To join the website e-mail list for news and tour information, click here.
We often have videos and photos posted on our Facebook page that are not on this site.
17 July 2019 - Livestream videos from Paste & Relix added to this page. The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
16 July 2019 - The 2019 Setlist Archive has been updated.
29 June 2019 - Interveiw from GoBe Weekly & Cranbrook Townsman added to this page.
27 June 2019 - Links to two audio interviews, Up North - CBC (10 minutes) & VishKhanna.com (50 minutes) added to this page.
26 June 2019 - A new Tour Date has been added.
19 June 2019 - Articles previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
17 June 2019 - The CBC Day 6 interview transcription and links to podcast have been added to this page.
16 June 2019 - The 2019 Setlists Archive has been updated. The transcript of the Reality Asserts Itself interview has been added.
12 June 2019 - Crowing Ignites 34th album first listen and album bio added to this page.
10 June 2019 - Link to Master Series - Songs at the Center interview/in studio performance added to this page. Video added to 8 June 2019 setlist archive. Articles previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
5 June 2019 - Many new Tour Dates have been added.
31 May 2019 - A new Tour Date has been added. Image Journal article added to this page.
27 May 2019 - Two new Tour Dates have been added.
26 May 2019 - Interview Bruce comes to Babeville 26 April 2019 has been added to this page.
22 May 2019 - Articles that were previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
14 May 2019 - The 2019 Setlists Archive has been updated.
6 May 2019 - Articles that were previously on this page have been backed up to the News Archive.
5 May 2019 - Interview Lucky Clark on music added to this page.
22 April 2019 - Several Tour Dates have been added. Some older articles on this page have been backed up to the News Archive. Songs at the Center tv show should be available to watch in early May.
18 April 2019 - Photos from the recording session added to this page.
17 April 2019 - Bruce will be performing at Greenpeace Annual Gala, limited tickets and more Tour Dates have been added. Article on free concert Rise Up has been added to this page.
5 April 2019 - A new Tour Date has been added.
20 February 2019 - New September Tour Dates have been added.
13 February 2019 - The Setlist Archives have been updated.
11 February 2019 - Park Record article added to this page. New album info adde to this page. The Setlist Archives have been updated.
9 December 2018 - CFMA award info added to this page. The 2018 Setlist Archive has been updated.
4 October 2018 - Review from Tokyo added to this page. The 2018 Setlist Archive has been updated.
21 July 2018 - Interview from Sacramento added to this page. Audio interview from HawaiiPublicRadio added to this page. The 2018 Setlist Archive has been updated.
25 April 2018 - WMBR interview by Bob Dubrow links added to this page. The 2018 Setlist Archive has been updated, including link to videos from the whole show in Dallas at the Kessler!
25 March 2018 - Bone On Bone wins JUNO Award.
Interview by Daniel Lumpkin for Christianity Today
FAN REPORTS FROM PAST SHOWS
HELP THE PROJECT!
The Project website is very much an open forum for submissions. If you would like to contribute an article (perhaps a transcript of radio appearance or other interview, or any other idea) to this site, see the Help the Project page for more information.
"Bone On Bone"
LOOKING FOR OTHER SITES?
The links section can help.
Bruce Cockburn's Official Facebook Page.
The Cockburn Project
is a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The central focus of the Project is the ongoing archiving of Cockburn's self-commentary on his songs, albums, and issues. You will also find news, tour dates, an online store, and other current information.
Click here to add a navigation frame to the top of this page. Do give it time to load, as you'll need it to get around easily. If you have a small screen and wish to remove the frameset, click here and use the text links at the bottom of each page. Keep scrolling down, there is a lot on this page.
17 July 2019 - Bruce was in New York City today performing livestreams from Paste Magazine & Relix.
Here are the videos.
Paste Magazine - direct link
Relix - direct link
(start at 5:17)
12 June 2019 - Release date: September 20, 2019
Listen to / share “Blind Willie” from Crowing Ignites and pre-order here.
In 2005, Bruce Cockburn released Speechless, a collection of instrumental tracks that shone the spotlight on the singer-songwriter’s exceptional acoustic guitar playing. The album earned Cockburn a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and underscored his stature as one of the world’s premier pickers.
Already, The New York Times had credited Cockburn with having “the hardest-working right thumb in show business,” adding that he “materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music’s pulse and its foundation—at once a deep Celtic drone and the throb of a vigilant conscience.” Acoustic Guitar magazine was similarly laudatory in citing Cockburn’s guitar prowess, placing him in the prestigious company of legends like Andrés Segovia. Bill Frisell, Django Reinhardt and Mississippi John Hurt.
