Ed Cosens might well have been a solo musician a decade ago, if he had the confidence. In a quiet period after releasing his second album as guitarist of cult band Reverend and the Makers, he began to imagine the possibility of a side project, but in the end nothing materialised. “I don’t think I was quite ready at that point,” he admits. “I sort of dabbled around but nothing really stuck, so I kind of left it for a bit.”
- READ MORE: The Big Listen: Ed Cosens – Fortunes Favour
In 2018, however, he began to carve out a new identity for himself, as Ed Cosens the solo musician; a singer and lyricist as well as a guitar player, and not just the guitarist in a band. “I managed to find the confidence to step out on my own and let people hear my lyrics and my thoughts and musings on life. Once we got into the studio to actually make the album the sound really developed, and we found our feet with that. Being a bit older as well now allowed me to reflect a bit more on life and experiences, and it’s all contributed to the album.”
Naturally, being in the driver’s seat for the first time in his career took some adjusting. “Being in control of it all isn’t my natural position,” he says. In his day job, he had taken care of the music more, bouncing ideas off singer Jon McClure, aka Reverend, while he wrote lyrics. “It was interesting to find myself in that situation, to be leading the project. But once I got into it, particularly when we were in the studio and people were looking to me, it came along a lot easier than I thought it would.”
The album, Fortunes Favour, was recorded in December 2018 in the excellently named Giant Wafer Studios in mid-Wales. Cosens was joined by Dave Sanderson, who he had worked with on the last couple of Reverend and the Makers albums, alongside Reverend bassist Joe Carnall. “We camped there for a couple of weeks and it was in the middle of nowhere, it was lovely being there every day. And there were chickens running around!”
Fortunes Favour features a wide range of guitars, most of them part of Cosens’ standard set up. “I think there’s a place for a variety of guitars, because obviously guitars all sound different, they all react differently to different kind of amps and different kinds of sounds and how you play them. I’ve always been very much interested in sound and sonics and making music, which is why I’ve always been primarily the musician guy.”
Cosens has two guitars that he considers to be his ‘pride and joys’, one of them being a 1983 first edition Japanese Fender Stratocaster. “I managed to research the serial number and it turns out it was one of the first ones that was licensed to the Japanese factory, so that was quite nice. I’m a big fan of the Japanese ones.”
“My second pride and joy is a Duesenberg Carl Carlton model with the Bigsby trem on it, which is really gorgeous,” he continues. “The real depth and girth you can get out of it when you’re driving it heavily is amazing. It’s a bit like a cross between a Gretsch and a Gibson 335, it’s got that nice kind of hollow bodied vibe and a lovely vintage tone even though it’s from the late 90s.”
Cosens is also a fan of his beloved Mexican Standard Tele, with the pickups swapped out for a couple of Seymour Duncans, featuring a 59 mini-humbucker in the bridge. “I get a lot of drive out of that which is why it’s kind of my go-to aggressive guitar. I’ve dropped it a few times, it’s got a bit battered! It’s built of kryptonite by the looks of it.”
The most interesting guitar Cosens uses on Fortunes Favour, however, was a battered looking 60s Danelectro found lying around in the studio. The only problem was that, like most guitars found lying around in a studio, it was right-handed. But southpaw Cosens didn’t let that stop him from recording with it, and played it upside down. Besides, adapting is something he’s become accustomed to – and it serves him well.
“Quite early on, I realised that if I could strum and play some chords upside down and figure out how to get the fingering right, I could actually contribute and participate in things if I couldn’t get a left-handed guitar!” he explains. “Actually, it’s quite an interesting sound. You’re playing the chords upside down, so you go from the light strings to the heavy strings the other way around, so it’s a bit of a different sound. If you can do something that’s not that conventional, it gives you something interesting that might prick up [a listener’s] ear. I quite like doing that.
It’s not just the style of guitar playing on the album that’s differs from the norm, the music videos accompanying the singles are left-field too. Cosens wanted to create visuals that went against the grain of ‘disposable’ music videos that appear on a timeline, are watched for 30 seconds, and then forgotten. The videos for If, Down By The River and Madeline are tied together by a singular narrative, and for an album that is preoccupied with semi-autobiographical stories it’s easy to envision it as a soundtrack to a scene in an indie movie or television programme.
“I hope it can engage people a bit more,” Cosens says. “The reaction so far has been amazing. I’ve had messages from a lot of people saying, ‘When’s the next one? I want to see what happens’. That’s what I was going for, and to make [the videos] mirror the album with that slightly more personal edge.”
Does he envision making more solo music in the future? “Absolutely, I hope so. I certainly haven’t made this as the one scratch that needed to be itched. During the first lockdown, when I had a lot more time, I did sit and write a lot more songs. If people want me to do more, then I’ll do it.”
Fortunes Favour is out now via Distiller.