Bruce Cockburn on New Music, Protest Tunes and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
At 72, Bruce Cockburn is as in demand as ever, which means the only way to catch up with him is when he calls me from the road, travelling down another highway somewhere near his adopted hometown of San Francisco. The Canuck music legend swings through Canada on tour this summer before heading into the U.S., drops a new disc, Bone On Bone, his first studio album in six years, on Sept. 15 and then follows it up with an induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame later that month. Oh, and he’s got a 5-year-old girl at home who, like her father, values quality daddy-daughter time. As such, Cockburn carved out a few minutes on the road to talk his new album, being daddy to a 5-year-old at age 72 and what it means to be a songwriter in these turbulent political times.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: You’ve got a tour, a new album and the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame induction in the next few months. How does it feel to be so in demand at this point in your career?
BRUCE COCKBURN: It feels great. But I mean I could be busier, which is a good thing … I’ve got a five-year-old at home so I like to be at home too. It’s nice to know that there’s enough interest out there that I can say no to some things.
MC: In recent years you’ve gone long periods of time between albums. What was the impetus or inspiration for Bone On Bone?
BC: It’s kind of the same as usual for me. The big difference here is that I got side-tracked working on my memoir [Rumours of Glory, 2014]. The book took three years and a bit to write and during that time I didn’t write any songs. So when that was put to bed I’m sort of looking at myself going “Are you a songwriter again now?” And luckily for me, it wasn’t a very long time before the songs started to come.
MC: Did having your daughter change your focus when you were writing?
BC: I would say yes. There are no songs about that specifically, but I think that there’s no question you look at the world differently when you’re handing it on to someone else in effect. And I’ve been through this before. My older daughter’s 40 and she’s got four kids of her own. It asks more energy of me than I probably have [but] it’s also really great, really fresh. I have a better perspective on being a parent than I did when I was younger.
MC: It must also affect how you tour.
BC: Yes. If you’re in any kind of relationship with someone who can’t tour with you there’s always tension between the home front and the tour front and you have to figure out a balance. When you’re 30 and you have a kid you think you’re going to live forever and if you miss a couple of moments in the child’s development, big deal because you’re going to see lots of others. But at this point in my life I don’t want to miss anything because I won’t get a second chance at it. So we’ll tour for a shorter stint at a time with more breaks in between.
MC: You’re going into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September. What does it mean for you to be honoured by your peers in that way?