Musician Benjamin Booker visited Canadian folk singer Chase Cohl at her Laurel Canyon home to talk about the release of her debut album Far Away and Gone
BENJAMIN BOOKER: So congrats. You’ve been working on your music and it’s coming out.
CHASE COHL: Yeah, it came out, a few day’s ago.
BB: A few days ago? Tell me about the record, when did you start working on it?
CC: Probably about two and a half years ago. It was sort of a slow burn. I wrote the songs over a period, most of them were written in a six month period that I was going through some personal turmoil of the heart.
BB: You wanna talk about it?
CC: Do you wanna talk about it?
BB: Yeah, tell me I wanna know!
CC: I had my heart broken pretty badly. I was betrayed by someone I cared about and I was able to, once I put down the wine, the bottomless wine, I sort of moved through it, processed it and came out not realising that I had written a record but just thinking that I had sort of begun this collection of songs. I actually was working with a writing coach, more thinking that I was going to do a creative writing project about it. He was a dream worker. He taught me how to write down and remember every single detail of all of my dreams.
BB: So that is sort of where you were coming from when you were working on this?
CC: Yeah, it’s a lot of subconscious thought.
BB: Usually for me those are the good stuff, so that’s good to hear.
CC: There was a lot of letter writing. We wrote a lot of letters. Letters to different parts of myself, letters to people, letters to future, letters to past. All sorts of different things and a lot of those songs were born out of the letters.
BB: Had you written like that before?
CC: No. I had actually also never experienced writers block ever in my life until that period. I think I just hadn’t processed what was going on. Once I brought this person in he helped me sort of break through that. It was amazing. It was a really weird experience.
BB: Were you afraid, what did it feel like?
CC: I wasn’t scared, I think it felt like too big of a project because when you experience something intense or overwhelming its hard to process it in something as small as a song. At least it was for me. It felt like a bigger project or I had more to say than that. I couldn’t seem to organise my thoughts so breaking it down brick by brick was the only way to do it.
BB: That’s cool. Where did you record?
CC: At Valentine
BB: Valentine is cool studio. I went with you. It was very cool. It’s like a retro spot. Did you record with any special guests?
CC: So many people. The dude that produced it is called Lauren Humphrey, he’s amazing. He’s actually been a friend of mine for like a million years and I always knew he was talented but we’d never discussed working together. I was meeting with producers from project and someone mentioned that they had a really enjoyable, actually Matt Hitt from Drowners had mentioned to me that he had had a really enjoyable experience recording with him. He said, you should try, you guys are such close friends. Lauren lived with me for like three months out of every year since I moved into the house. He’d come and stay for months. So I called him and said why haven’t we ever worked together. We sort of got discussing and figured that it was the time to do something.
BB: So are most of the songs about relationships and love?
CC: Yes. Aren’re most songs sort of about love and relationships?
BB: Relationships yes, I don’t know if they’re always about love, I don’t really have any love songs. I don’t really have any of them. Do you use music to work through those things usually. Is that what you lean towards?
CC: Well when I go through something intense, yeah. I think writing too. I don’t know how to process the heaviness of it otherwise.
BB: Was it always like that?
CC: I always played music but when I started writing on my own was probably…I was probably about 19/20. Otherwise I always wrote with other people and you can’t be totally honest when you’re writing with someone else I don’t think.
BB: It’s difficult. What were some of the challenges that you had going into this?
CC: I think I was just terrified of telling the truth. Especially because I was so directly involved in my emotions at the time and I think having had time…I’m actually glad that it ended up taking a while to get put out because I feel so much stronger…not removed from it but I feel like I can look back at it and realise it was a positive thing. At the time I was just basically crying into a microphone.
BB: Who were you referencing going into this?
CC: There is probably a little bit of a lot I always gravitate towards, Karen Dalton that's like my number one girl.
BB: Do you mean like her melodies or her voice?
CC: I think the intimacy of her music. There was a record she did called 1966 and I’m sure you know that. It's the least produce one. It basically sounds like it was recorded on a tape machine in her living room, which it probably was, in one afternoon. There is something that is so special about that record to me because it sounds like you're just sort of being welcomed into this personal moment in someone's life She doesn't necessarily have the in her song writing because honestly she didn't write much. She does a lot of covers a lot of standards. She just did them in an interesting way and she had that voice . But production wise, obviously it's no secret that I’m a massive Joni Mitchell fan. There's a record that she did called “for the roses” that's my number one most favourite Joni album.
BB: Do you know when it came out?
CC: It was the first one and she did after “blue” and it's actually my most favourite record because she made “blue”, she got super successful quite quickly but I think probably the risk with making a record like that level of sort of personalism that everyone feels like they know you. So she freaked out and went to British Columbia to the wood and made “for the roses”.
BB: Is she Canadian?
CC: Oh yeah she’s from Saskatchewan. Oh yeah.
BB: Who were some of your big Canadian people?
CC: Joni Mitchell. Neil Young. Shania Twain
BB: OK. You should have stopped at Neil Young. Canada definitely has it’s own kind of thing I think but I don't really know how to describe it. Just like how it fits into the bigger music picture. I think it seems usually pretty earnest the stuff that you get from there, but not too serious. Do you know what I'm saying?
CC: I think 70s music from Canada was a very different story than modern music from Canada. There's a lot of stuff coming out right now, particularly out of Toronto, where I'm from. It's very different, the sentiment is entirely different than it was with The Band.
BB: How long have you lived here in LA?
CC: Well on and off I guess because I spend a lot of time in New York but nine years so my whole twenties here. I didn't realise, this just happened. Yeah but I still am more in New Yorker I would say as much in New York as I am in L.A. these days.
BB: How has the city affected the music, do you think it has or it hasn’t?
CC: I find in L.A. there's just more like a personal and emotional space to create you know. I find it's easier to concentrate on something like music here because there's a lot of time alone. In New York you can always get up and run up to the corner and get coffee. Yeah I think I think New York I'd find it difficult to write in but I do find the art to be more inspiring.
BB: Have you been to any house parties in town?
CC: Yeah but not in a while. House parties are so fun
BB: I went to one a week ago. There was a band playing.
CC: There's a lot of that in Nashville. I played like a lot of houses in Nashville.
BB: Do you have any relation to Nashville.?
CC: Yeah I used to write there a lot. That's how I started writing songs for other people. I did that for years. I would spend weeks and weeks on end down there and I have a lot of friends that live there. It's cool. I've played a lot of shows down there, residencies. I think I'm doing residency there in the fall, it's cool. I like it. I don't know if I'd move there but it’s so fun to visit.
Photography: James Wright
Words: Benjamin Booker