As Marc Cohn does the publicity circuit to promote his new album, “Join the Parade,” talk inevitably turns to the singer’s carjacking two years ago, when he was shot in the head.
He talked about the shooting after it happened in 2005, but these days he’s not as willing to relive the nightmare.
“It’s actually one of the main things that stirs up anxiety, so I have to be careful. If someone asks me to tell the story again, sometimes I can and sometimes I won’t,” Cohn, who is now on a nationwide tour, said in a recent interview. “So yeah, telling that narrative over and over isn’t particularly what I long to relive everyday.”
The shooting actually played an integral part in the creation of his new album, helping snap him out of a major writing block and record his first new CD in nine years.
“I was in a particularly fragile place personally, and it’s not unusual when I’m in that space for the songs to come,” he said. “There was something I had to work through.”
Cohn, 48, was not seriously injured during the 2005 carjacking. But that wasn’t the only event that year that left him emotionally spent — the Grammy winner, best known for the song “Walking in Memphis,” said that he was also torn up over the devastation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, even though he’s not from the region and has only been there a couple of times.
“It was a combination for me personally that I had gone through my own personal crisis and the fact that I’m a musician and New Orleans to musicians isn’t just an American city, it’s THE American city,” he says. “All the music that I grew up loving, a lot of it came out of New Orleans. For musicians, it was a tragedy times two.”
Cohn says he was particularly inspired by a piece by writer Rick Bragg in the Washington Post — so much so he called Bragg and asked if he could use some of his words as lyrics. For that, Bragg is named as a co-writer on the song “Dance Back from the Grave,” which takes its title from a phrase in Bragg’s story.
“I didn’t know at the time maybe that was going to be a personal statement, because I felt like that’s what I needed to do. I had come that close myself to dying, and was trying to find my way back to just living,” he said. “Back to something ‘normal.”’
Cohn, who has two children with wife and ABC news journalist Elizabeth Vargas, says for the most part, he has been able to achieve his goal — even more so than he thought.
After he was shot, he remembers telling his older brother, “This changes everything,” and anticipated living each day with more zest than he had before.
“I can tell you personally, only intermittently (has it happened). I wish it was the case that I can live that fully everyday, but I don’t think human beings are wired to really take in what a gift this all is on a daily basis,” he said. “But because that happened to me, it happens more than it used to.”