Now, with the intriguingly titled Crowing Ignites, Cockburn has released another dazzling instrumental album that will further cement his reputation as both an exceptional composer and a picker with few peers. Unlike Speechless, which included mostly previously recorded tracks, the latest album—Cockburn’s 34th—features 11 brand new compositions. Although there’s not a single word spoken or sung, it’s as eloquent and expressive as any of the Canadian Hall of Famer’s lyric-laden albums. As his long-time producer, Colin Linden, puts it: “It’s amazing how much Bruce can say without saying anything.”
The album’s title is a literal translation of the Latin motto “Accendit Cantu” featured on the Cockburn family crest. Although a little puzzling, Cockburn liked the feeling it conveyed: “Energetic, blunt, Scottish as can be.” The album’s other nod to Cockburn’s Scottish heritage is heard on “Pibroch: The Wind in the Valley,” in which his guitar’s droning bass strings and melodic grace notes sound eerily like a Highland bagpipe. “I’ve always loved pibroch, or classic bagpipe music,” says Cockburn. “It seems to be in my blood. Makes me want to sip whisky out of a sea shell on some rocky headland!”
While Cockburn reconnecting with his Gaelic roots is one of Crowing Ignites’ more surprising elements, there’s plenty else that will delight followers of his adventurous pursuits. Says Linden, who’s been a fan of Cockburn’s for 49 years, has produced 10 of his albums and played on the two before that: “Bruce is always trying new things, and I continue to be fascinated by where he goes musically.”
The album is rich in styles from folk and blues to jazz, all genres Cockburn has previously explored. But there are also deepening excursions into what might be called free-form world music. The hypnotic, kalimba-laden “Seven Daggers” and the trance-inducing “Bells of Gethsemane,” full of Tibetan cymbals, chimes and singing bowls, are highly atmospheric dreamscapes that showcase Cockburn’s world of wonders—and his improvisational gifts on both 12-string and baritone guitars. Each track was wholly created in the makeshift studio he and Linden put together in a converted fire station in Cockburn’s San Francisco neighbourhood.
Singing bowls, Cockburn explains, are an endless source of fascination to him, dating back to a trip he took to Kathmandu, as seen in the documentary Return to Nepal. There, Cockburn stumbled on a man selling the small inverted bells sometimes used in Buddhist religious practices and became instantly captivated by their vibrational power. “I had no particular attraction to them as meditation tools or anything,” says Cockburn. “I just thought they had a beautiful sound.” After buying half a dozen in Kathmandu and more since, he now has a sizeable collection.
Two tracks on Crowing Ignites had their origins elsewhere. “The Groan,” a bluesy piece with guitar, mandolin and some collective handclapping from a group that includes Cockburn’s seven-year-old daughter, Iona, was something Cockburn composed for a Les Stroud documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting and the healing power of nature. And Cockburn wrote the jazz-tinged “The Mt. Lefroy Waltz” for the Group of Seven Guitar Project on an instrument inspired by artist Lawren Harris and custom-made by luthier Linda Manzer. It was originally recorded, with cornet player Ron Miles, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Gary Craig, for Cockburn’s 2017 album Bone on Bone, but not released until now.
Cockburn doesn’t set out with any particular agenda when composing an instrumental. “It’s more about coming up with an interesting piece,” he says. “Who knows what triggers it—the mood of the day or a dream from the night before. Often the pieces are the result of sitting practicing or fooling around on the guitar. When I find something I like, I work it into a full piece.”
“Bardo Rush,” with its urgent, driving rhythm, came after one such dream, while the contemplative “Easter” and the mournful “April in Memphis” were composed on Easter Sunday and Martin Luther Day respectively. “Blind Willie,” named for one of Cockburn’s blues heroes, Blind Willie Johnson, features a fiery guitar and dobro exchange with Linden (Cockburn has previously recorded Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” on Nothing But a Burning Light). And the idea for the sprightly “Sweetness and Light,” featuring some of Cockburn’s best fingerpicking, developed quickly and its title, he says, became immediately obvious.
Meanwhile, “Angels in the Half Light” is steeped in dark and light colors and conveys ominous shades as well as feelings of hopefulness, seemingly touching on both spiritual and political concerns—hallmarks of Cockburn from day one. “It’s hard for me to imagine what people’s response is going to be to these pieces,” he says. “It’s different from songs with lyrics, where you hope listeners will understand, intellectually and emotionally, what you’re trying to convey. With instrumental stuff, that specificity isn’t there and the meaning is up for grabs. But I’m glad if people find a message in the music.”
More than 40 years since he embarked on his singer-songwriter career, Cockburn continues pushing himself to create—and winning accolades in the process. Most recently, the Order of Canada recipient earned a 2018 Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for Bone on Bone, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Peoples’ Voice Award from Folk Alliance International and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Cockburn, who released his memoir, Rumours of Glory, and its similarly titled companion box set the same year, shows no sign of stopping. As his producer-friend Linden says: “Like the great blues players he admires, Bruce just gets better with age.”
~ True North Records. Photo Daniel Keebler. Cover art Michael Wrycraft.
April In Memphis
The Mt. Lefroy Waltz
Sweetness And Light
Angels In The Half Light
Pibroch: The Wind In The Valley
Bells Of Gethsemane
29 June 2019 - If you were asked to name a Canadian artist who has, in the course of his or her career, released 34 albums to great international critical acclaim, the name Bruce Cockburn might not jump immediately to mind. That may be due in part to the fact he’s not an ever-present face in the media, has not been associated with salacious headlines nor has he ever been a guest judge on any number of cheesy talent shows. No, Bruce Cockburn is more like Canadian weather – sometimes heavenly, sometimes harsh and demanding, always changing and something all Canadians appreciate for its inherent unpredictable nature.
Since releasing his self-titled debut in 1970, Cockburn the singer-songwriter has delivered an incredible cache of songs, including “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Tokyo,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “Lovers In a Dangerous Time,” “If A Tree Falls,” “Call It Democracy” and many more. Cockburn the musician, however, has also earned acclaim for his exceptional acoustic guitar playing, wonderfully showcased in his award-winning 2005 instrumental collection, Speechless. This September, Cockburn will be releasing a follow-up, Crowing Ignites, featuring 11 original acoustic compositions that deftly illustrate why he was acknowledged by the Canadian Folk Music Awards as Best Instrumentalist.
To promote his upcoming July 13th appearance at the Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre, Cockburn took the time to chat with GoBeWeekly about going instrumental, winning awards and surviving earthquakes in his current home of San Francisco.
GoBe: An instrumental album at this time seems like a lost opportunity, because the world needs more words of wisdom from Bruce Cockburn. But on the flip side, it’s perhaps a perfect fit for the times given the way people are finding words so divisive and polarizing these days. What was your primary motivation for recording CROWING IGNITES and did the great response to Speechless play any factor?
Bruce: Our intention started out to be to make a sequel to Speechless. It was going to be a collection of previously released tracks that weren’t on Speechless and a couple of other old things that weren’t on that collection and some new material. But I wound up with so much new material that it became its own album, Crowing Ignites. Once we started doing it it took on a momentum of its own. With respect to the absence of lyrics, there’s lots to comment on in the world right now, but there’s also a lot of people commenting. I’m not sure that adding more clamour to the clamour is really that helpful. That’s not to say we shouldn’t all say what’s in our hearts to say, but I don’t think the world needs to hear more from anyone about Donald Trump for instance. Everybody knows what they think of him whether for or against.
GoBe: There’s 11 new original tracks on this release. Where does one start composing for an instrumental album. You have a blank slate – is that daunting not having lyrics to build around?
Bruce: It’s a different process. Your question kind of implies that you know this, that I generally kind of start writing songs with the lyrics and music kind of becomes the vehicle for the transmission of those. In the case of instrumental pieces, the ideas come from the guitar itself or from out of the air in a kind of way. There’s two pieces on the new album that were constructed in the studio. One of them started with Tibetan singing bowls and the other one started with a little riff on the triangle and started from there. With those exceptions the pieces were composed beforehand. They just came from practising and just tooling around basically.
GoBe: So is there anything you had to learn or that you would up learning as a musician in order to produce this album?
Bruce: Well, I always write a little harder than I can actually play. I’ve tended to do that over the years, not always but often I do. It’s part and partial to the process. I discover something on the guitar that I didn’t know how to do before, or is a way of using something I know how to do but it’s a different application of it. So then there’s a learning curve involved that’s built right into the composition of the piece. In that sense, there’s definitely things I had to learn. I wouldn’t say a radical departure, I didn’t turn into Pat Martino or a classical player.
Bruce: When you pour your heart into a lyric there’s obviously an emotional connection to the song. Is there as much of that put into a song without the lyrical attachment, or is it strictly physical – or maybe metaphysical?
Bruce: I think there is as much. It’s not as specific obviously, because there’s nothing to attach to your ideas. Having that emotional content is one of the things that makes an instrumental performance effective. The capacity to contain that emotion is one of the things that makes a piece workable or a successful composition.
GoBe: The press materials around the new release mentions a makeshift studio that you and producer Colin Linden pieced together in a fire station in San Francisco to record in. What was involved in that process and what impact did the limitations or nuances of the studio have on the final results?
