Jon Coco interview
When you discover that The Beatles were a profound influence on Jon Coco, the connective tissue between what the Fab Four did in their storied career and what Coco has accomplished on his new record Chasing A Dream makes a lot of sense. And while John, Paul, Ringo, and George are present in spirit, there is also a streak of Tom Petty that travels throughout the record, especially in the lyrical content, which somehow manages to be both practical and fanciful simultaneously. It’s a special album, and for those looking for a dose of folk-infused rock, its worth chasing down Chasing A Dream.
I recently sat down with Coco to discuss bending instead of breaking, lobsta rolls, and the lingering anticipation for flying cars.
AH: Massachusetts born and raised here. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the interview, I have to ask…even with Boston out of your system, what is the most Massachusetts thing about you that you haven’t been able to shake since relocating to Los Angeles and then Nashville?
JC: The Patriots and Tom Brady! When I was a kid, the Patriots weren’t that good, then came Drew Bledsoe and things were looking up. Enter Tom Brady and the Patriots were on fire! Fan for life! Also, Clam Chowda and Lobsta rolls!! Can’t eat them anywhere else. I’m always underwhelmed anywhere else than Boston. (Laughter)
AH: You have been writing and recording music for over 30 years. How has your songwriting changed the most over that span? Does the Jon of today have a different creative POV than he did when he was just getting started?
JC: Yes and no. My lyrical content can read more like a story than an emotion or inspirational quote like when I was younger, which I consider growth as a songwriter. I always have tried to convey life experiences, but with this record, Chasing A Dream, I think I got it right. Musically, it’s a little toned down from my younger self, more country rock than hard rock. The guitar layers are still there though and that youthful optimism.
AH: Would that same younger Jon be surprised by how your career in music took shape and branched off into so many different avenues?
JC: Yes! I had dreams of being a rock star like Bono or Steven Tyler, or maybe John Lennon and Paul McCartney. So when A&M Records had closed their doors and our chances of signing that record deal was gone, I was devastated. As a band, we kept playing all the clubs in Hollywood. There was a small group of editors and producers of movie trailers that would come to our shows. One day, after an all-night party we played (at one of the top editors’ house in the Hollywood hills), we (my guitarist Jamie and I) got a call asking if we would like to submit a piece of music for a movie trailer they were working on. We said “yes” and scrambled to compose, record and mix it for a pick up the next morning. They loved it and used it. We were thrilled and a new music avenue was open for us. It snowballed and we were getting music cues in blockbuster movie trailers and TV spots right away. Fast forward to today and I’m living in Nashville and writing and recording music again as an artist with some phenomenal musicians. Wild ride. My younger self would definitely not believe it.
AH: You released Chasing A Dream on January 28. Where you are now in your career, do you still feel like you’re chasing that dream or have you caught up to it?
JC: That’s a good question! I didn’t expect to be releasing a record at this stage in my life and making a decision to do all that it takes to give this little record and songs a chance to grow. When I wrote this group of songs last year and we started recording them, I was listening to the rough mixes and I was like, “Whoa, these are pretty good! I guess I want the world to hear these.” So, in some regards I guess I am still “Chasing A Dream.”
AH: Where does this album rank on your personal list of accomplishments? What does it mean to your creative timeline?
JC: I feel it’s some of the best song writing I’ve done to date. I hope that people, when they listen to Chasing A Dream, they get the same feeling of excitement as I do and it takes them on a little journey. I’m an open book. I’m very happy to be writing songs as an artist again after writing music cues for so many years. So, it fits very well in my creative timeline.
AH: What would someone learn about you today in sitting down to listen to Chasing A Dream front to back?
JC: That I’m still a rock guy. A few songs, “Love Like Wind,” “One Foot In,” and “Boxley Valley” are leaning a little folky or country, but the rest of the record is rock. I cannot declare myself as a country artist. I’m a rock guy. Also, that I have a yearning for going places!
AH: I have always been drawn to lyrics, which is something I really enjoyed taking away from not only in my first listen of Chasing A Dream, but each one thereafter. What is a personal favorite line/lines from this collection of songs that you are particularly proud of and why?
JC: That’s a tough question, because there are a few lines that are personal favorites. From “Places,” the line “The road is worn with broken dreams.” That song is about escaping the small town trappings to experience the world and it’s not always for everyone. Some people end up returning home after failed attempts. Another line from that song is “Some people stay, some people go, and some just complain, it’s the way it goes.” In “Time Won’t Heal,” which is a song about undying love, the line “Promises made, all wash away, endless phone calls, what more to say.” I think everyone can relate to going through a breakup and the endless phone calls that are had to try and mend what has fallen apart. And in the end there is no more to say. And in “Boxley Valley,” the line “Feel the love planted in the ground.” “Boxley Valley” is a song about where I live, our house and property, our animals. We have a mini farm. We are so happy and blessed having our little slice of Heaven on Earth.
AH: As you mentioned, a chance meeting many years ago led to a successful career as a Hollywood composer. How important has been the idea of being malleable and going with the flow in your career? Would you be where you are today if you didn’t bend, but instead, broke?
JC: SUPER important! I wouldn’t be where I am today for sure if I didn’t bend. You know, second guessing yourself is damaging—I certainly struggled some times thinking that if I didn’t stop songwriting when the composing of music cues entered my life, and I did stop writing for myself for many years, I might have been more of a recognized songwriter. Or, I could have completely failed. I’m at peace with my career choices and opportunities. I got some stories!
AH: Did you have a mentor on your musical journey, and if so, did that person help shape your career in a way that would be dramatically different today had you not built that relationship?
JC: There’s a couple of people along the way. From the neighborhood kids who let me play with them in rehearsals when I was just starting to learn the guitar—I sucked big time! To a bandmate that taught me a better way of songwriting, to an engineer showing me little tricks and the way of recording. There has been many along the way. The guiding light has always been from the start, John, Paul, Ringo and George.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
JC: No, I would jump ahead for other reasons, like, do we have flying cars yet? I’ve been waiting! Are we living on another planet yet? Are we still living in Nashville or are we living on the beach somewhere? Have we blown each other to oblivion? You know, stuff like that!
For more information on Coco, visit www.joncoco.com.
Enjoy his livestream, here: https://fb.me/e/1CZBEsNsT