Adam Cohen: The Man Comes Around
His father may as well be Odysseus for all the reverence and mythologies ascribed to his lineage, but Adam Cohen comes across as ultimately having struggled less with the notion of living in Leonard Cohen’s shadow than with living up to his own artistic potential.
That’s not to say the 39-year-old singer/songwriter has relished the scrutiny that comes with being the progeny of such an influential figure. In fact for years he resisted it altogether, embellishing his initial efforts with signal flares of often-indulgent production lest they seemed genetically derivative.
Over time—Cohen’s eponymous debut, featuring the modest hit “Cry Ophelia,” was released in 1998, followed by a French-language LP and a rock effort as a member of Low Millions—such tactics undermined his talent and, he concedes, “were a symptom of my eagerness to participate in the business rather than the arts.”
On his latest release, Like a Man (Decca), Cohen embraces the attributes that have shaped his artistry all along, his nuanced melodies and poetically astute lyricism resonating not as derivative, but descendant.
“It’s so beautiful and rewarding to not only have made a record that is an homage to my father,” Cohen explains, “but to have done it with such truthful and fitting pieces, from the songwriting to the musicians to the accompaniment to the spirit in which it was actually recorded.”
Remarkably, despite his frustrations and disenchantment Cohen says his creativity never suffered. “The songwriting’s never really been affected,” he maintains. “I’ve always felt good about it. Also, I’ve always had these songs in my back pocket even though I wasn’t showing them.”
Indeed the album’s most recent songs date back five or six years, the oldest almost twenty. Asked if while recording the album he felt any anxiety revisiting songs he’d written as a much younger man, Cohen denies. It was fulfilling, he says, in “finally being able to find a home for all of these songs that I’d discarded one after the other, knowing full well that these were my best songs and that I’d abandoned them for all the wrong reasons.”
Placing his current endeavors into perspective, Cohen seems genuinely at peace with the paternal influence within this effort and, with Like a Man, proud.
“I remember him saying to me, ‘When you get to that point where you really sweat, there’s sweat on your brow and you’ve hit a wall after spending hours and hours working and you’re really about to quit, that’s where the actual work begins. They call it work, not play.’ That notion of it being work and the big stuff coming when it gets hard, that’s definitely something I’ve inherited by proxy and by witnessing from my old man’s process.”
Boasting a first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life optimism Like a Manheralds a new beginning for Adam Cohen, one which is clever, one which is good. “It’s a record I should’ve made a long, long time ago.”