Bruce: You know it came out of a kind of self-interested intuitive flash on my part. Where I live in San Francisco is about four blocks from where my young daughter goes to school. I would walk her to school every day. In the process I became acquainted with and got friendly with a woman who owned this former firehouse that was half way between my house and the school. It was converted into a nice three-bedroom condo with mostly open space. I had been to a house concert there, they run concerts there and other kinds of special events. At one point I ran into my friend Anne who owns the place at a café. She didn’t use the place day to day on a regular basis. I asked her what she thought about using it as a studio and she took about half a second to say ‘that’s a great idea.” I checked with Colin to see if he could assemble the necessary recording gear and that’s how we proceeded. We spent a week in the place just setting up all the instruments and just started playing.
GoBe: Tell me you got to fulfill every young boy’s fantasy by sliding down the fire pole.
Bruce: (laughing) No, there’s no fire pole. I don’t know that there ever was. It a great space to work in.
GoBe: It’s been nearly five decades since your debut in 1970. You’ve seen the industry change dramatically through those decades, with your music welcome on almost all formats at one time or another. Did you ever consciously feel you needed to change to suit the industry, or have you always simply created what you needed to create such as your upcoming release?
Bruce: I can remember a couple occasions, for instance in the 80s, where we thought ‘everybody is putting out a single, maybe we should put out a single.’ As it turns out, we recorded “Coldest Night of the Year” with that in mind. By the time the record got finished and came out it was springtime and no one wanted to play it. It’s become kind of a seasonal thing on radio in Canada, but it was not a success as a single at the time. I don’t think about it much. Of course I’m as affected as everybody else by the trends that sweep through. If a thing is exciting for everybody it’s probably exciting for me too and I might want to do something like it. Really, I don’t feel like I’m in the business. I’m in the business of making music basically and I suppose I have a certain role as a commenter on things. That’s just how it’s developed over the years, but that wasn’t really intentional. The intentional part of what I do is to try and make music that I’m interested in, and write songs that say something I’m interested in saying.
GoBe: You say you’re in the business of making music. In doing my research and reacquainting myself with your catalogue, you had 10 albums released in the 70s, another 10 in the 80s. Does that enormous output seem ludicrous to you now – especially knowing that it takes artists today a year to produce a song?
Bruce: Well, it’s the other way around. I think taking a year to produce a song is ludicrous. There’s no point in pining for the old days, but in the 70s and 80s we recorded an album and we could put it out a month later. You could spend a couple weeks recording the record and it takes a couple of weeks to put stuff together and it’s out. So you could predict what the climate will be when you put it out. Now, because of the corporateness of everything, it takes forever. It takes a year to get an album out. In our case we’re doing it kind of fast, because we recorded the album in February and it’s coming out in September. We’re being speed demons with this one.
GoBe: And that included building a studio too!
Bruce: (laughs) Yes, including building a studio.
GoBe: You scored the 2018 Juno Award in the Roots category for your Bone on Bone album. What do such awards mean to you 34 albums deep into your career?
Bruce: You know, it’s an honour to be thought of highly by my peers and everyone else. It’s not something I take for granted. I like to get that kind of attention, but it’s not a measure of anything really meaningful. I don’t want to denigrate the process. If people want to celebrate what we all do, that’s great. More power to them. It’s an honour to be included, but it’s certainly not what I live for.
Gobe: There’s a couple awards that may hold more significant meaning – your Order of Canada and your induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Which of those two accolades holds more significant meaning to you?
Bruce: The Order of Canada is in some ways is the only significant accolade of that sort. Being made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a cynic might say what’s the difference, it’s just more PR. But I’d rather be associated with PR for the nation. I just feel that it’s something, because of the nature of how the Order was set up, it transcends politics, individual governments and it’s a reflection some way of the degree to which some aspect of Canada includes me. To be included and sort of embraced by that Canadian persona is very rewarding and meaningful to me. I have felt for decades that my life and the life of the country are connected some way. I was born there and spent most of my life living there. There’s some kind of way that I’m a part of Canada and Canada’s a part of me. To have that encapsulated in the medal that’s a symbol of the Order of Canada is very meaningful.
GoBe: From where do you derive the greatest pleasure these days; in the writing and creating, or the performing of the music you make?
Bruce: It has always been two different things. It’s kind of schizoid. The writing on one hand, the process, whether it’s lyrical or instrumental, is like a treasure hunt and it’s fun. Once it gets rolling it can be exasperating at times too. But it’s like being on the trail of something and chasing it down and that’s fun. Performing, when it works well and all the conditions are right, is a whole different kind of fun. It’s more immediate, right then and there. If it works well it’s very enjoyable.
