Singer/songwriter Chase Cohl is making a cup of tea in her apartment in New York City, enjoying the first hit of cool fresh autumn air. “It’s the best weather,” says Cohl, who spends half her time in New York and the other half in Los Angeles.
The singer recently released the softly swaying single, “The Way It Goes.” It’s a song you can curl up to alongside a glowing sunset, or a crackling fireplace. A track about hard lessons learned, there’s a soothing peacefulness in Cohl’s voice. The song “stemmed from a situation where I maybe didn’t protect my heart enough” says Cohl, “but it’s also about embracing the backbone and not living in fear, so as not to miss out on living a worthwhile life.”
Cohl is gearing up to release more new music in the coming months. Culture Collide asked her about some of her biggest influences and embracing vulnerability.
Culture Collide: Joni Mitchell is one of your biggest influences. Is there a particular song or album that initially stood out to you when you were discovering her music?
CC: It’s grown with me over time. I probably first discovered Blue like most people, and I love that record, but the album that really gets to me the most these days is For The Roses. That’s the album that gets me and that I come back to as reference to my own music and reference to songwriting, because she wrote it after Blue, and there’s something that’s more vulnerable about the songwriting. It’s sort of like on Blue she gave away everything, and so on For The Roses she has nothing left to give. There’s something really vulnerable in that desperation that I find myself really attracted to in songwriting because it’s sort of like the calm after the storm.
How did it feel to record at Valentine Studios where both Elvis and The Beach Boys recorded?
CC: Valentine Studios is a magical place, it really feels like going into a time-warp when you’re there because it looks like nothing from the outside and then you walk in and everything is completely untouched. It feels like you’re walking into a different era.
It felt really appropriate for me because it’s such a small private space and it felt like the right home to nurture this project that I was working on. We were all really excited to be there.
Your single “The Way It Goes” is about hard lessons. What’s your advice for dusting yourself off and picking yourself back up?
CC: For me, the most invaluable lesson is taking something difficult and turning it into something productive, which I’m lucky I have art and music to be able to do that in and for. Simply because, I feel like the pain is almost worthwhile if you’re able to turn it into something creatively fruitful.
I would say first try and release it whether you’re an artist or not, into some sort of creative medium whether it be painting, drawing, writing, or yoga or whatever your release is. I think getting that energy out into something productive is massively rewarding. Then I guess beyond that, just learning how to let it go and not carry too much of it with you because, especially these days, there’s so much being thrown at us all the time. If you carry that shit all the time, it’s just going to drown you.
You’re very creative, what are some of your favorite activities you enjoy when you have down time?
CC: To me making music feels like down time, art feels like down time. I take it easy, I’m a runner, I do a lot of hot yoga, and I meditate when I can remember. And hang out with my family a lot. I tend to be upsettingly anti-social if given the opportunity, so I try not to take too much down time otherwise I don’t see anyone.
You’ve said you find people are afraid to admit when they are lonely or in need of love. Why do you think that is?
CC: It’s vulnerable and I think people are scared of anything that promotes vulnerability and makes you feel weak. Especially these days with everyone having such curated lifestyles between social media and regular media, everything feels a bit falsified, and I feel that vulnerability and honesty are being buried further.
So people admitting that they are lonely, or flawed, or in need of something that they’re not getting, it sort of shatters the image that you have this perfect life where you’re doing whatever beautiful activity on the Internet. Which is tricky because we’re multifaceted people that, unless you sit face-to-face with someone for days upon end, you can’t get to know someone and see that vulnerability.
I think in art there’s not a lot of that and it needs to be de-stigmatized. That’s what I believe artists and music has the power to do – to connect people in their vulnerability. As much as pop music does for the world (there’s a lot of women power and “you did me wrong so I’m going to key his car”), there’s not a lot of genuine honesty. Also coming back to Joni Mitchell and why I’m so drawn to her music is because it feels brutally honest, even to a fault sometimes.
How was it being on the road and touring with Lissie?
CC: I’ve known Lissie for years, she’s like a big sister to me. From the day we met we hit it off and she’s always been a really driving creative force. She’s super inspiring because she works harder than almost anyone I know. We get along really well and at the end of the day when you’re traveling in a van, it’s really nice to have another girl around.
In addition to music, you’ve been designing hats and headdresses under the name Littledoe for almost ten years. Who’d you most like to see in one of your designs?
CC: Most people that I’ve wanted to see have already worn it, but probably Kris Kristofferson. He’s my number one. I probably would’ve said Tom Petty if it were a few weeks ago. But yeah, Kris Kristofferson.
You’re really into literature, what are you reading right now?
CC: I recently read Chinese Erotic Poems, a book of ancient erotic poetry from the 13th and 14th century, which was really amazing actually, the way they spoke about eroticism was entirely different. There is a wonderful Russian poet called Anna Akhmatova that I’ve been reading a lot lately. She died in the 60s, she’s amazing. I’m also reading The All Or Nothing Marriage by Eli J Finkelan, an anthropological book on the evolution of the institution of marriage in our generation. And it’s autumn so I always end up reading Robert Frost. There’s something about autumn and Robert frost.
What are some of your favorite things to do in New York in the fall?
CC: Coming back from LA to New York I’m so excited I get to walk places, that’s a big one for me. I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with my family upstate, we went apple picking and cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner outside, that was really nice. I’m a big fan of foliage so it’s nice to get out of the city whenever I can. I don’t know, I like to do things like drink tea, walk around and be creative.
What do you love most about LA?
CC: Probably the thing I love most about LA is the thing I struggle with most, which is isolation. I love that I get to live at the top of a mountain and be three minutes from Sunset Boulevard and feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s got a lot of things to offer: you can be in the woods, or the beach, or in the desert within an hour of anything, so it’s pretty magical.
I think the thing that keeps me in LA is the musical history. I don’t believe there’s any other city that has more influence, or has been influenced more, by the creativity and the art that has been created around it, and I love that.