Much to my awe and delight, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary, Grammy-winning Marc Cohn. Like millions of music lovers and untold songwriters, hearing Marc’s iconic Walking In Memphis for the first time was a turning point for me. The passion, the voice, the story, and that infectious piano motif! His finesse and talent on that song has impacted me, since that day, and permeates countless facets of my own music, even now.
It didn’t take long though, before I realized that Marc Cohen was much more than Memphis. He was and is a brilliant composer and lyricist, and over the years, I’ve dutifully pored over every recording of his I’ve been able to find, each one in my opinion, a master class in songwriting.
It was a thrill and honor for me to catch a peek into a side of Marc that I had never seen before, with this FOTF. I have no doubt that spending the next five minutes here with us will inspire, motivate and compel you (as it has, me) to pursue and achieve the desires of your heart. Sit back and enjoy the words and wisdom of a truly kind soul and one of the most gifted popular musicians of our time, the remarkable, Marc Cohn!
1. Who has been your greatest influence (personally or artistically), and how?
Paul Simon. For the timeless beauty of his songwriting and record making, his musical curiosity, his longevity, his acoustic guitar playing (Mrs. Robinson, Peace Like A River), his deep understanding of groove and rhythm (50 Ways, Mother and Child Reunion), and his understated soulful singing. (I’ve always loved his consonants). One of the great artists of our time, Paul’s latest work compares favorably with the brilliance of music he made over 40 years ago. How many artists can you say that about?
2. Which previous job/project had the most impact on you, and why?
I was fortunate enough to open dozens of shows for the great Bonnie Raitt over the past couple of years. Watching Bonnie from the wings every night was a master class in singing (she’s the greatest singer alive IMHO), band leading, slide-guitar playing, dynamics, class, humility, and Soul with a capitol “S.” I must have heard her sing Angel From Montgomery and I Can’t Make you Love Me at least 50 times, and each time was a revelation. She would always find some slightly different phrasing or melodic choice that only someone who had heard her sing those songs over and over could truly appreciate. All of her choices were organic, unforced and brilliant. Bonnie was in the pocket and in the MOMENT every night. Like I said…it was a master class. To top it all off, Bonnie would bring me out at the end of every show to sing a duet with her – usually Crazy Love by Van Morrison. A life in music just doesn’t get any better than that. Believe me.
3. Is there a “secret of success”? If so, what? And if not, why?
Not sure about this one… but here are a few things to keep in mind. Be kind. Try to be patient. Show some grace. Remember the world needs more beauty and more laughter. Find your bliss, find your voice, and then work your *** off getting it heard. Don’t ACT like you’re great. BE great.
4. Is there a particular moment or event that had a great effect on your life or career?
Yes. I met the late, great Jerry Wexler at a party in NYC years before I got signed to Atlantic Records. Must have been 1985 or so. Jerry produced some of the greatest records of all time (for Atlantic ironically enough) including timeless hits by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and at least a dozen of my musical heroes. I asked him if I could send him a demo of some of my songs and he was kind enough to say yes. Sure enough, he called me back a few weeks later and said he had listened to my demo and that he didn’t like it very much. He told me my songwriting wasn’t there yet (I was crushed… but he was right), and that I was over singing (right again). He passed on some advice about singing that he heard from the master: Ray Charles. He said, “sing like you have a full cup of coffee, but never let one drop go over the edge.” Huge moment for me.
5. If you could share one, single pearl of wisdom, what would it be?
Have gratitude, not attitude.
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