We had the good fortune of connecting with Dave Cohen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dave, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I’m inspired by the big life moments that inspire all of us. The birth of my daughter this past year, epic experiences in nature, the legendary artists that came before me, and all the other things you’d expect an artist to be inspired by. I’d have to say, though, that I’m probably most inspired by collaboration and instances of collective discovery between artists. The moments of unparalleled connection that occur between musicians when they play together, and the intangible feeling of shared energy with the audience when playing live. They’re moments that you really can’t put into words, that you feel on such a deep level that it becomes physical. It’s like hearing your favorite bridge of your favorite song or reading the last pages of a book that you never want to end. When I think about what music is today, I feel like so much of it is brought into existence by way of one person sitting behind their desk imagining it all from their singular point of view. If there’s one thing this past year during the pandemic has taught me, it’s how much I cherish moments of live artistic collaboration, because the next one isn’t necessarily guaranteed. I have always felt that two creative perspectives are better than one, and that it’s the friction that occurs between different points of view that elevates ideas to higher ground.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel like I really don’t have any one typecast role as a pianist or singer or songwriter. I tend to go through these intense periods of time in which I fall in love with a certain style or genre or artist or album and just really dive deep and explore, add it to the memory bank, and move on to the next one. I love experiencing new things- I would almost always prefer to watch a movie I haven’t seen before than a movie I love a second time. Living in New York for so many years, always hunting for gigs, I came across so many different opportunities to learn and grow from other people. I’ve played almost any type of music you can think of, from classical pieces to Haitian pop music to country blues. I think that what defines me is the fact that no one particular style defines me- I feel like I’m the sum of all these parts. Learning all of those different genres of music has opened my ears in a way that allows me to be able to sit down with any musician, from any background, and create and share something beautiful. One of the big challenges over the last year or so during this pandemic has been that I can’t share those moments with people anymore. Trying to recreate them on my own at my keyboard without that essential human component just isn’t the same thing. It can still be enjoyable and fulfilling in its own way, but it somehow always feels a little less meaningful. It’s a little bit like the tree falling in the forest analogy. If I go into the forest alone and witness that tree fall and record it, and then bring it back and play that recording for my friends, it just wouldn’t be the same as going into the forest together and watching that tree fall.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of my favorite things to do in LA is to get lost driving aimlessly in the hills listening to music. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure story, where you could turn down any winding road and come upon an incredible canyon view, hiking trail or architectural gem. I’ve been doing this with my wife and with visitors for three years straight since I moved here from Brooklyn, and every time I walk away with a new perfect spot to bring the next person to. The proximity to the Pacific is definitely one of the main reasons we ended up in LA, so a day at the beach is always a must during any visit. That moment when the 10 spits you out of that tiny tunnel onto the PCH and starts to curve up the coastline showing you that endless ocean is still my favorite feeling out here, and I love sharing that with people. Will Rogers is a favorite beach of mine, because there’s so much space and if I’m there on a weekday, you feel like you have the run of the place. If there’s time left after a long beach day, I love to take people to Point Dume in Malibu to watch the sun set and catch a glimpse of some whales, dolphins or sea lions. When it comes to food, I usually keep it simple. LA has some great farmer’s markets, and it’s always nice to grab some fresh ingredients on the weekend and cook up a big brunch. There are so many cool brunch spots around my neighborhood, but my favorite place to go is still good old classic Norm’s; sometimes twice a day, for breakfast and then again at 3 am after a night out with the late crew of characters. I love to spend a night out on the Sunset Strip, stopping into Whiskey A Go Go, Rainbow Room, Comedy Store and On The Rox. As a musician, I really connect to the history there, and have seen a lot of really great shows there too. At the end of the day, though, Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood is my number one go-to neighborhood joint. I used to go there 2-3 times a week before the pandemic. It’s where I’ve met some of the coolest, most down to earth people and one of the best musicians I know. Everyone’s game is on one of the many TVs in there on a Sunday, and every stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet. There are always a million people packed in on the tiny little patio, smoking and vaping, chatting and laughing and drinking a beer. I’ve met people from all walks of life- everyone from a ship captain to a famous comedian to a renowned architect. No trip to LA would be complete without a couple solid hikes. Driving through the mountains on Angeles Crest Highway and hiking through Angeles Forest is a perfect day trip in my mind. Within an hour or two in any direction, you can get to Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs or Laguna Beach. I love the look on people’s faces when they realize how close all these different places are to our fingertips here in LA. Add that to the everyday sunshine and you can see the gears start grinding in their heads; why don’t we all live here?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost my wife Ariel and almost 1 year old beautiful baby girl Maya. They are without a doubt the reason I get out of bed in the morning and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep. I am so grateful to have them in my life and the only silver lining to this past year has been all the extra hours we’ve been able to spend together. Becoming a new dad has completely transformed my perspective on what I want to accomplish in this life and the type of person I want to be. I have to give a big shout out to my parents and sister and all the people who have loved me for who I am throughout the years as I pursued my music, for better or worse. Being a musician requires a lot of patience from the people who surround you, and I’m forever grateful to them for continuing to believe in me and encourage me. I’ve witnessed other artists have to deal with a lot of naysayers throughout their career, but I feel incredibly blessed to have always had so many people cheering me on. I want to recognize every person who has been holed up with me in a tiny studio or rehearsal space until the sun comes up, who has shown up to my shows of all shapes and sizes or who has let me crash at their place on the road to an out of town gig. When it comes to having a music career, or the pursuit of art in general, it truly takes a village of supporters. In many ways, the friend that helped me carry my Rhodes up four flights of stairs plays just as integral a role as the person who hired me for my first gig.