Scene & Heard

Cohn finds ‘balance’ and advocacy in new album, tour

Jill Cohn’s performance Sunday night at the Cottage Events Venue featured songs from her new album, ”Balanced on the Rail.” Bradley Cook/Special to The Chronicle

COTTAGE GROVE – Listen to the song ”Yellow Rose” by Jill Cohn and you’ll get to hear an excellent sampling of her dynamic work. Listen to that song’s backstory – Cohn met a down-on-their-luck family at a Colorado rest area during a road trip a few years ago and was compelled to write a song about them – and you’ll get a little glimpse into the soul of a singer-songwriter seeking to make a difference.
”This guy came up to me at the rest stop … I thought he wanted money,” Cohn said after playing at The Cottage Events Venue on Sunday night, Dec. 1. ”He said they were heading out west looking for work.”
They talked for just a few brief moments, but as Cohn left that rest area, she knew she needed to write a song about the multitudes of families still struggling after the 2008 financial crisis.
”During my childhood there was this spiritual woman who gave a talk about the yellow rose,” Cohn recalled. ”It’s a symbol of hope, so after I met that family I wrote ‘Yellow Rose’ as a symbol of hope for them and other people like them.”
We have a car to sleep in,
Warm blankets for the cold.
Told the kids we’re just camping,
The truth, we never told.

Grammy award-winning producer Malcolm Burn – best known for his work with Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan – was moved when he heard ”Yellow Rose” and invited Cohn to collaborate with him.
”I worked for years just to get a chance to work with Malcolm,” Cohn said. ”I had been pursuing the sound that he created. I had worked with Jim Watts extensively, and I finally got up the nerve to talk to Malcolm.”
Cohn, who grew up in Seattle and now lives in Colorado, says she enjoys touring as much as possible, but she spends most of her time during the winter months teaching kids how to play guitar.
”It’s super fun. It’s something I started late in my career,” Cohn said.
”I have an eclectic approach to teaching, because every kid is different …” she said. ”I’m kind of a (stickler for discipline). Kids today don’t know how to focus and push themselves. The mission is getting kids to advance past the beginner stage.”
Cohn sort of dreads the long, cold months for another reason, too.
”The worst part of winter is there’s no baseball,” she said, adding that she usually roots for the Rockies now that she lives in Colorado.
”I like a lot of sports, but I started getting into baseball in Seattle when they were really good. I’m always intrigued by athletes. Like musicians, they have to put in a lot of work to reach their goals.”
Cohn performed a few songs from her newest album, ”Balanced on the Rail,” dazzling the audience with her incredible voice. ”I’ve been singing ever since I could talk,” she said.
Cohn was a top-five finalist in the Lilith Fair Talent Search. Founded in 1997 by Sarah McLachlan (one of Cohn’s chief influences), Lilith Fair helped launch the careers of many top female musicians, including Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Missy Elliott and the Dixie Chicks.
Cohn has been touring and recording ever since, and she has no plans to change that routine.
”I love telling stories and singing,” Cohn said. ”And I like to connect with people. So touring allows me to do all of that.”
She had played here last year and hopes to make The Cottage Events Venue a regular tour stop – especially since she’s friends with the owner, Kim Still.
”I know a lot of musicians, and it’s always good when I can host somebody who’s passing through,” Still said.
She said her venue is unlike most others, because you can actually listen intently to the music instead of constantly being distracted.
”I like having a listening environment like this and being hospitable,” Still said. ”This is a good place to hang out, get to know your neighbor …. It’s important for people to get off their cellphones and physically interact with other people.”
Still said her next scheduled music event is a New Year’s Eve party featuring two bands – The Morph Rats and JaSkaMon.

Zepparella, Sessions Music Hall, 7 p.m.
Tatiamo (Rock-n-Soul), Saginaw Vineyard, 6 p.m., no cover
Farrow and the Peach Leaves, Brewstation, 7:30 p.m.
Breakers Yard with Hot Piranha, Axe & Fiddle, 8:30 p.m., $5 cover
Modest Mouse (Alt-rock)
McDonald Theatre, 8 p.m., $50 advance, $55 at door
An Acoustic Evening with Trey Anastasio, Hult Center, 7:30 p.m., $65
Mat Kearney (Singer-songwriter), Shedd Institute for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., tickets $35 to $47
Jacob Camara (Singer-songwriter), PublicHouse, 7 p.m.
Ben Johnson & Company (Blues, rock, soul, country)
Saginaw Vineyard, 6 p.m., no cover



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos