A longtime fashion darling makes a name for herself behind the microphone.
At the Mercury Lounge on New York’s Lower East Side, Chase Cohl’s soft voice cuts through the buzz of a crowd that’s progressively getting larger.
“How are you guys doing?” she asks, receiving warm whoops and “woooo!”s in response.
Her hair is a golden California seaside blonde in waves some people spend hours trying to perfect. She wears a forest green dress sparkling with gold thread and slouchy black boots. A dark wooden guitar hangs across the front of her body obscuring the ruffles of her dress. In a beam of first silvery blue light then golden pink light, the indie folk pop artist’s voice is breathy, haunting and elegantly mournful, tinged with early 1970s nostalgia. Sweet but not saccharine, her music is like brown sugar—the natural stuff. In its jangly, soft folksiness, it’s meant for sitting with a lover on a front porch in the summer, or sitting on the porch mourning the loss of a lover, watching the world go by.
Some might know Cohl from her regarded accessories collection Littledoe, a line of high fashion bohemian hats and headdresses that bring to mind the lyrics of Scott McKenzie’s 1967 classic “San Francisco.” That is to say, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…” Beloved by publications like Vogue, W, and WWD, Cohl started the collection in New York in 2008, where she was living while a student at The New School studying Native American Poetry.
Cohl’s greatest current passion, however, has been unraveling itself more fully in the last few years: music. Chase Cohl has been writing songs since she was a teenager and sang in a choir from a young age. Fashion, while always a great love, simply came first. “It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized [music] was a potential career path for me, & even later that singing felt like an option,” she writes via email. “Fashion always felt like a very natural world for me to move into because the way I learned about style was always through the musicians I was raised around.”
Cohl’s father is Michael Cohl, former chairman of LiveNation, so there was no shortage of musical influence in her life growing up (including a tour with The Rolling Stones alongside her family). But because Cohl always felt so close to music and held it so precious, it took a little longer to get out into the world than her work in fashion did, she says. “Music has always been where my heart lives. It just took a little longer to get to a place where I felt brave enough to share that part of myself with strangers, as I can be quite shy in that way,” she writes.
While music influenced a lot of the work she did with Littledoe, Cohl has stepped away from the collection at the moment to focus on music full time, absorbed by its potential for connection and expression. “Writing for me is a non-option. It’s the way I process the feelings that I can’t say out loud day to day, due to fear or social appropriateness,” she writes. It’s no surprise, then, that in her work she hopes to capture the honesty of influences like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Karen Dalton, and The Band. She feels their music comes from a deeper part of the body than perhaps people write from today, she says, and admires the bravery and vulnerability with which artists shared themselves with their audiences. “It is always a relief for me to hear music that accepts the beauty in sadness instead of trying to avoid or suppress it,” she writes.
This year, Chase Cohl released her debut album, Far Away and Gone, a hope for closure after heartbreak. She found the experience cathartic, a weight lifted off the shoulders by sharing her feelings with the world, much like the work of those she admires. “The word ‘release’ has so much more meaning to me now,” she says. “If I’m lucky, maybe a few people will find some sort of solace in the music. Storytelling, for me, has always been about making people feel less alone.”
With Far Away and Gone came a five-video collaboration with the fashion brand Dôen, whose classic California style (ruffled yet relaxed tops, swirling hippie-esque patterns, among other metaphorical “flowers in your hair” moments) Cohl wears in each video. Loving their uplifting, female-positive vibe, Cohl connected with Dôen after they both discovered a mutual admiration for each other on Instagram.
In addition to that collaboration, Chase Cohl has also been developing a girl group side project, one she envisions will benefit from the courage and momentum she’s built by releasing this album. Working with legendary pianist and songwriter Barry Goldberg (who has played for Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and written for Rod Stewart and Gladys Knight, among many others), they discovered some of the music they loved best was of 1960s girl group singers like The Shirelles, The Ronettes, and Darlene Love and were saddened to see that nobody made music quite like it anymore. So they’ve decided to take on the project themselves, which Cohl hopes will be released this coming fall.
One of Chase Cohl’s greatest goals as an artist is to constantly be evolving, something she’s done not just from fashion to music but between genres of music itself. Cohl will also release a small book of poems later this year, she says, as well as a new fashion project sometime next year. “I think people always want to categorize everything, to put you in a box & say ‘Oh, that person is a folk singer and will remain as such,” but I am someone who loves to work & embraces change,” she writes. Moving forward, she hopes to maintain truth in her work while also becoming even better at guitar and learning how to write more intricate vocalizations. “The beauty of being an artist is that there is always room for exploration,” she writes. “So it’s mainly just about remaining as honest as I can in whatever growth happens throughout my life, & just to become better over time.”