Local Songwriter Interview: Amanda Cogan

Amanda Cogan is a San Diego native who grew up in Mira Mesa.

Now living in Normal Heights, she’s a regular at Open Mic at South Park Abbey, where her strong voice is always a crowd favorite. She’ll be playing some upcoming showcases, too.

After confidently and happily strumming her Taylor 314ce through five or six songs one random Wednesday night, Amanda sat down with me and answered a handful of questions about music, songwriting, and what she plans on doing next:

How long have you been playing guitar?
Nine years, but I hate saying that because I feel like I don’t know enough chords. I just use the same ones over and over, and move my capo around. That’s the secret, folks; a capo!

When did you start writing music?
I’ve been making up music since I can remember; way before I started learning piano or guitar. I remember when I was a little kid, I would sit on the middle of the staircase and just sing—writing some silly melody and lyrics as I went. I’ve just always loved music. Only in the past few years have I concentrated on actually writing and improving my songwriting.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
It’s a weird question to me. When I started playing music, I wasn’t trying to emulate anyone. But now that I play out, I get a lot of, “Oh, you sound like Jewel.” That’s the biggest comparison other people make.

Who do you love listening to?
For great lyrics, I really do love Jewel. Jason Mraz is awesome. I’m mostly drawn to lyrics. I think Bruno Mars is a great songwriter, even though he is a little too “pop” for me, and say what you want about Lady Gaga, but her songs are so well written. She’s a great songwriter, but she is crazy.

How much do you play out?
[laughing] Right now? About once a week. But my goal is four to five times a week. I’m working with Samantha Love right now, to try and book more shows. Ultimately, I would love to make my living as a musician. Not famous. Just a living.

What gear do you use?
I usually just have my Taylor. I also have a portable Fender PA system that I rarely bring out. I have two more acoustic guitars at home: Ibanez acoustic/electric, and an Alvarez acoustic. I’ve played an electric guitar, like, once ever. I’d like to try playing on one more.

Where does songwriting fit into your life?
Every aspect of my life. Songwriting is my diary, but I’m singing it out instead of letting it sit on a page. To answer your question literally, though, I just work on songs when I am inspired. I was trying to write every other day a while back, but now, the last song I finished was about a month ago.

Do you write lyrics first? Music?
Sometimes I write the melody first, sometimes I have the lyrics. It’s an organic process. I never try to do it a certain way. I might have a page of lyrics that morphs into something completely different than what it was at first.

Do you have any desire to go on tour?
In the back of every musician’s mind is the idea of playing in front of thousands of people, riding a bus from city to city and traveling around. If the opportunity presented itself, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. But my ultimate goal isn’t to be an international star and tour.

So, does that mean you just want to write songs that other people will sing?
I’ve thought about that before, but because my songs are so personal it would be hard to hear someone else sing them. I want to sing and play my own stuff. I don’t know if I’m poppy enough to be on the radio, but let’s see how much money they pay me! [laughing]

Where can people hear your music?
Facebook has some videos and songs, and my full demo is on Myspace, yes MySpace!

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