Between the Lines: Tom Cochrane Talks Touring and “Take It Home”
Canadian rock Legend Tom Cochrane tells Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago about his new disc, Take It Home, his encounter with Terry Fox and how his life is, once again, becoming a highway.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: Your new album, Take It Home, is your first solo effort in nine years. How did it come about?
TOM COCHRANE: Somebody said that I had said that the last record might be my last but, I guess, they all might be your last. [Laughs] We don’t know. What I basically meant is that unless it means something, I’m not in the business of just crafting songs for the sake of getting them out there. This record – I woke up one day, and it was basically like a bird having the instincts to fly south or north. It just seemed like I had something to say.
[A song] that sort of was a holdover from a few years ago was “Diamonds.” I wrote it for [co-producer Bill Bell’s] wife when they separated. And she, for one reason or another, didn’t do the song, and Bill brought it up. And I said, “You mercenary son of a gun.” He says, “You gotta do this song. It’s a great song.” I said, “Billy, I wrote that for [your wife] when you guys broke up.” And he said, “Yeah, but I think you’d do a great job with it.” So, I tried it and it worked.
MC: Is your desire to wait until it “means something” the reason there’s more time between your albums now than in the past?
TC: I think things do come a little bit more fast and furious when you’re younger. I really don’t have to make a record but I want to make a record. Whereas, back then, I think it was a real good dose of both. You kind of go through the process where you live life to whatever extent you live it, you write it down and then record it, and then you go out and promote it, and then you tour it and then you’re out of a job. Then the process starts over again.
I think I did a lot of good writing back then but, you know, you didn’t always hit the mark. And I look at this record and I’m pretty proud of each and every song … It just sort of runs the gamut and, in some strange way, it hangs together proudly because … there have been a lot of influences that I sort of pay homage to on this record. Hence the title, Take It Home.
MC: How have you witnessed the music landscape change over the course of your career?
MC: Do you have favourite tour stops and cities that you’ve visited over the years?
TC: Massey Hall is going to be magical. And it always has been. The times I’ve played it, [and] I saw so many momentous shows and artists that have come through there, The Band and The Byrds and Leonard Cohen and just so many wonderful artists. There’s ghosts in that room … a magic energy in that room that’s wonderful … In the early days of Red Rider, when we were struggling, Alberta was supportive, as the East Coast has been. But all over Canada’s always been pretty supportive, so I’ve been lucky to have a pretty strong touring career here.
MC: I read about an encounter you had with Terry Fox and I was wondering if you could recount that.
TC: That verse [from “The Ones That I’ve Known”, on his new album] touches on it. You look back all [the] sleeping in vans and sleeping in station wagons to save money because you didn’t have money for a room. And maybe two or three nights where you wouldn’t sleep in a real bed. You know, you’re living on a shoestring. And we’re driving back from Winnipeg to Toronto and I’m wondering, “Why the heck am I doing this? Sleeping in the back of the station wagon, we’re taking turns driving. And outside of Thunder Bay, traffic stops and the rain’s pouring down and [I] look out the window and this police car goes by and then slowly, out of the drizzle, comes this one-legged boy running. And you wonder whether it’s tears or whether it’s rain running down his face, and he’s looking ashen, [and] you can see the pain but you can see the courage in his face. And that was the last day he ran. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a moving experience, and I thought, “How tough is my gig? How can I complain about this? I’m able to make music. I’m making people happy with the music.” And it sort of changed my outlook on life, you know? It was one of those markers that you pay attention to and you go, “I’m going to keep at this for a little while longer.” So it was a powerful experience.