Ed Cosens
Photo: Tom Oxley / Press

Ed Cosens

As a member of Reverend and the Makers, Ed Cosens is no stranger to the music industry. Yet it still feels like it’s all new to him now that he’s going the solo route. After 15 years of writing with other people for a group project, Cosens decided it was time to branch out on his own. Hence, the birth of his debut solo record: Fortunes Favour.

It wasn’t a decision he made lightly. Rather, he says “it’s something that’s been on my mind for a number of years now — to one day do something for myself, on my own. I think it’s just taken me a while to develop the confidence to step out on my own and stand behind my own songs for myself and be confident that they’re good enough, I suppose, and to be happy with them. I managed to finally find that in the last few years, where I think ‘I’ve done it,’ and here it is. So it’s been a long journey and I’m glad to have gotten to this point.”

The journey gained momentum when he wrote a few songs that, whenever he returned to them, he continued to like them. “As a songwriter, you often go through this process where you come back to songs a few days later and might think — oh they’re actually rubbish,” he says. “But here, I kept thinking, they’re actually really good, I really like them. Being in a place where I have an amazing wife who supports me and gives me confidence, it helped me realize that I should just go ahead and do it. You can only try and put yourself out there and do the best you can do, and that’s all you can do, innit?” Cosens tells me with a smile. “I got to that point where I had a collection of songs that I believed in, and here we are.”

At the same time, Cosens was still actively taking part in Sheffield, England-based band Reverend and The Makers and contributing songs to the band as well. “I’ve always written stuff,” he says. “I’d maybe write an idea or a song or whatever, put it into the mix for a Reverend thing, and sometimes they’d work, and other times they wouldn’t for whatever reason. But once I had that collection of songs that I mentioned earlier, it helped me change my mindset and separate the two out a little bit. I’d know when writing with my acoustic guitar whether it was an idea for myself, or a different project. There was definitely a moment where I started to differentiate a bit more between the two. They are different styles, obviously with me singing they sound different anyways as well. But there was a different thought process behind whether it was for Reverend and The Makers or just for me.”

While it’s never been the goal in and of itself to make something different from the Reverend and The Makers, it was certainly a conscious choice to make something that was 100% Ed Cosens. Therefore, contrary to the normal band process, Cosens wrote all of the songs on his own record by himself. “It’s more of a conscious thing that I wanted to try something on my own and I think when you collaborate and write with other people there are loads of different ideas. Everyone has their own input on how things should be or sound, so I felt like this time it should all come from me. If anything else, I just wanted to do this for myself. It was all me on this one — but in the future, who knows?”

One of Cosens’s favorite tracks on his debut album is “The River.” Whereas he normally starts with the melody and then thinks of what he wants to say lyrically, this song actually developed the other way around. “I was pushing my son who was about 18 months at the time, he was asleep in the pram and I was just walking in the park,” he shares. “It was one of those weird moments where you get a sudden surge of inspiration and I started singing ‘down by the river I’ll wait for you.’ On that walk I formulated a large portion of the lyrics. It wasn’t until I was back home and got my guitar out that I figured out the melody. I’d never done that before, so it was a nice twist!”

Aside from “The River,”  the title track is another of Cosens’s top picks — hence why he ended up naming the album after it. “There were a couple of other working titles, which I’ll not divulge cause they aren’t very good,” Cosens laughs, before explaining the meaning of Fortunes Favour. “It resonated quite a lot with me, because it’s kind of got two meanings almost. On one side it’s a song about being in the music industry and sort of, I’ve been doing this now for 15 years or so, and having a life and journey through the music industry. As you can imagine it’s quite interesting, and the idea of fortune and fate is kind of interwoven in the industry. You’ve got the classic idea of being in the right place and the right time and suddenly you’ve made it big. And you see often people being bestowed with fortune’s favour whether deservingly so, or more interestingly, when it’s undeservingly so. When you see this happening or it’s happening to you in the industry, it can be both thrilling and frustrating. On the other side of it is more my personal relationships. I’ve got an amazing wife and two great kids and I feel very blessed and fortunate in that respect. And it’s not always been like that, and some other songs on the album speak on that previous experience of being in and out of love and making mistakes and making the best of it. So there’s both sides of fortune and I’m a big believer in fate and what’ll be will be, so it just made sense to name the album after that.”

Aside from these two tracks, Cosens refuses to choose any favorites. “They all have different meanings for me, so it’s difficult. They got put on the album for a reason. And the album as a whole is very personal, it’s a personal thing. It’d feel unfair towards the other songs I’ve created, you know?”