GoBe: It worked well the last time I saw you perform at Jackson-Triggs. For this show, will it be an entirely acoustic show in support of the album or will we be treated to a mix of songs and instrumental music?
Bruce: The album’s not even out yet, so we’re not really thinking about Crowing Ignites with respect to these shows coming up. There will be something from the album, but it’s not the emphasis. It’s a band show, the same band I was touring with for Bone on Bone, but this time a strictly acoustic format.
GoBe: Final question then. As a current resident of San Francisco, have you experienced an earthquake yet?
Bruce: I’ve only noticed one. There have others since I’ve been here but for some reason I don’t seem to notice them. I don’t know if it’s my own shakiness or the fact I happen to be in a car at the time. There have been no big ones. I do recall my wife and I were lying in bed one morning and there was a kind of cracking noise, not particularly loud. The whole building made a cracking noise and there was a ripple that ran across the ceiling. My wife said ‘that was an earthquake.’ It was a four on the scale, epicentre was down near San Jose. That was my only conscious knowledge of one so far.
For more information, visit: https://www.greatestatesniagara.com/Store/Amphitheatre-Tickets
27 June 2019 - This famous songwriter says the northern Ontario landscape taught him to love nature and a have a greater appreciation for First Nations culture. And he'll be back in northern Ontario in July. We chat with legendary musician and activist Bruce Cockburn.
Aired: June 25, 2019
27 June 2019 - Folk icon Bruce Cockburn talks about his life and times in music, his wanderlust, thoughts on the current political climate and ecological collapse, his new album Crowing Ignites, and much more!
Ep. #484: Bruce Cockburn
Interview date 10 May 2019
17 June 2019 - Bruce Cockburn has been writing songs about conflicts in the lives of Canada's Indigenous people for decades and he has no quarrel with the use of the word genocide.
"I don't have any problem allowing that word to be applied to the interaction between people of European extraction and people of native extraction in North America," Cockburn said on Day 6.
The National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) sharply divided the country when it declared the oppression of Indigenous people to be "persistent and deliberate" and concluded it was genocide. Cockburn agrees with the conclusion.
"Whether it was intentional or not, and at times it certainly has been, the effect has been to destroy a culture," he said.
Canada's legacy media rejected the claim of genocide and so did some prominent Canadians. For them, Cockburn doesn't hide his contempt.
"To think that we as Canadians can absolve ourselves of having exercised or attempted cultural genocide is completely foolish," he said.
Bruce Cockburn has never been one to suffer fools.
'A sense of outrage'
There's a lot going on in Bruce Cockburn's music and lyrics. His songs are too complex to be merely polemical. But when his anger flashes, you notice.
In his song Gavin's Woodpile, he zeroes in on a deadly bureaucracy:
Some government gambler with his mouth full of steak
Saying, "If you can't eat the fish, fish in some other lake.
To watch a people die — it is no new thing.
Cockburn is writing about mercury poisoning, a deadly blight linked to industrial contamination that's afflicted some First Nations and their land for half a century. He wrote Gavin's Woodpile in 1975.
"At the time, the mercury poisoning was not widely known," Cockburn said. "I mean, it still isn't."
"But it was about their bones falling apart and their teeth falling out and I mean … mercury poisoning is a terrible affliction. And the government was willing to do absolutely nothing about it. That made me feel a sense of outrage and that ended up in the song."
A global voice
That theme of oppression magnified by official indifference is present throughout his songbook in Call It Democracy, If a Tree Falls and, famously, in If I Had a Rocket Launcher, a hit for Cockburn in 1985.
How many kids they've murdered, only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher, I'd make somebody pay.
This song, one of Cockburn's best known, was written after he met Guatemalan refugees who'd taken fire from their own government. It marked the first of his many visits to war zones.
"It seems possible to view the genocide against Mayan people as an extension of the historic U.S. policies of extermination at home against Native Americans," Cockburn wrote in his memoir, Rumours of Glory.
Cockburn will release his latest record, Crowing Ignites, in September. (True North Records)
One of the criticisms against the MMIWG's use of the word genocide is the idea that it might impede Canada's moral responsibility to condemn foreign atrocities; that voices like Cockburn's could be dismissed for denouncing foreign injustices while Canada's record on Indigenous issues goes unaddressed.
Has he ever been called a hypocrite?
"In fact, no," Cockburn said. "No one ever did, because I think people recognize that this happens all over the place."
"To me, when I hear somebody say things like that, it sounds like BS anyway. It sounds like they're just making excuses for wanting to keep the status quo going without causing too much of a disturbance."
