Marc Cohn 

The chance to meet up with renowned US songsmith Cohn was one Just Listen To This was not going to miss. Ahead of his Cornbury Festival performance Marc fields our questions with directness and warmth..maybe he realised what a fan Pete is. We put this upfront! Thanks Marc…

Supplied By Artist

JLTT: Welcome to Oxfordshire.

MC: Thank you.

JLTT: Let’s be honest…

MC: (Laughs) Let’s!

JLTT: I’m a big fan. There are two questions I’m determined not to ask you. I’ve been in various bands and one of our set closers which was extremely popular was ‘Lost You In The Canyon’.

MC: Oh good!

JLTT: I love the song and I used to play it on my Rickenbacker 360-12. When you wrote the song, to me it aches because it seems to be purely about loss of communication. Is there a deeper level to it than that?

MC: (Ponders) I almost hate to say no. It is a metaphor ‘Lost In The Canyon’ which works for the duration of the song about …literally I did have a brother who passed away several years ago who lived in California and very often when he would call me or I would call him (this was in the beginning of cell phones) he would always say “I’m gonna lose you in the Canyon.”

JLTT: I see.

MC: Something about that ended up being a very poetic thing for him to say because we did sort of lose each other in the canyon. So one of the ways I dealt with that as I always do is by writing a song. That song is clearly about feeling the disconnect between me and one of my brothers something we never fully resolved before he passed away I’m sorry to say. But those words really haunted me and even more so since he passed away “I’m gonna lose you in the canyon” and he did.

JLTT: When we used to play it, the last three or four minutes was just me going nuts on a twelve-string once we got the riff going.

MC: (Nods) Oh cool…

JLTT: So thank you for that. When you write songs, I’m finding more and more that a song I haven’t finished suddenly meets a brand new chorus and becomes a complete song. Has that ever happened to Marc Cohn?

MC: Sure. That’s definitely happened. I’ll be working on something for weeks, months and it is leading the wrong but all of a sudden… Sometimes if I make what I think is a mistake that will lead me to a song. I mean, there are so many different ways I’ve written songs – in one sitting, in ten sittings, in fifty sittings that don’t lead to anything. In sittings that lead to something completely different that I wasn’t even working on. It is a mystical experience for me. (Laughs) I don’t have much knowledge in the way of music theory.

JLTT: Neither has Paul McCartney. Conventionally

MC: Exactly. I mean, a lot of writers don’t.

JLTT: Jack Bruce who I knew well had to un-learn classical to play jazz.

MC: That’s interesting. I have lots to learn and nothing in particular to un-learn because I don’t know that much to begin with. But in a way I’ve been able to fashion it into a style I suppose.

JLTT: What is the album of yours with the soldiers on?

MC: Oh those are people dancing in New Orleans. People walking or dancing to a gravesite. So that whole record is called ‘Join The Parade’ and it has a lot to do with mortality and death.

JLTT: It is a record that is riddled with songs that say something about the human condition in my humble opinion without being preachy.

MC: Well that’s the key. That’s the last thing I want is a songwriter to preach to me.

JLTT: Do you mind me saying that?

MC: No that’s great. Listen, I wrote most of those songs right after I almost died in a random carjacking and I got a bullet to my head.

JLTT: This was in Colorado?

MC: In Colorado.

JLTT: This was one of the two questions I was not going to ask you.

MC: (Laughs) Well I’m happy to just mention it in passing!

JLTT: Right ok.

MC: So that happened which obviously made me pretty unsafe in my skin and in my world. Then Hurricane Katrina and whilst I was slowly healing that horrible catastrophe happened. And all of a sudden I was literally flooded like New Orleans with sadness and ideas and sometimes it is those traumatic things that make me wanna write. That’s the way I sort of deal with it all.

JLTT: What makes Marc Cohn angry?

MC: Not having a new song for four years that makes me angry. And really unsettled as I lose my equilibrium when I don’t write at all. I’ve written a little but not much.

JLTT: I’ve got an easy solution to that.

MC: Please tell me what it is.

JLTT: I’m into jazz. Listen to Miles Davis and come out of that and then you will write songs.

MC: (Warmly) Ok. I’ll let you know. I hope you’re right. I’ll try it.

JLTT: I say that because I’ve been there. I find I write terrible songs when I’m in love.

MC: Well that’s interesting you say that.

JLTT: I write better songs when I’m…

MC: Miserable. I know I’ve had the same issues.

(Laughs)

MC: Listen, here’s the funny part; I’ve found it very easy over the last year to write for other people. I wrote a few songs I’m really proud of for the Blind Boys of Alabama, I co-wrote five songs for the great soul singer William Bell, I wrote with David Crosby.

JLTT: ‘Private Number’.

MC: Yeah that’s one of his greats. But you should check out his new record man, it is about a year old and it is great.

JLTT: Southern Avenue was here yesterday and they are on the STAX label.

MC: Oh yeah. Well William is back on STAX after being one of the originators. Anyway, I’ve written lots of songs with or for other people because an assignment for me is easy but when it is just this big blank space of “next record” it is too big.

JLTT: I can’t write songs about myself. I like writing songs about other people. What song of yours do you consider your most philosophical?

MC: (Ponders) Well I mean ‘Saving The Best For Last’ is a story I told about a cab driver who was really just working hard to get to his mansion in heaven.

JLTT: (Laughs) That’s cool!

MC: He had read in a pamphlet that someone had given him that angels build everybody a mansion and I wrote ‘Saving The Best For Last’ in his voice basically saying “You must be saving the best for last because life down here just isn’t happening.” I don’t know whether that is philosophical or not but plenty of songs that I write… I take an exception to one thing you said, you should write about yourself because if you write about yourself well you can write about anything.

JLTT: I was chatting to my son earlier and he said “Are you going to interview March Cohn?” and I said “Yes I am because he needs my advice!” (Laughs)

MC: (Laughs) Exactly! How did you know? Alright I’m going to listen to ‘Kind Of Blue.’

JLTT: Better ‘You’re Under Arrest’..man, the players on that! Pleasure to meet you.

MC: Likewise. Hope you enjoy my show.

Pete Sargeant



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(Many thanks to Marc and Sacha)

You can listen to Marc Cohn’s ‘Lost You In The Canyon’ in this article.

Feature Image and Additional Photo Credit: Supplied By Artist

For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2rs0146