Raised by English professors in the backwoods of Kentucky, reading P.G. Wodehouse and Shakespeare and listening to Randy Newman and Paul Simon, Dan Cohen's music represents different facets of contemporary Americana. It is surreally Southern, but cosmopolitan at the edges--if not quite 'sophisticated.' Domesticated, yes, but not ready for the good China. Dan began playing guitar at age 12 and started writing his first songs shortly afterwards. 'Writing and playing have always seemed to go hand-in-hand for me,' he says. 'I've never had a lot of interest in playing other people's songs. Listening, sure - but not really playing. I feel like... they did that already! I can't do it better than that. I better go do my own thing - figure out what that is.' Figuring that out led him to college, to Philadelphia for a few years, and then to Nashville, where he quickly garnered a reputation as a blazing picker as well as a talented writer, penning songs with hit-makers like Jeffrey Steele, Bob diPiero, and Don Poythress. He began getting work playing on demo sessions (and a few masters, as well) working with veteran producers such as Blake Chancey, Scott Hendricks, Billy Joe Walker, Jr, Jay Joyce, Desmond Child and others. After stints on the road with national country acts, including Tracy Byrd, Bryan White, and Andy Griggs, he landed a major label recording contract with Sony Music as cofounder of the group Stone. 'That was a great experience, even though the plug got pulled on us. I got to work with Don Gehman and learned how to wield a major label budget, after a fashion. And I learned all about some of the...er...'constraints' of working with a big label.' When Sony and BMG merged, Cohen suddenly found himself with no label deal and no gig. 'I kinda panicked, really. I started taking any gig that was offered to me. And then one night I'm on stage, backing up some country artist, and my mind started wandering and I got totally lost and screwed up the song - which was a big power ballad, of course. And I thought, 'What the hell am I doing here?' And I quit.' He went back to Nashville and started writing. And writing. And writing. 'I got out a bunch of old records - the stuff that got me into music to begin with - and just started writing for me. I didn't think about who would like it or who would want to cut it or whether it would work for radio or anything.' The result was his self-titled first solo record. He signed with Weston Boys, an independent label based in Nashville and North Carolina which has a mission of letting artists make what they want to make, oddly enough. Not having pressure to create 'a sound' gave him the freedom to mash a bunch of styles together onto the record, which was produced by Matt King. King, who also cowrote several of the songs, recently signed with Montage Records; his first record for that label will include several songs he and Dan wrote together. 'Making this record really taught me what my best sounds are and Matt was essential in helping me do that.' Those sounds do a lot of peregrinatin'- from the backwoods stomp of 'My Side of Town' to the slinky soul of 'When You Don't Come Home' to the positively creepy 'Waiting at the Bottom.' And for good measure, there are a couple of acoustic instrumentals and the all-out pickfest 'Nuke-Ya-Ler Chikkin.' Paul Deakin, of The Mavericks, and uber-bassist Byron House appear on the record. 'I'm proud of the diversity of textures on this record. I really think everybody would be able to find something they like here. Well, hopefully more than one thing!' So he's stripped it down, he's tuned up, and he's hitting the road. With a guitar in one hand and a Mac-book full of songs in the other, he's striking out on his own and he's ready for whatever comes.
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