"And that stinks of hypocrisy to me."
A reckoning for Christians
In his 2014 memoir, Cockburn writes, "When Jesus came into my life in 1974, he also made it into the music." But there's ambivalence in his song Red Brother, Red Sister as Cockburn balances his faith against the legacy of Christian missions on Canada's Indigenous people.
Went to a pow wow, red brother
Felt the people's love, joy flow around
It left me crying just thinking about it
How they used my saviour's name to keep you down.
Cockburn is thoughtful, weighing the particular responsibility Christians face reconciling with the damage inflicted primarily, but not exclusively, through residential schools.
"If a person identifies themselves as a Christian, it seems to me [that] job number one is to love everybody. That's a challenging thing. It's not simple," he said.
Cockburn says the obvious solution — ending the disappearances and slaughter of Indigenous women; stopping a genocide — is a shared responsibility.
"That would be job one," he said. "I think right before anything else, before we get all hung up quibbling over what word is the best word to apply to all these things, I mean let's fix the frigging problem."
'A low grade fever'
Cockburn ends his 1990 song Indian Wars with a question: "Will there never be an end to the Indian wars?"
And how does he answer that question today?
"Well there's always reason to hope," he said. "But I think it's an ongoing thing."
"And you know, it's like having a low-grade fever, like our whole culture has this low-grade fever that affects everybody, even though we may not be very aware of it from day to day. Some people that affects much more directly and much worse," he said.
"We have to be aware of that. We have to be sympathetic and then try and address these things."
Bruce Cockburn's 34th album, Crowing Ignites, will be released in September on True North Records.
To hear the full interview with Bruce Cockburn, download our podcast or click 'Listen' above.
The date of the interview was June 12, 2019. (thanks Daniel Keebler)
~from Day 6 - CBC radio - To hear the full interview with Bruce Cockburn, download our podcast or click 'Listen'.
13 June 2019 - Four years ago, Bruce Cockburn was wondering if he was still a songwriter.
After more than 300 songs, including many international hits, and more than 30 albums, the globally renowned Canadian singer-songwriter and pioneering guitar player has come to exemplify song-writing. But Cockburn found himself in a new place after the publication of his autobiography in 2014.
“The chief change was that I hadn’t written any songs for a long time — that’s where the question came from,” Cockburn told the Townsman, on the phone from San Francisco where he now lives. “It had been three or four years since I wrote anything that you could call a song.
“Does that mean that I move on into some other creative endeavour, which in the context it would obviously be prose writing.”
Cockburn’s memoir, “Rumours of Glory” (after a song from his 1980 album “Humans”), takes us on an intimate journey through his remarkable life of faith, activism and ground-breaking music over the past five decades. Cockburn offers readers a commentary on his life and work, and the stories behind his song-writing and best-known songs.
Nonetheless, Cockburn’s immersion in other than his usual medium of songwriting unleashed a completely different creative process.
“Writing a song is a short term phenomenon,” he said. “Even if it takes a relatively long time, sometimes, to put all the pieces together, the actual time spent working on it, for me, is minimal compared to writing prose. You either get an idea or you don’t.
“If something isn’t connecting or developing as an idea, then my tendency is just to wait for another idea, or to hunt through my notebook to see if there’s something that will take it somewhere.
“But with a book … you’ve got to sit down and work at it and get it done. That to me was at times a lot of fun, in the same way that when you’re writing a song, you sort of feel like a bloodhound on the trail of an idea, chasing it down. But a lot of time it was just a lot of lack of sleep, sitting up late working on this thing.”
Cockburn says he doesn’t hunger for a repeat of that experience, although he isn’t ruling it out either.
“If at some point in the future it seems like volume II of a memoir, or if something else occurs to me — but it’s nothing I’m actively thinking about.”
* * *
All writing is communication — but Cockburn revealed much of himself in such a different way in his memoir than through the poetry of his songwriting.
“People hear a song, and by definition, as with any art form … people bring their own experience to their encounter with that piece of art, and their response to it will be shaped by how they perceive it through their own filter,” he said. “It’s true of a song, and it’s true of a book too, but there’s so much more of a specific nature in a book.“And part of the challenge of writing a book is to make it that way so that there’s less room for alternate interpretations. “Whereas with a song, of course I want people to understand what I mean, but I also know from experience that their response is going to be whatever it is. With a book … there’s a greater need — and I made a greater effort — to make sure that what’s in the book is as clear as it can be.”
* * *
It wasn’t until after the release of the memoir, and an encounter with the late Canadian poet Al Purdy (1918-2000), that Cockburn’s songwriting reared its head again. He was invited to contribute some music to a documentary about the poet’s life and times (“Al Purdy Was Here,” 2015).
