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City Views: Ed Cosens – “Sheffield is the perfect place to be a musician”

There was always music in my house growing up. My earliest musical memories are the classic summer holiday vibes, driving with the family to stay with grandparents up in Whitby, the Beatles’ Red Album playing on the car tape player. That has always stuck in my brain. Following that, my intervening brushes with music as a kid were my sister’s life-sized poster of Rick Astley (who, ironically, has made a triumphant comeback now) and playing tennis racket guitar solos to Queen with my mate from next door.

The first album I bought was Bad by Michael Jackson. That’s not too shabby. The first single was ‘I’m A Believer’ by EMF with Reeves and Mortimer, which admittedly is probably not on the same level – but great nonetheless! My sister joined Britannia Music Club (another throwback for you there), and I remember her getting a free CD of Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chilli Peppers. That was a bit of a “Woah, what’s this?” moment and my first proper introduction to something other than pop music.

I grew up in Millhouses, in the leafy south-west of the city. I went to Notre Dame Secondary School which, being a catholic school, had kids attending from all over the city. It was an eye-opener for me, and over time I fell in with a group of mates mainly from the north of Sheffield – Chapeltown, High Green, Ecclesfield, Grenoside, etc. Jon McClure, who I’ve now played music with for over 20 years, was in my school form and I spent much of my formative years knocking around the opposite side to where I was born.

Britpop took off while we were still young, impressionable teenagers. I remember getting a CD player on my 13th birthday with a copy of Definitely Maybe to go with it. You could set an alarm to play the CD, so every day for at least a year I woke up to ‘Rock and Roll Star’ blaring out. I’d be surprised if that didn’t have some form of subconscious impact!

A school friend of mine, Phil, played the guitar, and it wasn’t long before I fancied a go. My dad had an old classical guitar that he used to do a bit of folk skiffle on, so I picked it up and learned a few basic chords, quickly realising that I could then play half of the Oasis tunes with that knowledge! Before we knew it, we’d formed a few bands that’d practice at lunchtimes – with names like Bizar, Utopia and Gypsy. (Don’t ask!)

Ed Cosens

I remember getting a CD player on my 13th birthday with a copy of Definitely Maybe to go with it. You could set an alarm to play the CD, so every day for at least a year I woke up to ‘Rock and Roll Star’ blaring out. Photo: Rob Nicholson // Pedalo

Phil’s dad had some contacts to get us gigs around a few pubs in High Green. One of my first gigs would’ve been at the Crossfield Tavern on Mortomley Lane, followed by The Rose Inn, and then graduating on to places like The Barrel and The Carousel in Chapeltown. They were certainly interesting crowds for a group of 14/15-year-olds wearing bandanas (again, don’t ask!) to play covers in front of while, of course, slipping in the odd self-penned tune that we thought sounded amazing at the time.

After leaving school I started working at The Boardwalk while I was at Hallam University. I’d hooked back up with Jon at this point, who also worked there, and there was a little crew of us: me, Jon, Alex Turner, Andy Nicholson and my mate Sam from a band called Dead Like Harry. That was quite a pivotal place for me. I’d be behind the bar watching the likes of Mark E. Smith, Hugh Cornwell, Wilco Johnson and John Cooper-Clarke doing their thing, not to mention the local bands doing the rounds.

I formed a band called Judan Suki with Jon, bringing in Alex Turner on rhythm guitar and Matt Helders on drums for a bit. I remember going around Jon’s mum’s place and going through a few tunes. We started playing a few gigs around the country. It was one of those deals where you’d sell 50 tickets to your mates, book a coach and we’d go play places like The Cavern Club in Liverpool, Fibbers in York and The Garage in London.

I’d be behind the bar watching the likes of Mark E. Smith, Hugh Cornwell, Wilco Johnson and John Cooper-Clarke doing their thing, not to mention the local bands doing the rounds

Matt and Alex went off to do the Monkeys thing and Judan Suki transitioned into a band called 1984 before eventually becoming Reverend & The Makers. We were all having fun mainly, but some really good songs started coming out from bands on the scene like Milburn, the Monkeys, The Long Blondes, and Bromheads Jacket. There was some brilliant music coming out and I think it spurred everyone on. These were the halcyon days of Myspace and music forums and spontaneous gigs in practice rooms and cellars beneath the Boardwalk. It was a crazy, exciting period for the city – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even when things were taking off in the early days of Reverend & The Makers, I wasn’t tempted to move down to London. I like my home comforts too much, and Sheffield for me is the perfect place to be a musician. Just look at some of the songwriters we’ve produced! You’ve got people like Richard Hawley, who can write emotive songs inspired by the nostalgia and history of the city. It’s also a place where if you big yourself up too much, you’ll get pulled down again. If you stand up and shout, “Look at me!” you can guarantee there’ll be a “Sit down, dickhead!” in response. I’m not sure there are too many big cities that have got that down to a T like us, but I don’t see that as a bad thing – it keeps you grounded, your feet firmly on the ground.

The solo music itch started around 2009-2010. We’d made a couple of Reverend albums by then and there was a natural pause in proceedings. I’d set up a small recording studio and had a few ideas, but nothing really excited me. I felt a bit deflated at first because I wasn’t translating what I could hear in my head to the music. The band stuff then got busy again, with a few lineup changes keeping things fresh, and I jumped back into that world for a bit. I continued to write for the band, even singing a few songs on an album we made, Mirrors, and I think that reignited my confidence to go for it again. I finally began to find the direction I’d been looking for.

Fast forward a few years, and following my debut Fortunes Favour, I’m now about to release my second solo album, which will be out at the end of May, and I’ve kicked off 2024 with the release of a new single, ‘Doghouse’. It’s been getting a lot of love and I feel the new record is definitely a step forward in terms of both songwriting and the sound.

Thinking back to city views, Sheffield has certainly helped to mould me as a songwriter – that sense of trying to find your place in things, introspection, reminiscence and emotive nostalgia is something you hear a lot in music from these parts. It must be something in the water!

@edcosens




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