Interview: Adam Cohen


Adam Cohen, the son of Leonard Cohen recently released a new album Like A Man and has very generously taken some time out to answer questions for Drop-d.

What artists other than your father influence you as a songwriter?

Bob Marley, Randy Newman, Serge Gainsbourg, Prince and U2. I listened to these artists a lot, and very carefully.

As the son of a famous and successful poet, novelist and artist, as well as a singer songwriter, do you aspire to partake in any of these other fields yourself?

I do participate, as vigorously and intensely and dedicatedly as possible, in all these fields, except drawing/painting (for which I have no talent)

Now you are a father yourself has this changed your outlook in life and how do you deal with the times of separation when you are on tour?

Fatherhood is beautiful, intense, course altering stuff, but Daddy’s got to work. My job is to make my presence felt despite my absence. Many fathers (including my own) had to contend with this pre Skype and such wonderful and inexpensive ways to stay in touch.

You have previously spoke of how hard it was when you started out as a musician and how you wanted to move as far from what your father did and have your own style but now you appreciate his influence more. What were the factors in changing this opinion for you?

Three main factors lead me to where I am now:

  1. A series of disappointments, misfortunes and career choices that lead to disillusionment.
  2. The admirable, unexpected, triumphant and inspiring resurgence of my father to the stage.
  3. My becoming a father and the courage, insight and wisdom that wondrously came along with it.

Having lived as a child on different continents and countries and now having travel as a compulsory part of your job, do you enjoy all the travelling that you do?

Travelling is one of the great joys of life and the world, a true privilege in which I so often get to revel.

What age did you start writing songs?

My earliest memory of “writing” a song is at the kitchen table with my father (who lead the impromptu and decidedly domestic session) and sister, perhaps I was 3 or 4.

How many different musical instruments can you play?

I play guitar, piano and drums, all moderately well at best.

Which comes first for you when writing songs, the lyrics or the melody?

Often a song will start with a sentence that sticks in my head. If the sentiment or idea is strong enough I’ll start to flesh it out with strumming and humming. The shapeless chord structure and murmurings might begin to take a shape, and then, for this exercise to turn into (yield) a song, I must succumb completely to inspiration or something that feels more like luck than know-how.

Do you find writing songs come naturally or is it something you have to really work on?

I work hard at it, start over and over, sometimes curse out loud at the idiocy of some of my thoughts. Sometimes can’t believe I penned something after it came out of me.

Like A Man is released in October, how long did it take to complete this album?

All together about two weeks. Two delightfully painless, inspired and course altering weeks. The least painless, most joyous experiences I’ve ever had in studio (a place that has more often caused a sense of anxiety and self-doubt)

Having previously being in a band, Low Millions, do you relish being a solo artist?

I love being in a band. There’s nothing like it, or maybe being in a great gang or fearsome tribe is just like it but I loved it. Being a solo artist is also great, at times. Both are privileges.

You wrote Lullaby in Blue for Bette Midler. Who else have you written songs for?

I’ve written so many songs for so many artists, almost none of them ever making it onto records. So so many infernally close calls. Artists holding the song till the last minute and not actually keeping them for the record. It’s not a subject I care to revisit, discuss or think about!

Are there any songwriters that you aspire to work with or duet with?

I’d love to write for Adele, Feist, Beyonce, Norah Jones and Taylor Swift, for every reason you can think of.

What would you say has being your greatest achievement to date?

This latest album Like A Man is without a doubt my proudest artistic achievement but having my son is my most delicious personal “achievement”.

What are your feelings on how reality TV shows like American Idol have changed the music industry?

They perpetuate the idea of instant success.

Before performing a gig do you have any rituals that you follow?

The ritual usually consists of scrambling to find a measure by which to calm my nerves or clear my mind of clutter standing in the way of great focus.

What is your favourite way to unwind after a gig?

If I’ve had a great gig, I want to drink, laugh, eat, meet, greet, smoke, flirt and plot other gigs. If I’ve had a difficult gig, I want to go home, and quit.

If you hadn’t chosen this career where would you see yourself now and was music always the foremost calling in your life?

Music was a virus contracted at such an early age, something so powerfully seductive to me, as far back as I can remember. It was my only certainty. There was no plan b. Still isn’t.

Is religion an important aspect of your life?

Not as much as travel or food, or sex, or music, or love.

Outside of music and your family what are your favourite pastimes and forms of relaxation?

Travel, food, music, love, sex.

10 Years from now where would you like yourself to be as a person and a musician?

I’d like to chart clear growth. The specifics of which I’d prefer not to bait.


This interview was carried out by me for an Irish online music magazine calle Drop-d and the interview originally was published there:

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