Singer and songwriter Marc Cohn grateful for his fans
Grammy winner will play the Egyptian Theatre
Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Marc Cohn knows who made him famous.
“I never take for granted that I have an audience and I’m very grateful to that,” Cohn said during an interview with The Park Record. “So, I try to play the songs that my fans come to hear.”
Cohn, who is known for the blockbuster ballad “Walking in Memphis,” will make his Park City fans happy when he plays three nights, June 22-24, at the Egyptian Theatre.
The show will open with singer and songwriter Chelsea Williams, who has opened for the Avett Brothers and Dwight Yoakam.
Cohn said he wants die-hard and casual fans to walk away from the shows feeling entertained and moved, and he is getting his set lists ready.
“There are four or five that I can’t get away with not playing,” he said. “I’m fine with that, by the way. Some artists hate it when there are certain things that are expected, but it doesn’t bother me at all.
“I just try to find new ways to play those songs so I don’t get bored with them over the years.”
When Cohn comes to Park City, he’ll play with what he calls an “incredibly soulful trio.”
“I think the way we play is the best the songs have ever been played,” he said. “So, that’s part of choosing a set list, too. I know the musicians and what we sound best on together.”
Cohn’s love for music came when he was a pre teen.
“I was drawn to music as a fan when I was 8 and 9,” he said. “Some of the greatest music — in my opinion — was coming out at that time.”
He remembers seeing the Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ hearing the Rolling Stones and discovering the singer-songwriter movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“There was so much happening that was so new and fresh sounding,” Cohn said. “As much as I loved the Beatles and great bands, I was drawn to the solo artists like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne.
“I almost willed myself to learn how to do what they were doing.”
By the time he was in his teens, Cohn could already sing.
“So, I started writing songs and they were pretty terrible the first 10 to 15 years,” he said with a laugh. “Then I found my place and then I was off and running.”
Last year, Cohn celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Grammy winning, self-titled debut album and his trademark single, “Walking in Memphis.”
“I did a bunch of shows commemorating it by playing the songs on the album in order from start to finish,” he said. “It was a wonderful thing to mark the occasion of having a record that is that old and that people still want to listen to it.”
Cohn is currently working on a new album of original material, his first in 10 years.
“Writing songs is more of a challenge now than it’s ever been,” he said. “When I got signed to a record label, I was a much younger man with no children.
“Now, I have four children, two who are college grads and two who are still quite young. So, going on the road for months out of the year, making records and taking time to write new songs gets harder and harder.”
When he writes songs, Cohn has to make a conscious effort to do it.
“Sometimes there are very strong ideas that come to me that I can block everything out around me and do it, but it’s rare for me to do that these days,” he said.
Cohn also feels it’s not fair to bring kids into the world and then spend years on a tour bus.
“I’ve never done that,” he said. “I’ve always made my kids a priority.”
Another thing that keeps Cohn from writing is the extended sabbaticals he has taken.
“I’ve done that a couple of times and I’ve taken more time than most musicians,” he said. “What was it like? It was a necessity. I had things that needed to be attended to. I really needed to concentrate on my family and a pending divorce.”
The life challenges were something Cohn had to face, he said.
“It got difficult when I began to think I was coming to the end of my music career, because I didn’t have anything to say,” he said. “It was unnerving and unsettling when I wasn’t so sure that I would still have a long career in music.”
Cohn said he is grateful to his friends and fellow artists who brought him back to songwriting.
“I had finished cowriting songs for a soul-music legend named William Bell and the record I cowrote all those tunes on just won a Grammy for Americana Album of the Year,” Cohn said. “It was great to see this 75-year-old brilliant soul artist get his due, and
to be part of it was inspiring. And that kept my faith alive, that good music still could be heard.”
Cohn also wrote a couple of songs for gospel pioneers Blind Boys of Alabama.
“Those guys are incredible,” he said. “They were part of my tour last year and I got to know them. So, my creative partner John Levinthal and I wrote a few songs for their new record.
“As it turned out, it was exactly what I needed to kick start me into my new record. It got me back to writing again.”
These days, Cohn is overwhelmed with gratitude for his fans and friends.
“Some of my heroes like Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne have become my friends and mentors,” he said. “I’m also touring more than ever and, now, writing more than ever. I feel like I found my way back to where I’m supposed to be: a musician and father.
Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Marc Cohn will perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday, June 22-24, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. The shows will open with Chelsea Williams. Thursday tickets range from $35-$55. Friday and Saturday tickets are $30-$65. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
“Park City Follies” ticket sales will help buy a new expansion to the Egyptian Theatre that will house YouTheatre and serve as a black box.