Amy Cohen (COM’18) always knew that music and songwriting would be an important part of her life and career, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she took it more seriously. Since then, she’s graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication, moved to Los Angeles, and has started taking the entrepreneurial steps to “create a sustainable career out of music as an artist or songwriter”.
INNOVATE@BU: How do you create innovation?
COHEN: To me, songwriting is the most important part of music. I aim to build any song of mine around the lyrics and initial chord progressions, and my vocal intonations, the entire feel of the song and the beat we craft are all dependent on the lyrics. Lyrically, I focus more on telling my story and expressing myself, rather than creating something universal and intentionally relatable. Music and lyrics that are soulful, honest and intimate resonate most with me and have inspired my craft. Today, in many cases, we aim to create songs that are as catchy and simple as possible in order to be more streamable, and often the intricacy and honesty in the lyricism is lost. The focus then becomes on the song, rather than the artist, and there isn’t a strong sense of connection or relationship built between artist and listener, which is essential for longevity in the over-saturation and easy-accessibility of music in the streaming age. Above anything else, I want to create a valuable relationship with my listeners, which I think specific and honest songwriting contributes to greatly.
Who or what inspires you to create impact?
Artists like Frank Ocean, Coldplay, SZA, Jorja Smith, Adele, John Mayer and Sabrina Claudio inspire my songwriting and willingness to be honest in my lyrics. It’s music for the soul, and though the lyrical details are personal, it makes it that much more powerful and meaningful to the listener – they feel more human. Those intricate anecdotes allow us to go back into our own memory and feel something deeper and more real as we submit to our vulnerability. I can only hope to take the things I’ve learned and make even one person feel more in touch with their own emotions and brave the risk of pain that comes with feeling, rather than afraid to really face that self-reflection.
Tell us, how did your musical journey begin?
I’ve been singing and songwriting for as long as I can remember. I know everyone says it but it’s really the one thing I always knew I would do. I guess I started to take it seriously around my second year at BU when I was at a low point in my life, and writing was really the only effective way to handle it. It’s hard to articulate, but nothing really speaks to me or connects with me in the way that music does, and I can’t see myself ever doing anything else.
What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you had to overcome in your role or for your new venture? How did you do it? What did you learn from the experience?
Trusting myself. There are so many different avenues one can go to create a music career these days and so many opinions on how to do it. I’ve always shrunk myself, felt that I needed to act “new” or stay in my place as a developing artist without speaking up against direction that I felt wasn’t right in fear of seeming closed-minded. However, I’ve found that believing in myself, trusting my instincts and asserting myself to stay true to my values, goals, and intuition will ultimately guide me in the direction I’m meant to go. This isn’t to say that I don’t deeply appreciate and take serious note of advice from mentors and all those in the industry with far greater experience than mine, I am listening and learning every second. But when it comes to staying grounded and even just happy, you can’t leave any of yourself in someone else’s hands.
Who do you turn to for mentorship and advice?
My parents. I’m really lucky to have such down-to-earth, intelligent and moral parents. They keep me grounded for sure.
What is one major accomplishment you’re most proud of?
I’m the proudest of making this whole project come to life as a result of rising from one of the darkest times in my life, and really just committing to this by moving to Los Angeles alone to invest all of my time in pursuing what I love. It makes me really proud to look at how far I’ve come.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own innovation journey right now?
Be patient. Timing is everything.
Where do you hope to be in two years?
I hope to be happy, creating a sustainable career out of music as an artist or songwriter, and being able to look back and be proud of every step I’ve taken. I stay motivated by letting myself take breaks when I need them. If you’re writing all the time, you’ll have nothing left to write about. It’s so important to go live too. The best songs are created from that genuine love and passion for music, not when it’s forced or you feel burnt out. And actually, when I step away for a few days, I can remember that nothing else gives me the same high or sense of self-fulfillment. This has always been my dream, and I never really lose sight of that vision.
I’m working with a few of my closest producers on a project that I’m really excited to put out in the world, that I want to be the foundation of my musical work moving forward in my career. I’ve really grown into myself since I’ve moved to LA, and I’m ready to just throw myself at this and completely go for it, no hesitations.
Check out Amy’s song “Playing Games” on Spotify.