Marc Cohn is a natural storyteller and amazing singer-songwriter. He expresses his gifts through his music. He is a Grammy Award-winning musician most famous for his 1991 single, ‘Walking in Memphis’. In 1995 Cher recorded a cover and video of the song on her 21st album, ‘It’s a Man’s World’. Marc Cohn is performing with Mavis Staples at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle on Sunday, June 22. You can get tickets here.
ED: Cher did a cover of your song, ‘Walking in Memphis’. Have you ever performed it with her?
MC: It is funny that you say that. I haven’t but I think that sometime in the fall she’s playing Madison Square Garden for a couple of nights and part of me wants to reach out to her ask if she wants me to come up and sing it with her. I don’t know. It would be one of the wildest experiences I could possibly imagine. So, no I have not performed with her but I am considering trying. I don’t know if she would be interested but it would be cool to ask.
ED: You are such a natural storyteller; do you think it makes your songwriting easier?
MC: First of all, I think there is something really nice in your question but I don’t really find anything about songwriting easy. No, whatever my process involves or my abilities are my experience in songwriting is that nothing about it is easy. It is certainly not easy and frequent. Occasionally I feel; well very rarely like I have been visited upon and something really good happens very quickly. It is so rare. There is no better feeling than when you know you are doing something authentic and some sort of language that’s interesting.
ED: Can tell me about your songwriting process?
MC: I wouldn’t say it is exactly like waiting. I think on some level, I am always writing or thinking about something even when I sit down to read a book. Reading makes me want to write. Good writing makes me want to write. Very often even sitting down to read a book or a good magazine article, to some degree I am trying to get ideas. I think there is some part of my brain wave activity that always has to do with songwriting. It doesn’t always necessarily look like it. I don’t always have to be sitting at the piano to be working. I don’t sit at the piano very often and consciously try to write something. I might be drawn to the piano one day or the guitar another. Sometimes it is a word I see somewhere or a phrase I overhear. I just try to keep my antenna sharp and my sensibilities awake. Very often that doesn’t mean a thing but it is all part of my process.
ED: If you could pick any artist to perform with on stage or just for a song, who would it be?
MC: I have one of the greatest experiences of my life becoming friends and touring with Bonnie Raitt. I have opened for about sixty of her shows and at the end of the night we sing Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’ together as a duet. That is just one of the great thrills of my life. I am able to listen to Bonnie live every night and get to sing with her as well. I am not sure it gets much better than that. In fact, I know it doesn’t. I feel like I have already manifested my top choice into reality and it is kind of a pinch me moment. Joni Mitchell is someone that I have always wanted to sing with. Robbie Robertson is another person I would love to at least watch in the studio. A lot of the people that I would love to collaborate with aren’t here anymore. Bonnie was always at the top of my list and to have that come true is incredible.
ED: In 2005, you were shot and nearly carjacked on tour. Do you think this has changed your music?
MC: Well, the experience itself definitely contributed to my writing a series of songs about fate and mortality. So, it impacted my songwriting for a brief period of time in a very explicit way. In a more general and more overarching way it refocused and redoubled my commitment to my audience and my appreciation that I have one.
ED: Are you working on anything new right now?
MC: I have just written my first new song in about two years. I have a few other little fragments that I am working on too. We have actually started talking about a new record and what the concept should be. The new song is going to be in a movie. I got an assignment and it worked. The thing that I have always loved is to make albums but I am not sure that is the way people really listen anymore. I will definitely be playing at least one new song when I am on stage in Seattle.
Marc Cohn is performing Mavis Staples at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle on Sunday, June 22. You can get tickets here.