The Roots of Authenticity. Interview with Adam Cohen

With his fifth album set to be released on September 16, and a hometown appearance coming up at POP Montreal, Adam Cohen has come home. I talked to him about what it all means.

Nancy Berman (NB): Your new album is called We Go Home. Why at this point in your life and your career did you become interested in the notion of home? What brings you back to your roots now?

 Adam Cohen (AC): It turns out that my muse, my motivation, is predominantly my family life, honoring my last name, my family, my sense of responsibility to legacy, and, as a father now, to my own kid. I’m in a family business. I’ve got to not only satisfy myself but also satisfy in my mind and others’ some bottom line. So that’s what’s preoccupying me. Because of that I decided to record the new CD in the living rooms of my family homes in Greece and Montreal. We moved a lot, had a gypsy lifestyle. And the only places that remained in our lives were the house in Montreal and the house on Hydra.

NB: How did working in your family homes affect the creative process?

AC: It was very nourishing, it reduced the level of anguish that I usually experience, to be in Greece in the home where I was a baby, barefoot, shirtless, and then in Montreal, in nothing but a bathrobe, to not have to use any mode of transport to get to the studio. It reduced any possibility for any artifice.


NB: Would you continue to work in this mode?

AC: I would recommend it to anyone who has the interest and gear to set up in a place where you’re comfortable. Recording like this is like taking a photo, like capturing instead of constructing a performance.


NB: You’ve travelled a lot in your life, lived in a lot of different places. How do you conceive of the notion of home?

AC: They say that anything you do for 21 days or more becomes a habit, so if you’re living in a hotel room for 21 days it should feel like home, it should be a state of mind. But these houses are haunted by memories of my family, my old man [Leonard Cohen], of the man I always wanted to be, so it really kept me honest. Home is a stark and sentimental reminder of the man I want to be.

NB: How did having your own child change the way you work?

AC: It gave me the pride and motivation to leave something behind of note. I used to come to the kitchen table to find my old man in boxers with a nylon string guitar. And now I’m that man. There’s a cycle. There’s a covenant.


NB: How is We Go Home different from your earlier four albums?

AC: The simple way of saying it is that I made a promise to myself with the last record (Like A Man), which was the only successful record I’ve made in my career. I found my voice and was throwing my arms around the tradition I’ve come from. I’m trying to stay true to that tradition, to raise my voice

NB: Why did you want to quit music three years ago?

AC: I was close to quitting before the last record. I was disillusioned with squandered opportunities. I had made four records all of which were dropped from the record company. I was over it. But the last record was an unexpected delight. I really just made it to exonerate myself. Having the courage to do what I want to do, to not be chasing the right jeans, haircut, money, women: my motivation shifted to acquit myself from the desire to be good.


NB: How did having your own son change your relationship with your father?

AC: There’s that delicious moment when you find yourself sitting at the dinner table with father to left and kid to right. It’s a sense of connectivity, of the loop of life. It’s a covenant. It binds and motivates.

We Go Home will be released September 16. Adam Cohen plays POP Montreal September 18 at 6:00 p.m. at Church of St. John the Evangelist (137 President Kennedy). Sold out.