a whole new life as a musician and a husband?

MICHAEL: It's a new set of challenges. It's not like she can quit her job and go on the road. She's the breadwinner. So it's tough being gone a lot. We're thankful that we don't have kids yet because that would make it even harder. She's really supportive though.

JENNIFER: Let's talk about Imprint. There are so many good songs on here. I'm listening to "Old Man in New York". I've sat next to that guy on the subway who's kinda crazy and is trying to tell me his life story. It's interesting how this song is really about the homeless. How did it change your perspective?

MICHAEL: It's easy to brush the homeless off and say that they don't want to help themselves. But I think that's a cop-out. The Gospel gives each of us the benefit of a doubt. Yet so often in life we don't [do the same]. It changed my whole perspective on the homeless. For example, people say, 'Don't give them money because they will just buy alcohol.' But giving them the benefit of the doubt says otherwise. I don't think we can relate with the ministry of Jesus without taking into account the major problem of homelessness and poverty.

JENNIFER: The album looks out on society but it also looks within. Do you find the tough spots in life are where the inspiration comes from?

MICHAEL: Yeah. It's funny because the best songs come from the hardest experiences. I try to write out of my real life and hope that people can relate with them and be challenged.

JENNIFER: What's the one moment in your life that has sparked the most inspiration?

MICHAEL: When I got saved. I grew up in the church but I really made a decision for myself when I was in college. I went to see a Rich Mullins concert when he was still alive. He is the single reason why I started writing songs. He just wrote real songs about his life. He put it out there, and he wasn't so concerned with how they'd be received. He wrote some challenging stuff.

JENNIFER: How did you take it when you heard he died?

MICHAEL: It was rough. I was visiting a church in Michigan, and I played one of his songs. I hadn't even heard yet. Somebody came up to me afterwards and said how moved they were by it and how sad they were by his death. Whoa! It was really surreal.

JENNIFER: You just came back from Ukraine with Mission To Ukraine.

MICHAEL: Yes, this past summer. That was an amazing experience.

JENNIFER: How did it change your outlook?

MICHAEL: In America we often say that we're so blessed. But when I came back, I thought, we are blessed but sometimes these material things can be distractions. We have all these conveniences here and all the money to buy them. We get so distracted from what the real purpose of our lives are. Over there, they don't have all these things so they end up talking to each other. It made me think. I've got people I've known for three or four years, and I don't even know their life story. I go to Ukraine, and I got to know some of these people in a week. It's just because of our culture. It doesn't promote that kind of reaction. If we have to do something, it's play video games or go to a movie.

JENNIFER: With this album coming out, what do you want people to grasp when they pick up Imprint?

MICHAEL: The overall theme is my desire to be this person that God wants me to be, and my inability to get there on my own. We can't understand God's grace until we understand our ugliness. More than anything, God loves us just the way we are no matter what we do or have done.

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