Dov Kogen began singing and writing songs at the ripe age of three, when he took the tune of Jewish hymn "Adon Olam" and set it to the one-word lyric "guitar." "I didn't actually play guitar back then," the psychology major and music minor says, "so I sort of strummed my aunt's 30-year-old classical guitar," which he would actually learn to play in the fourth grade. Thus, a star was born.
Kogen now has a shot at stardom thanks to MTVU's Best Music on Campus contest. The contest's aim is to find the top college musicians and give the winner a record deal with Drive Thru Records, home of New Found Glory and Something Corporate. "I found out [Monday] morning that I was a quarterfinalist -- they've narrowed it down to the top 50," Kogen says, excited to have made it this far. To continue on to the next round, he must be voted as one of the top 25 by fans on MTVU's website, which can be tricky, since many of the artists have full bands, and therefore more potential voters. However, Kogen says he's "got the dreams" and will remain optimistic.
In fact, Kogen has not always sung solo. Since his junior year of high school, he has fronted the four-piece L.A.-based Among the Hidden, which has its own record out and has opened for nationally touring artists like Lit. Recently, the band has changed its name to Dov Kogen and the Hidden "because I have this solo thing." This "solo thing" has landed him gigs at the Rotunda, Temple University and MarBar, where he plays his experimental brand of acoustic rock. Although Kogen also wrote all of the music for Among the Hidden, he says the solo creative process is entirely different, because "when I bring a song to the band I have a basic framework and they throw brilliant changes into everything, so it's this organic process you can't really replicate solo."
Nevertheless, solo will have to do for Kogen, since the rest of the band resides in California, and Kogen could not forgo performing live. "I hate to say the most cliched statement ever, but performing is like a drug. There's this ecstatic feeling during choice moments of performances that is indescribable, incomparable to anything." Despite a recent mishap in which Kogen forgot the lyrics to the Britney Spears song he was covering, Dov's passion for live performances is clear. His pre-show ritual doesn't involve chugging beers or making out with girls, but "sitting by myself, taking it all in and saving the energy so it's like an explosion onstage." Dov hesitates before adding "that sounds so cheesy, but whatever."
Although Dov's sweet voice and singer/songwriter status may have garnered him some groupies, he's not in it for the girls, since he's found that girls whose interest is based solely on his talents have been, well, creepy. "Every girl I've so much as kissed from the music thing has pretty much turned out to be nuts," he laughs. In fact, Kogen is not searching for celebrity status at all. "I don't crave fame per se," he says of his motivation, "but I do want people to hear what I have to say."
MTVU's contest just might be his chance to get heard and launch a long-lasting career. "I would love to make music for the rest of my life. If I could do that, I'd be thrilled." And while Dov admits to currently having "zero realistic career aspirations," perhaps his goal to "make music and not have to worry about anything else" is not as unrealistic as he thinks.