Cover recently spoke with Marc Cohn, renowned singer, songwriter and native
Ohio son about his work, his inspiration, and his upcoming show February 14th
in Newark, Ohio. Marc is most well known for his oft covered hit Walking in
Memphis. In 2008 he released a live EP of the 2007 album Join the Parade: a
work inspired by the time he spent witnessing the national tragedy of Katrina
while recovering from a personal attack that resulted in having a bullet lodged
in his brain and PTSD. A grittier, bluesy, version of the adult contemporary
artist, Join the Parade, especially the track Giving up the Ghost, is raw and
inspirational. Cohn has an album slated for release this spring of covers of
some of the greatest singles of the 1970s.
If you are looking for a Valentine’s treat for your beloved tickets for the Newark show range from $20-50 in the cozy Midland Theater. http://www.midlandtheatre.org/ Cover will be on hand for the performance so check back for our review.
February 9th, 2010
Cover: Adversity, both personal and national, really shaped your album Join the Parade – you have a new album Slated for release this spring that is essentially - would you describe it as- reimagining of some 1970s singles?
Marc Cohn: Totally, this record is a completely different sort of record for me, so very personal because I grew up loving this music so much and it was a big part of what made me decide to become a songwriter but for the first this is a record that isn’t comprised of my songs. This is all music that turned my life around for sure. So in a way it is repaying a debt of gratitude to the original artists and writers.
Cover: Is this an artistic rebirth for you?
Marc Cohn: Well that remains to be seen – I am sorta curious to see how singing these amazing lyrics and melodies will impact my own writing. I’ve been so busy with this project I haven’t gotten back to my own writing yet. As a singer it has been a bit of a rebirth. It’s been a long time since I’ve interpreted other people’s music; which initially I found very challenging yet ultimately has been very liberating. As a singer I think I almost sing these songs better than with my own. I think it will be interesting to see the impact it will have on me as a singer and as writer but so far it has been a really liberating experience.
Cover: Do your artistic endeavors allow for personal healing or are they more of an escape - would you consider yourself a working musician or an artist?
Marc Cohn: I’m both. Absolutely I’m both. I would say that adversity for me because I am an artist is something I try to learn from it rather than run from it; that is part of the artistic sensibility. When life is good I just want to live. When adversity happens, whether it’s for me personally, or my friends, or national, that is when I want to write even more to be informed; that is part of my artistic sensibility and all that definitely informed the last album.
Cover: You cite many rock, alt rock, and blues artists as your inspirations and now you are reimagining the works of Lennon, McCartney, Foggerty, Cat Stevens, and Clapton. However you don’t seem to limit your inspirations to the music of your past – tell me how Marc’s Listening Booth and the Deserted Island Disc list came about…
Marc Cohn: Aside from being an artist and a working musician I am still the same enormous fan I used to be of music! I wanted to share what I was listening to. When I was younger I was inspired by going to record stores and taking out albums and going into the glass booths in the back and listening to them to see if you wanted to buy them, some people today don’t even know what a record is. So that is where that aspect of our site came from, just wanting to share. I know as a fan I want to know what the artists I like are listening to, and this way I can introduce people to some older music and maybe some new music. The New Record will be called the Listening booth as well.
Cover: You were born and raised in Ohio and attended Oberlin. Do you think your Midwest upbringing affected your musical tastes and your world view?
Marc Cohn: I’m a Clevelander – I’m and Ohioan – there is something very Midwestern, northeastern about me, I’ve been described as such but I never really knew to what they were referring. Cleveland is where I fell in love with music; some of the artists were from Cleveland, some weren’t. I had a couple of older brothers that also grew up in Cleveland that taught me a lot about music. My oldest son who is 18 is attending my college (Oberlin) this year so the tradition continues.
Cover: What can we expect of your upcoming Valentine’s show in Newark?
Marc Cohn: Well, if you guys can dig out by then hopefully an intimate and soulful performance. It will just be me and Shane Fontaine an excellent guitarist who works with Springstein and Sting and now me for quite a while. It’s Just the two of us, we come out and we have a plan but we see what the audience is in the mood for and we go from there. We’ll take requests. A lovely intimate evening.
Interview by Linsey Griffith