Marc Cohn: "I've Had a Very Specific and Odd Path"
Don't refer to Marc Cohn as a one-hit wonder. Although his song "Walking in Memphis" may have immortalized him for radio listeners everywhere and won him a Grammy in the process, it also established him as an artist of a certain standing, the kind that can be counted on to create great albums that play together as a whole. Indeed, with a career that spans well over 20 years, Cohn's achievements go well beyond the bounds of a single hit and fleeting fame and fortune.
Still, it's been several years since Cohn's last album, and his is not a life that's necessarily been easy. He was orphaned at an early age but overcame his hardship by teaching himself to play piano and guitar. All seemed to be going well until he was shot and nearly killed in a carjacking attempt after a concert in Denver, Colorado, in 2005, a traumatic incident that forced him to reassess his place in the world, both as an artist and individual. These days, however, he's back doing what he does best: entertaining audiences with intimate songs and stories and plying his craft with the subtlety and sensitivity that's become his stock and trade. We recently caught up with him prior to the launch of his latest tour.
New Times: Give us an update on what you're up to now. What's new in the way of touring, recording, and other activity?
Marc Cohn: I toured more in the last year than I think I have in my entire career. I think I did close to a hundred shows last year. I opened some shows for Bonnie Raitt, which is a gift of a lifetime. She's one of my favorite artists. And I did a bunch of shows on my own as well. I just started a record, and I've been talking to record companies, so things feel like they're in a really good place. I'm happy with the new songs I've written, one of which is for a documentary that comes out next year, and it will be on my record too. So, yeah. It's been a good year.
You had some involvement with an Andrew Lloyd Weber soundtrack early on, did you not?
[laughs] Where did you find that?
Hey, I do my research! I like to probe below the surface.
That was probably six years before I even had a record deal, so that was going back to the late '80s, when I was doing session work in New York City when I first moved up. I was lucky enough to be asked to sing demos for Jimmy Webb and Leiber and Stoller, some of my all-time songwriting heroes. And occasionally, I'd be asked to do a recording date, and they were doing a session for Starlight Express, and they didn't want it to be the cast. They wanted it to be either session singers or people that had some sort of pop profile. I was a complete unknown at the time, so for me it was just a job. It was a long, long time ago.