Stephen Cohen

my story (well, not my whole story, but my musical and artistic bio) with links

Stephen Cohen is a performing and recording artist, acoustic guitarist, vocalist, composer, song writer, band leader and visual artist. He was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he played jazz trombone at the age of 12, then started playing acoustic guitar, composing music and writing songs at age 14. He attended Brandeis University in Massachusetts for 3 years before leaving school, guitar in hand, to travel across the United States. After many adventures along the way, Stephen made his home in Oregon, where he completed his Bachelor's Degree in Art, raised 2 children, and worked a variety of jobs over the years while continuing to play music

His first album, The Tree People, was a vinyl album recorded in a studio in the woods near Eugene, Oregon in 1979.


Cover drawing (by Stephen Cohen) of the 1979 vinyl album, The Tree People 

The Tree People were a creative acoustic music ensemble originally formed in the late 1970’s in Eugene, Oregon.  Founding members were Stephen and Jeff Stier, who plays recorders, flute and percussion. They performed, at times with third and fourth band members, at concerts and festivals in the Eugene area for 7 years. They recorded two albums, The Tree People, in 1979, (which was recorded at Rocking A Ranch, a studio in the woods near Eugene), and Human Voices in 1984.

Cover drawing (by Stephen Cohen) of the 1984 Tree People album Human Voices
Listen to Grandfather, from Human Voices 

The Tree People, 1979
hoto by Dina Harmon

After the Tree People disbanded in the mid 1980’s,  Stephen continued his music career, moving to Portland, Oregon in the mid 1990’s, composing music, writing songs, and performing at concerts and festivals across the United States, including the Philadelphia Folk Festivalthe Long Island Children's Museum and the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas (where he was an award winner for songwriting in 2000).  He recorded three albums during that period, including his nationally acclaimed 2006 album Here Comes the Band, a children's album, which includes a 20 page illustrated booklet with paintings and drawings by Christopher Shotola-Hardt and lyrics and activities, and which features songs that Stephen performs in his interactive performances for children. 
Stephen's CD, Stephen and the Talk Talk Band , was released in 2004.  Stephen's song It's My Story, from Stephen and the Talk Talk Band, is the closing piece in the sound track of the Freedom Center video which was featured on the Forbes Magazine web site. The song was also the closing piece in The Story Pouch, a computer animated film by Todd Kesterson.
Stephen all the while was creating visual art and original sculptural percussion instruments using used guitar strings and other found objects, along with woods and metals.

He was featured in a story on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Art Beat show in 2002 about his residency at Wilsonville High School, where he worked with a special education class and several music and art students to produce a CD, Junk Jam and a performance at the Wilsonville Festival of Arts. One of the songs created was You Need to Get to Know Me.

Meanwhile, the first Tree People album, originally released in vinyl and sold only in Eugene, Oregon, somehow appeared across the ocean, and was discovered worldwide by record collectors twenty five years after it was first recorded. Stephen was contacted by several record companies, leading to CD and vinyl reissues of the first two Tree People albums by record companies in Japan, Tiliqua,and Spain, Guerssen Records, and Stephen’s solo acoustic guitar piece from the first album, The Tree People, "No More School", was included in an acoustic guitar collection, Wayfaring Strangers, Guitar Soli, by the Chicago record company The Numero Group. The Tree People, whose original music was hard to classify the first time around, were now being called “Fathers of Freak Folk” and “Psych Folk Pioneers”.

And then the second life of the Tree People began. Stephen and Jeff, with new Tree People member, Seattle double bass player Rich Hinrichsenbegan rehearsing, making new arrangements old material, creating and recording new music, and performing in concerts and festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest, including performances at the Mississippi Studios, the White Eagle and Performance Works Northwest in Portland, the Matrix in Chehalis, Washington, the Upstage in Port Townsend, Washington, and the Arts in Nature Festival and Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. They have done two Creative Residencies at Centrum, an art organization in Port Townsend, Washington where Stephen and Rich have started work on the Cistern Symphony, a symphony being created deep underground in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Fort Worden, where Centrum is located. Guerssen Records, of Spain released CD and vinyl editions of a 3rd, new and last Tree People album, It's My Story. Jeff Stier retired from the group after playing on the new album and taking part in his last Tree People performance at the It's My Story release concert at the Old Church in Portland on November of 2010. 

The cover of the 2010 Tree People album,
It's My Story

listen to the title song,

Stephen and Rich, with two wonderful Spanish musicians, Jordi Gallen on cello and Hector Beberide Farrus on mandolin, did their last performance under the Tree People name on March 12th, 2011 at the Musiques Disperses Festival in Spain.

Stephen's new band the WALKING WILLOWS feature Stephen on acoustic guitar and voice, Rich Hinrichsen on double bass, piano and voice and a rotating roster of guest musicians on voice, cello, and other instruments.

Stephen now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kate and two dogs. His two children now each have children of their own, and Stephen is a grandfather! Stephen continues to play guitar every day, compose music, write songs, perform, record and to live! He can't wait to see what happens next!

photo by Ben Sussman

return to Stephen's home page