“So I said ‘well, this is the test.’ If I say yes to this, and I come up with something, it will be evidence that I’m likely to be a songwriter again, and if I don’t it will be evidence to the contrary. So I said yes, and what came out was “‘Three Al Purdys.’”
“Three Al Purdys” is a song that includes a spoken word component that’s drawn from two poems— one of Purdy’s early ones from the depression era about riding the rails across Canada, and the other is a much later piece, a philosophical speculation about the origins of language and its connections with spirituality.
Cockburn set out to read through Purdy’s collected works, but got an idea right away — a homeless guy who’s obsessed with Purdy’s poetry and who rants at people on the street with that poetry.
“It seemed like a good image for the coyote cheekiness and Purdy’s empathy with the working man,” Cockburn said. “It seemed to fit, so the song started from there. I immediately thought of that image, of a guy saying ‘I’ll give you three Al Purdy’s for a twenty dollar bill’ — so what else would he say?’”
The song “Three Al Purdys” proved to be the seed for Cockburn’s most recent album, “Bone on Bone.”
“Having discovered the songs that came out of Bone on Bone, I decided that I’m still a songwriter,” Cockburn said.
The album went on to win Cockburn his 13th Juno Award (he won his first Juno — Canada’s highest music award — in 1971).
* * *
The band coming on tour with Cockburn will include musicians who recorded on “Bone on Bone:” Gary Craig and John Dymond as the rhythm section, and Cockburn’s nephew John Aaron Cockburn on accordion and guitar.
The material for the shows isn’t fully determined, but will feature a representative range of Cockburn’s songbook, including massive, familiar hits from the past, songs like “When A Tree Falls In The Forest,” “Lovers In A Dangerous Time,” “Wondering Where The Lions Are” … Any audience, of course, expects, if not demands the familiar, the hits. A performer is likely of two minds about this expectation, Cockburn included.
“There are the songs that people have taken to heart, and of course that’s very complimentary to me, that anybody has done that at all about anything that I’ve done,” Cockburn said. “It’s not like I’m kind of grudgingly putting out these songs, I’m grateful for the fact that people want to hear them. But you can only sing a song so many times before they get stale — and sometimes you to have to let them lie fallow for a while. There was a period right after 911 that I didn’t play ‘If I Had A Rocket Launcher’ at all, because it just seemed like it was playing to the wrong sentiment.”
Even so, a Bruce Cockburn show generally “gets kind of hung on a framework of those familiar songs and whatever else I can think of that could work.
“The songs that I feel I’m obliged to sing in every show, I go through periods where I’m kind of sick of them, but I try to do them justice anyway, because people … have paid money and they want to hear what they want to hear. Which is fair enough.
“But I like to keep a bit of ferment going there. So there may be those ‘standards,’ for want of a better word, that will show up in almost every show. But around that is a rotating or fluctuating mix of whatever else is out there of the older stuff. That keeps it interesting for me.”
* * *
Then there’s the question everyone wants to know about every songwriter — do your lyrics come first, or the melody?
“It’s a lyric, almost always,” Cockburn said of his songwriting. “I can’t think of a single example, except for the instrumental pieces, of course. If I stumble upon a melodic riff like that it’s likely to end up becoming a guitar piece rather than a song. But because I can play with music more easily than with words, I don’t get word ideas as often or as clearly — generally there’s more labour involved with the lyrics.
“So I’ve never been comfortable bending lyrics to fit a melody. Some people can do that very well, but for me it starts with the lyrics, and it’s sort of easier to create music that provides a bed for those lyrics. That’s the general approach.”
That being said, Cockburn is working on a new album — an instrumental album, due out in September.
Bruce Cockburn plays the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, Thursday, August 8, 2019. Tickets are available at the Key City Theatre.
~from Cranbrook Townsman
10 June 2019 - Bruce taped a wonderful show on 24 October 2018 while in Cleveland for an American Public Television show called Songs at the Center.
It was taped at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewwod, Ohio. He played three songs: Forty Years in the Wilderness, If I had a Rocket Launcher and The Gift. The program is 27 minutes long and includes interview segments by Eric Gnezda.
You can view the episode here.
With thanks to Bernie Finkelstein and Daniel Keebler.
31 May 2019 - Image turned thirty years old this April. As we reflect on what’s ahead, we asked fifteen visual artists and two singer-songwriters to tell us what they learned and how they changed after turning thirty. Click here for the full collection.
I don’t miss my thirties. Maybe the energy. I had a little more energy then, and it was a little easier to come by. But I prefer my understanding of the world now.
