Hannah Cohen: ‘I Curl Up In My Room And Play For Hours’

Tina Turner, longing for respect and unicorn tears.

Often when someone who isn’t famed for being a musician tries to turn their hand to writing an album, disaster strikes. It would be far too easy to name names so we’ll leave it at a vague, sweeping statement. However, with model-come-photographer Hannah Cohen, it’s a different story entirely. Set to release her debut album ‘Child Bride’ via Bella Union, we caught up with her to discuss Tina Turner, longing for respect and unicorn tears.

Your debut album ‘Child Bride’ is due out next week, how are you feeling leading up to the release?
Feeling pretty good about it, thank you! I wouldn’t say it’s been a long time coming, more of just the natural progression of how things have been moving along. 

When did you begin writing for the album?
I wrote the songs mostly over the past year and a half while working with Thomas on the record. A few of the songs we recorded were the first songs I ever wrote.

How did you begin to compose the tracks?
All the songs started out on my little parlour guitar. I curl up in my room and play for hours.

Are there any lyrical themes running through out? 
Broken hearts, longing for respect and unicorn tears.

You have a very musical background, with your parents and grandparents frequently referenced. Have your family heard the record yet? If so, what did they make of it? 
I went to my dad first when the record was finished (he is a jazz drummer) and after he listened he turned to me and said, ‘well, you’re not Tina Turner or Ella Fitzgerald!’ That wasn’t the response I was hoping for but that’s my family dynamic. Tough love and lots of teasing, almost to the point of crying. BUT he did really like ‘The Crying Game’ a lot and since then has been sending me notes on the rest of the record. And he just apologised now, six months later.

Did they give you any advice when you set out to make an album?
They were very excited for me to be working on my first record and they knew that I knew what I wanted so they didn’t really need to give me advice. 

The LP was recorded with Thomas Bartlett who’s worked in the past with the likes of The National, Martha Wainwright and Antony & The Johnsons. What did he bring to the album?
Thomas made the record happen. He really pushed to get in the studio with me and to get any free time to work and get musicians to come play on the record.

How was instrumentation arranged on the record?
That was up to Thomas, I trusted him and let him do his thing. He wanted to keep the songs as close to the originals but also building up and around and through and under with his wizard skills.

Where was the album recorded and what was the set up like? 
We recorded at Not Fat Studios in Manhattan with Patrick Dillet. He was really helpful with keeping me comfortable and mellow in the studio. It was a very nurturing environment in the studio with Patrick and Thomas.

Were there any tracks recorded that didn’t make the final cut? If so, what are the plans for those?
We recorded about 14 songs but we wanted to trim down and have a little compact gem of 10 songs. We will keep the ones that didn’t make the team maybe for extras later down the road… 

Was the album already finished before you signed to Bella Union or how did that come about?  
We finished the record this summer and started talking to labels in the UK as soon as we had the mixes in a good spot. Once we started talking to Bella Union I knew we had a good thing going. Also I am a HUGE fan of the Cocteau Twins.   

Active Child recently remixed your track ‘The Crying Game’ - did you approach people directly to do remixes or did they come to you?
Simon Raymonde from Bella Union helped set me up with Active Child. When we started talking about doing remixes Simon’s first choice was to have AC do a remix.

Were you happy with the results?
I love the remix. Always cool to see what people hear, Pat picked up on some cool stuff and his harp parts are magical. 

Do you have any hopes for the album or things you’d like it to achieve? 
I’m just happy to have been able to record my songs and play for people.

You must be fairly used to being in the limelight with your history of modelling, do you think this early exposure helped you know how to deal with your new found attention musically?
There is definitely a big element of performing and entertaining in the field of modelling so sure it’s helped a bit.

Having turned your hand to modelling, photography and now musicianship, what’s next for you?
I’ve always kept busy with different things and I think I will continue to follow that path. I’m very happy where I am right now just with my guitar and camera and occasionally a blow torch. Just kidding, no blow torches, yet.

Hannah Cohen’s new album ‘Child Bride’ will be released on 16th April via Bella Union.