J A Cohen (the Chicago Jeff Cohen) is a songwriter and singer.

J A Cohen grew up in the downstate flatlands of Illinois, and in the early ‘90s took his country-influenced songwriting to the pop and punk scene in Chicago.  For the next decade, Cohen’s music was critically acclaimed by numerous publications including Billboard, Alternative Press, CMJ, No Depression, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Sun Times, and others.  Cohen performed throughout the country, including showcases at the SXSW and CMJ music festivals, the Chicago-ASCAP Best Songwriter competition…he thought it best to turn down Star Search.

Cohen and his band Philo opened for such artists as Matthew Sweet, Buffalo Tom, Eddie Vedder, the Afghan Whigs, Guided by Voices, the Jayhawks, the Bottle Rockets and X; and performed or recorded with artists such as Syd Straw, Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Ribot, Flaco Jimenez, and Billy Joe Shaver.

Cohen’s haunting recording of the Sam Cooke classic, “Cupid”, won best Chicago band Cover of the Year, by Chicago’s leading AAA station, WXRT. Alternative Press’s Chris Nickson called it “one of the best cover versions I have ever heard. Seriously.”

Then he stopped.

Cohen’s latest work, the 2014 full-length release Mid and Western is the product of more than a decade of work. Cohen says of the project, “Maybe the hardest thing for a songwriter to do is make that transition from boy-meets-girl songs to adulthood, without sounding preachy, cynical, or worse...age-inappropriate. Man I hope I’m not that.”

Mid and Western’s new material reflects a career-long struggle to combine influences into the same song. Cohen says, “One night I’d play on an Americana bill. Then, the next night we’d play in a power pop lineup. Then, I’d get called to play in some songwriters circle doing renditions of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen songs. We’d play with country artists, but most of us in the band had a power pop and punk history, too. Getting disparate influences to work together within the same song sometimes takes a conscious effort, and other times you hope it just seeps out, so here's to hoping.”

In between the hooks are the kind of lyrics that gave Cohen the "Midwest's Elvis Costello" handle: Old flames and first loves jostle for attention, joined on occasion by half-strangers with backstories that don’t come easy. We meet the cheating bride (Cohen’s prequel to Gram Parsons’ “Thousand Dollar Wedding”), the career woman who used to steal beer from her daddy’s Amana, the golf-widowing CEO, and the boy whose only wish is for his mother to cry.

Cohen smiles that age might have something to do with it, “No longer trying to be somebody else is freeing -- I mean, the things people wrote about me were really nice, but at some point you outgrow the label and you either get comfortable with what you sound like, or you chase your identity forever. Do you think anyone says to Mr. Costello, are you England’s J A Cohen?”

The Jeff Cohen disclaimer: J A Cohen, fka the Chicago Jeff Cohen, is not Jeff Cohen, the child actor who played “Chunk” in Goonies.  Nor is he the other singer/songwriter Jeff Cohen, former BMI executive who plays with Pancho’s Lament.  Nor is he Jeff Cohen the FAIR attorney.  Just to be clear.

j a cohen

SUMMER 2014 College radio NEWS:

Album airplay on more than 85 CMJ stations


July 13 on the Americana Stage grant park

August 2 with

Matthew sweet at SPACE

Evanston Il