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Exclusive Interview: Getting To Know Dylan Cohen

Hi Dylan, it's nice to speak to you! Amazing that you're stemming from Toronto where I've visited many times. Listening to 'Alleyways' brought on a lot of memories of the city! What about growing up in Toronto made you feel so fortunate and inspired you to write this ode to T.O?

Hi Buzz Music LA and thanks so much for reaching out to me!

I actually moved to Toronto when I was twelve years old after living in a bunch of small towns here in Ontario. As a creative gay/Jewish guy, growing up in small town Ontario isn’t easy and Toronto brought tolerance, diversity and acceptance to my life and I’ve been hooked on Toronto’s elevation of those values ever since. I’m proud to be shamelessly in love with my city, and to write a song like “Alleyways” was years in the making. I wanted to write a song that reminded Toronto to be proud of what it is today, and to take a break from focusing on what needs improvement. To me Toronto may not have the grand boulevards or the world class architecture, attractions, or transit, but it has cultural values that I think are world class. I think we excel at showcasing our love of multiculturalism, tolerance, acceptance and diversity and this city thrives on that love. I use “Alleyways” as a metaphor for those values - they run parallel to everything we do here and form the substructure of what this city is built on - they form the grid that holds it all together.

As you know Toronto is a city that is always active, never quiet. do you find most of your song writing inspiration comes from the hustle of the city or do you prefer to create a more serene atmosphere to create?

When it comes to writing “Alleyways” I was definitely inspired by Toronto’s hustle and bustle. I started writing this song on the rooftop of a house in a historic neighbourhood called Cabbagetown while smoking a joint when I was around nineteen. Cabbagetown sits just east of the city’s financial district and inspired the first line of the song “Town of the Cabbage, now homes filled with riches, under the shadows of the massive, Financial District…”. As the years went by I observed different little details about life in Toronto’s neighbourhoods and then spun them all together into a song. My hope is that Torontonians can see themselves in this song and feel inspired and fortunate to live here like I do. I think when the “Alleyways” music video launches this summer the whole project will come together.

Your lyrics are both descriptive and metaphoric. What do you enjoy about adding the element of storytelling to your songs?

I think a song in and of itself can tell a story. I think an album can tell a more detailed story, and I think multiple albums or a canon of songs can tell an even more complex and potentially moving story. I’m constantly thinking about what stories I want to tell as an artist and why those stories, to me at least, need to be told. For example, my second single “Clementine” is a real story in and of itself. It tells the story of my early childhood, the abandonment I felt and how that, at least partially, led me to addiction and self-destruction. In the context of my first album “Just for Tomorrow”, “Clementine” is just one piece of that. So to answer your question, I guess telling stories is what drives me to create. I will use whatever tool are most effective - description, metaphor - whatever - to tell stories in the most transparent and honest way possible.

Who are your musical influences?

My musical influences are many and come from so many genres; folk, hip-hop, electronica, world, alt-rock, pop. As someone hyper focused on singing and writing courageous, transparent, gutsy songs, I have two ultimate musical influences...Elliott Smith - since I was 12 he’s been my all time favourite singer/songwriter. I shaved my head, skipped class and cried for days when he died in 2003. Elliott Smith embodies much of what I strive for as an artist - courage in songwriting, transparency even when it’s not easy, finding hope in darkness. Many say that Elliott Smith is just depressing music even though he wrote many songs that are hopeful and optimistic and upbeat, but to their point - when someone can describe darkness in the brutally honest way Elliott did, listening to his music always gave me comfort - that I wasn't alone, that other people felt what I did, that you can make something beautiful out of darkness. Making something beautiful, comforting and inspiring out of darkness is what my album “Just for Tomorrow” strives to do. Ani Difranco - my mom was a teen mom in the 90’s so I’ve been listening to Ani for nearly my entire life. I’ve tracked her career, I know all her stuff, I’ve seen her live a bunch of times and even have her guitar pick framed in my bedroom! Ani is an icon who didn't follow anyone’s rules but her own, she has written about so many tough things and her bravery is of constant inspiration to me.

What do you hope the next year brings to your musical career?

I’m currently hard at work on my debut album “Just for Tomorrow”, which is due to release in mid November of this year. “Just for Tomorrow” tells a story that begins in darkness and ends in hope and optimism. I’m almost two and half years clean of all drugs and alcohol and this album strives to reflect my road to recovery. This album has a real reason for existence for me - I’m trying to create something hopeful and optimistic from years spent destroying myself, and I hope it inspires others to do the same. Other than the album I’m dropping a lot of covers on youtube, rehearsing with my band to perfect our live set and releasing the “Alleyways” music video this summer! Stay tuned and catch up with me on social media to see how it all shapes up!


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