We Are Upstate NY With Rockabilly Crooner Sam Kogon
We are Upstate NY with country rockabilly crooner, Sam Kogon. We’re listing to his tunes and often hit replay as we rock out on our back deck dancing under the stars. Kogon lived and played in New York for several years, but nowadays lives in Westchester and spends more time in LA. In 2022, Kogon wrote and made demo recordings of four new songs at home on his 4-track tape recorder. The songs were then arranged with his band featuring Grennan Milliken on drums, James Preston on bass, Graeme Gengras on keys, and Kogon on vocals and guitar. The EP was recorded and produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) at Stewart Lerman’s Hobo Sound Studios in Weehawken, NJ. His partnership with Agnello came about in a somewhat roundabout way. After coming off three self-booked US-Canadian tours, Kogon was cast as a featured extra in Martin Scorsese’s crime epic, The Irishman as a backup musician for Jerry Vale, played in the film by Steven Van Zandt. He hit it off with music supervisor Stewart Lerman and after sending some demos along, received a recommendation for working with Agnello.
Check out his two albums of psych-adjacent power pop, including 2016’s standout Psychic Tears (Beyond Beyond is Beyond), which was co-produced by Kogon and Sam Owens (aka Sam Evian) and features a duet with Frankie Cosmos on the track “I Was Always Talking.” Sam is also a session musician having jammed with Al Jardine of The Beach Boys, fronting the 1960’s revived baroque pop group The Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”), and songwriting with Grammy Award nominee Patty Smyth. Let’s get to know Sam Kogon!
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
Sam Kogon: I am originally from Rhinebeck, NY. My dad’s side of the family is from Kingston and had a pawn shop in uptown Kingston for nearly 100 years called “Sam’s”. I essentially grew up on both sides of the Hudson River.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live + work + play music here?
There’s always been an appreciation for live/local music in the area. I grew up listening to 100.1 WDST and I’m proud to say they now play my music. It’s just a great place to incubate musicians and bands because there’s a built-in scene. It’s ever changing, always getting infused with new artists, and I feel like it’s stronger than ever.
How did you get your start in music?
I have a musical family and luckily my grandfather owned the aforementioned pawn shop and supplied me with my first instrument (the violin) and then my first guitar. After learning a few chords I was hooked.
Who are some of your favorite musicians? Who would be your dream come true to play with?
It would be a dream to play with Paul McCartney. Donovan, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe would also suffice. I’ve gotten to work with some of my heroes like Al Jardine of The Beach Boys and members of The Left Banke, experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’d love to record with Gale Anne Dorsey, she’s one of my favorite bass players of all time and also a Hudson Valley local.
Tell us about your latest album and the concept behind it.
My latest EP is a collection of 4 songs, each track is essentially a single. It’s my first self-titled release, but I’m glad it’s got my name on it. I’m very proud of the work my band did and how John Agnello produced these songs with me. It’s very representative of my roots and the direction I’m going in.
What is the best part, and the most trying, about being a musician today?
The most trying part is meeting the never-ending demands of social media. Getting too stuck on “content creation” and not making art for art’s sake. A lot of focus and energy is lost on the actual music because of platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Spotify. As an Indie artist, you have to do it all yourself too. The lucky bands who are signed and can afford to have a team publishing their content, scheduling and tweeting for them while the rest of us Indie artists feel like they must do the same, and many succeed at gaining follower’s “attention” but it’s at a detriment to their music. I’m not the first to say this but streaming has totally devalued music. I guess in a nutshell capitalism has ruined the industry and has infiltrated every level.
How do you market yourself?
I try to use actual live shows as a way to market myself, I also try and get my music on the radio and in places where people actually pay attention to and care about music. Physical flyers are amazing. Social media is another way to share things but it’s not something I would rely on.
How do you get your bookings, and where do you typically perform?
I book myself. I perform wherever they will have me (so long as they are respectful).
Do you have any special projects/collabs on the horizon?
I have a few collaborations I’m pretty excited about. One with another Hudson Valley local, Zannie (Kill Rock Stars). We have written an album’s worth of songs and are just about ready to record them.
What do you do when you’re not making music?
I’m teaching music, cooking, going to a show, enjoying a hike or fostering kittens.
Which Hudson Valley places do you most frequent?
Colgate Lake, Uptown Kingston, The Colony Woodstock
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
What would be your dream local Staycation?
I’d love to stay in a cabin in the mountains, surrounded by musical instruments and recording gear with a fully stocked fridge
Photos by Bo Chapli
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Connect with Sam Kogon
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify
LISTEN/PURCHASE & SHARE: Sam Kogon – Sam Kogon EP
Stream / Purchase / Bandcamp
LISTEN & SHARE: Sam Kogon – “Find Out”
LISTEN/WATCH & SHARE: Sam Kogon – “Barbed Wire”
Stream / YouTube
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