Chase Cohl proves that you don’t have to be or choose just one thing to be passionate about. This multi-hyphenate is a musician, designer, business owner, writer, and more. She is Canadian born and raised, but now splits her time between L.A. and New York. Chase’s mother instilled in her the passion of using her hands to create, whether through sewing, drawing or painting. This gave her the foundation she used to launch her accessories line, Littledoe. Her father, who worked in the music business, unsurprisingly passed along his passion for meaningful sound. Chase’s free spirit shows through in her personal style, designs and music. Cohl’s debut album, Far Away & Gone, released in March and is available on Spotify and iTunes.
You are both a designer and musician. Talk about your history with both art forms. When did you first pick up a pen to jot down a design? When’s the first time you picked up a guitar?
I was always interested in both design and music from a young age. I enjoyed drawing and painting. And my mum taught me to sew when I was young. I bought my first guitar when I was 17. I saved up money answering phones at an office and didn’t realize until I brought the thing home that my hands wouldn’t fit around the neck. So, I started on the banjo, played that for a few years, and when I came back to the guitar at 19 things made a bit more sense.
Are there any other art forms that you dabble in or hope to dabble in in the future?
Professionally, not likely. Personally, I would really like to work in ceramics and sculpting, as well as take a painting course. I also used to dance for years and would like to explore that again at some point.
What are the differences in your inspirations and development for your designs versus your music? Or, do you find them to be largely the same?
They are not remotely the same. Music is all about the personal—digging as deeply as possible to express the thing you are most scared to share.
Design is about the external: A sort of armor and expression that allows you to portray whatever style or type of character you choose. The consistency there is that they are both always changing, always evolving.
What's the one thing about you few people know?
I have heart shaped nostrils.
Share a guilty pleasure.
A terrible, I mean really low brow, romantic comedy & popcorn with soy sauce.
Where is home and what (feelings, foods, experiences) brings you back to it?
Home is where the love is.
At times for me it is in New York with my family. At times it is in Los Angeles with my best friends—who are family as well. I am Canadian and, if anything, we are deeply loyal people. Home always involves immense, uncontrollable amounts of laughter and really cozy blankets. Canada also feels like home to me when I go back, even though so many of the physical things I hung onto as a child no longer exist.
Tell me a bit about your parents.
My parents are the most wonderful people. They love each other so deeply, and in such a real way. They have been together for nearly 40 years and are unmarried. I’ve never heard either of them call the other a spouse—always boyfriend and girlfriend. Their connection is intense and romantic and special.
Your mom taught you to sew. What was one of the first things you remember creating?
I was a hand sewer for years and mainly still sew by hand. I’ve never loved working with the machine. I remember shortening the hem on my school uniform every chance I got.
You’ve said it took you longer to feel comfortable sharing your music with the world. Do you think being around the music legends your father managed helped you in your musical journey or complicated it?
I think both! I definitely had high standards or felt nervous, but people assume that because I grew up in music I would immediately have a shoe in—which isn’t the case at all. I still am having to work to prove my worthiness everyday. Maybe even more so because people like to judge so quickly.
How did you know when you were ready to share your music? Talk about the process of getting to the point where you felt confident and comfortable with your work.
I used to be quite scared of playing live, always pressuring myself too much to wait until it was perfect. My best friend once said to me, “You are not allowed to call yourself a musician if you’re just holed up in your bedroom writing songs and not sharing them.”
After that I just played out a lot. I took every single show and tour that was offered to me for about three years. Some nights people would show, some they wouldn’t. But it sort of got me my sea legs. I realized not only that I was worthy, but also how much I genuinely loved the experience of performing. And I still get nervous, still feel I have so so much to prove.
What kinds of things or parts of yourself are you scared to share through your music?
It is an extremely personal experience, the creation of music. I try not to let thoughts of the audience or anything external dictate where the arc of a song will go, I try to write as fearlessly and subconsciously as possible, which is something I think we do in our younger years and have a hard time maintaining as we get older. As we experience more, become more crucial figures in society and society becomes more crucial to us, if that makes sense.
I think I try to embrace fear when it comes to writing. There are so many ways to mask the deepest thoughts in metaphor and flowery language. There is almost nothing I’m scared to share when it comes to art. I would likely be way more apprehensive to share those feelings face to face with whomever or whatever I’m gearing the writing towards.
Was there a song or artist that had a major impact on you?
Karen Dalton and Bob Dylan have probably had the biggest impact on me. Impossible to pick one song, but, man, could they tell stories.
What experiences did you draw from while writing your album?
Again, I drew from deeply personal experiences on this collection of songs. It focuses around heartache, loss, disappointment, struggling with the concept of freedom, and even politics at points. I think everyone can relate to a broken heart on some level, and it is intensely important that we create beautiful things to help one another along during those difficult times.
Your music has been called sarcastic and whimsical. How would you describe it?
I am certainly sarcastic at points. I like to play around with the line of humor and seriousness in my writing for sure. There is so much room to explore in language. It’s a beautiful place. I would call it story-telling music, I suppose.
Do you have a particular place where you feel most comfortable writing?
I write wherever, however, on whatever I can when inspiration strikes me. It sounds a bit trite and ridiculous to say that, but it’s true. You gotta grab it when the moment comes.
I read that Littledoe was the lake in Algonquin Park, (in Northern Ontario, Canada) where you spent your summers as a child. Can you share a specific memory you have there? What makes the place so special?
Algonquin is truly the most gorgeous place on the planet. I haven’t been back in a few years, but the water is astonishingly clear. The air is so fresh. The stars are so bright. It is nature at its most untouched, best, and most beautiful. I’d move there tomorrow and live my life out there if I could.
What was your inspiration for your S/S 2018 collection at Littledoe? It strikes me as very feminist, a true celebration of female form and nature. Was that your vision? Tell us more about the collection.
The lookbook was meant to be an absolute celebration of the female form. I was obsessing over renaissance nudes, over the deep colours in floral and fruit still lifes during that period, and the collection was born out of that. I wanted it to feel sensual and powerful, and maybe even a bit over the top as I am moving onto new projects after this collection.
What three items in your closet will you never get rid of?
My mum’s old hand-painted go-go boots from the ‘70s, my late grandfather’s brown cashmere sweater and heaps of beautiful lingerie.
What keeps you up at night?
What doesn’t keep me up at night…. At lesser times: anxiety, nostalgia, homesickness and the nearly nautical creeks of living in an old wood house. At better times: a great piece of literature or love.
(Interview by Adriana Gallina, Photography by BB)