AT HOME IN L.A. WITH CHASE COHL
Once the creative home of the Californian music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the leafy hills of Laurel Canyon still echo from the enchanted era. Just like some significant song weavers before her, Chase Cohl came here driven by her passion, to unleash her honest feelings through music.
Chase is a fellow storyteller whose words about love and life’s silver linings, delivered in a soft sun-drenched voice, resonates something deep within our souls. We got together for tea and talks up in her folksy cabin, and brought along an analogue camera to capture this standard-bearer of Laurel Canyon’s legacy.
In what way does living in Laurel Canyon spark and nurture your creativity? "Laurel Canyon has a wild musical history. There’s something storybook-esque in the land up here. It’s a little isolated, a little haunted, very green, with windy roads. A little bit of magic. It can certainly be a place of solace for creativity. That’s what I continue to be drawn to about it."
Does living in Laurel Canyon also influence the way you dress? “There is a whisper of the 1970s in everything I wear (which you could equate to Laurel Canyon), but I never like it to feel costumey. I like to throw on a dress on occasion, but day to day, I am a real suit girl. My friends joke that I dress like George Harrison, constantly in a two-piece suit with white sneakers or boots. I adore the white suit I wore for the & Other Stories shoot, and that beaded bag I've carried around every day since then. It feels unique and special in a very wearable way.”
You grew up surrounded by great musicians, how did you find your voice? “Music has always been my lifeblood. I was raised in the musical circus. It just took some time for me to find my place in my own music. I assumed I would be a songwriter and sell my work for others to sing. Once I decided to try my hand at singing, I began to tour right away, but writing and putting out my debut album Far Away and Gone took time and courage. As a singer-songwriter, I’m releasing my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings into the world. There is a part of it that makes me feel deeply brave, and I try to stay connected to that feeling. There is just so much rejection involved in this career path. At times it’s hard not to want to give up, but ultimately it’s the great love of my life.”
What’s your writing process? “Writing has always been a safe place for me. I would write ‘stream of consciousness’ letters to people, to feelings, to places, to myself. Just let the words go so they weren’t occupying any space inside of me. When it came time to start writing songs, I would pull pieces from the letters, turns of phrase, and insert those as the themes. I found it helpful to keep the music honest.” Do you write every day? “I try to take at least one moment every day, even as a meditation, to reflect and ponder, to write, or to listen to something that will help my songwriting. Finding inspiration in writing is a practice and a muscle, like anything else. If you honour it and exercise it, it will remain in fair shape.”
What would be a book that you keep coming back to for inspiration? “There are a few books that I continually return to. First, a Native American poetry book called “Shaking the Pumpkin” from the '70s that I have bottomless copies of. I also adore the French poet Jacques Prévert’s work and the love poems of Pablo Neruda.”
Your songs have such distinct narratives. What does storytelling mean to you? “Storytelling is the most powerful way to connect us as beings. We are all telling stories all day long in our lives, to our partners, friends, on a first date, a job interview, you share your story. Storytelling is the fabric of the human experience. I just put it to music.”
What can you tell us about your collaboration with the legendary songwriter Barry Goldberg? “Barry actually approached me about writing together at a supermarket some time ago. He is such a legend, such a great fella. We came together over our love of the 1960s & ‘70s girl group records; The Ronettes, The Crystals and The Supremes. It started as sort of an homage to that, and eventually took on a life of its own. The first single will be released in April. I am wildly excited to get it out into the world.” And we can’t wait to hear it! Before we go, can you please tell us about a few hidden gems in Laurel Canyon where we can go and experience remnants of its enchanted legacy? “The folks of Laurel Canyon are pretty isolated, in that they like their privacy, but Lily’s coffee in the morning at the Canyon Country Store (besides Jim Morrison’s old house), as well as a glass of wine or bowl of pasta at Pace are absolute must-tries. Legend has it that there is a hidden tunnel under Laurel Canyon Boulevard that goes from The Houdini Estate to Frank Zappa’s old home, which was once the mistress of Houdini’s house. I can’t confirm or deny, but if anyone wants to go hunting for it, give me a call.” Chase Cohl is an L.A. based singer-songwriter, releasing a new single in April. Follow her @chasecohl and listen to her album Far Away and Gone on Spotify.