This is specially so, as he has had so much experience already as part of Reverend and The Makers, and there could’ve been some pressure to make this debut album stand the test of time — and more importantly, stand out from the Reverend and The Makers material. Yet Cosens is quick to deny this, stating instead that it hadn’t ever really come up throughout the process. “I don’t think so, to be honest. I think, me as a solo artist is such a new thing, I’ve never done it before. I’ve only ever really presented the songs in a way that it means just me. Obviously the band is a huge part of my life, still is, so I haven’t shied away from that. But I wanted it to just be on me as a solo artist as a separate thing, and so the music has ever only been presented as a solo thing.”

“I think, like you said, there are some similarities. But I just wanted to make something that was true to myself and present it in that manner. And if people who listen to it and say that it’s similar to Reverend and the Makers, then fine — it’s whatever it is. All kinds of people will have all kinds of different opinions, and that doesn’t make them any more or less true.”

Perhaps the main similarity is that Cosens’s roots run deep in the project, just like they do in Reverend and The Makers. Sheffield has, in a way, largely shaped their music. Cosens himself still resides there, enjoying the fact it is a city that feels like a village with all its green suburbs. He doesn’t deny that his environment colors his own songs just as much as it may have done for the band in the past.

“There’s a sort of collective mentality in Sheffield that’s sort of unspoken,” he says. “You have places like Manchester and Liverpool or London, they often shout out a lot more about their musical heritage, and the bands that come from those places are a bit louder and brash. Whereas in Sheffield, people keep to themselves a bit more. There’s an old thing we often talk about that’s from the times of the steel industry here. People called the ‘little mesters’ who’d have their little workshop who’d be making a knife or a handle of a knife, or a spoon, or whatever it was. But it’d all contribute to the wider, bigger whole. You get a lot of that mentality in Sheffield; there’s so many creative people in so many different things, and they’re not quite as big, loud or brash, but it all comes together into this huge melting pot of creativity. I think it seeps into everyone who’s even remotely creative around here. There’s a definite sense of kind of being humble and modest here, which comes through in the music. People like Richard Hawley was great at that and talking about where he’s from, and he’s been a big influence for me personally as well.”

Cosens chose to create a short film that goes along with his album, which was accordingly shot in Sheffield as well. After taking 16 songs to the studio, he whittled it down to the final selection and started thinking of what it should look like, aside from what it would sound like. “I like the idea of this album being an actual album, rather than just a few songs that I released,” Cosens shares. “They’re meant to be here together — a bit old fashioned in a way. In this modern world where everything moves so fast, it’s nice to feel like you can kind of sit down for half an hour and just listen to the songs. It was trying to sort of follow that idea to the visual side, starting with ‘If.’ I came up with the idea of making it into a four-part short film with a central narrative and something that kind of portrays the more general themes of the album. The themes that run through the album are there. It was something that I was quite keen on doing, and we were lucky to get a film production company involved — Flat Cat from Manchester. We made something beautiful I think, I’m dead pleased with it. The final part is my favorite; it’s really wonderful.”

All in all, it has been a major creative journey for Cosens, but he welcomes the process and all he’s taken away from it on a personal level as well. “I think one thing has been finding the confidence to do it in the first place and to follow through, and to get to the point where I am of making the album and hearing people say nice things about it — that means a lot. Finding that confidence and that belief in yourself that you can do what you truly desire to do in your life, and to allow yourself the time and the confidence to find what it is you want to do and allow yourself to do it. I think a lot of people have hope with their life that they can do it and not everybody ends up actually doing it, so I do feel honored and privileged to be in a position to do what I do and to have been able to find that confidence and belief that what I do is good enough and can stand up against great songwriters and whatnot. That I can be happy with it and be true to myself is an amazing thing. I’m already thinking on what’s the next step, the next album, and look forward, really!”

When I ask what he wants others to take away from his solo music then, Cosens laughs. “Obviously I’d like them to enjoy the songs, it wouldn’t be great if they didn’t. I think just having them sit down and have an experience for half an hour, and maybe just escape for a minute. And let it hopefully reflect on areas of their lives that they’ve been through in relationships and find some resonance in that. And hopefully a bit of joy and uplift, I don’t know. Just all that, really.”

In a way, his music is meant to create a moment of reflection, and tranquillity, as contradictory as that may sound, in a world that is always rushing us along. A little bit of escapism and joy is certainly not unwelcome these days, and Cosens is hopeful that he’ll soon be able to bring that to people in a live setting as well.

“The most frustrating thing is that gigs have obviously all stopped,” he says. “This year we had lots of festivals and tours booked for Reverend and The Makers that have all been canceled. But looking forward to next year, the plan is to get out and tour and play the album live with a full band and everything. That has always been the plan, but when it’ll be materialized, we’ll see. I do find myself a little bit more positive with the vaccine and all, that hopefully restrictions will get lifted and gigs can get started. For myself personally, I’m not going to be doing stadiums, so hopefully smaller things will be able to start happening again relatively sooner even. I’m sure we’ll play some gigs, that’d be nice.”