I have just released my first solo album. It is called Mox Nox, a sundial motto that means ‘night, shortly’, and the theme running through the record is the passing of time, particularly the transition from day to night. Rather than writing songs specifically for the album, I looked through my songbook for things I had already written that fit this theme, and one of them (now called The Broken Song) jumped out at me as being a bit of a curiosity.
I’ve always been a night owl. I can be absolutely exhausted at 10pm, but by 11 my head will be racing with ideas. The Broken Song began its life during a nocturnal writing session, and its original lyrics made direct reference to being up all night. The song was clearly relevant – but it was also an underdog, half-written and still wearing its working title. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Looking over the lyrics, I remembered that I had always liked the verses but struggled to come up with a chorus. I’ve never been too worried about following a verse-chorus structure, but I knew this song needed more, and I knew that it was stuck. The breakthrough came when I deleted my crappy excuse for a chorus and looked at the lyrics that were left. Quite suddenly, I saw that the song I had thought was about a particular event in my life was about something else entirely.
For me the most important thing about music and song writing is creating community. I have spent periods of my life feeling quite isolated. In 2013 after 12 years in Brisbane having convinced myself I was excluded from the local music community, I realised I was in fact very lucky to know many musicians who turned out to be so generous and supportive they recorded versions of my songs for what became the ‘You Do It I Can’t Be Bothered’ project.
My name is Danny M. Cohen, and I’m one half of the Chicago-based gay folk-rock duo They Won’t Win. My “music husband” is Greg Lanier and we wrote and co-produced our debut album over a few years of life’s ups and downs. For me, parts of ‘Lost At Sea’ reflect what it was like to witness a dear friend fall into a dark, frightening place, but, ultimately, our album is about finding your way out.
My EP, When Pigs Fly, is the first body of music I’ve ever released. I purchased my first guitar little over a year and a half ago and only began writing songs after a year of learning to play guitar. However, when I found out how enjoyable it was to write songs, I knew that I was onto something.
I’m a musician. I used to just make and teach music, but lately I have been consumed by climate activism because I love people and nature. I can’t continue living without doing something to prevent it all from disappearing.
E. E. Cummings wrote:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it very hard to plan the day.”
This describes pretty much every day of my life now.
What parts of yourself do you hide away? Out of guilt, fear, uncertainty, or anything else, there are always tiny dreams and memories we hide from others. Yet, these secrets show us who we are if we dare bring them to light. Through music I created and discovered things hidden in me. I’ve been working on finding the courage to accept those things and make them real again. This has inspired my songwriting work so far.
In the wake of trauma, and especially abuse, there is often a bottoming out of the self: it can feel like everything you were has been hollowed out and replaced by this terrible event. When I started to heal, I began writing songs.