Creative energy becomes more tenuous as time goes on—not because I’ve run out of ideas, but I’ve run out of time to have the ideas, and time to develop them when I do have them. In my thirties, I never felt any pressure to get anything done except my own pressure. I’d start feeling a kind biological urge to create. It builds up in your system and eventually reaches a point where you have to deal with it. It would come with a sense of excitement, like I’m a bloodhound on the trail. When I get the idea, I want to chase it down. It’s the thrill of the hunt.
As I’ve gotten older, the pace of that buildup has slowed some. But what I’ve lost in energy I’ve gained in perspective.
I could never have written a song like “To Fit in My Heart” in my thirties because I didn’t have the capacity to feel what that song is trying to point to—when the hugeness of everything and the lovingness of it just overwhelms you and falls on you like rain. There was a kind of availability I had to learn in order to create a song like that. A capacity for a kind of ecstatic contact.
The potential for the contact is always there, even in pain. You have to be open to it, and it’s easy to ignore. It is the still, small voice. But if you happen to stumble on it when you are feeling receptive, it doesn’t feel small at all. But when you’re not, it’s hard to hear that voice. But it’s there all the time. All you have to do is say yes.
~ from Image Journal Issue 100.
29 May 2019 - Don't miss the video interview by Paul Jay. Nine different segments, photos, and music videos interwoven. Transcription here.
26 May 2019 - Imagine having a 50-year career as a musician without ever feeling the need to acquiesce to industry demands. You could write what you want, play what you want, and remain completely unencumbered by outside expectations. The only requirement is that you follow your muse and believe that style only matters if you have the substance to back it up.
Such a scenario could be difficult to envision given how much life has changed in 2019, but that’s exactly the kind of impression that Bruce Cockburn has left on the world since releasing his self-titled debut in 1970. His expressive playing, acerbic songwriting, and willingness to dive deep into the heart of the human condition have made him one of the most treasured artists in the history of Canadian music.
It’s not his fault that American audiences are fickle and yet to fully appreciate the breadth of his talent, because great songs are like Ray Kinsella’s baseball field. If you write them, people will eventually come, and Cockburn has written a ton of them throughout the years.
He’ll put some of them on display when he stops at Babeville on May 8 for his first show in western New York since 2015. I had the honor of speaking with him recently about his career and other projects he’s been involved with as of late, so, if you haven’t gotten your ticket yet, now’s the time.
MNOD: Your upcoming album “Crowing Ignites” is an instrumental collection. What was the inspiration for that?
Cockburn: We actually did an instrumental record called “Speechless” back in 2005, so the new album felt like Volume 2 of that. We had so much new stuff that we were working on that the inspiration just came from the music itself. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
MNOD: You’ve had a great musical relationship with Colin Linden for many years. What does he bring to the table as a producer that works so well?
Cockburn: I’ve been working with Colin for 25 years now and our friendship has been great. We have a familiarity with each other that works well and he’s also a great guitar player. We had one track where I played slide guitar and he played mandolin, so it’s easy to construct duets. He’s fun to work with in the studio, because he’s knowledgeable about many of the technical aspects of recording that I’m not.
MNOD: Will you be playing any of the new tracks on the upcoming tour?
Cockburn: Possibly. I haven’t decided yet, but there’s certainly a chance that some of them will pop up. The album is scheduled to come out in September and the ensuing tour will definitely feature them. As for the upcoming shows, they’ll be structured to feature a cross section of my career. In addition to the Buffalo show, I also have some festivals across Canada lined up for the summer.
MNOD: Growing up in the Buffalo area meant that I was exposed to your music early on through a lot of Canadian radio stations and “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws” was one of the first albums I ever got into as a kid. How do you feel about that album today?
Cockburn: It’s a good album. I don’t sit around listening to my old stuff today, but I’m certainly proud of the way it turned out. They say that you get one great album per decade and “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws” was a great way to cap off the ’70s for me.
MNOD: You’ve always had an intricate picking style on the acoustic guitar and I was wondering if you’ve been forced to alter your playing at all as you’ve gotten older.
Cockburn: A little bit. I have arthritis and certain joints have begun to seize up, but my style hasn’t changed all that much. My doctor told me that I have however many years left to play and that was a few years ago already. I always thought that I would have to learn to play slide guitar at some point. I can still play most of my early material the same way I always did, though.
MNOD: People often refer to you as an activist, but that label tends to get tossed around a lot. Was writing about humanitarian causes something that you were naturally drawn to or did you become interested in politics later on?
Cockburn: I was somewhat aware of the world when I was younger. I grew up in a politically liberal household and my interest in social causes came along bit by bit as I got older. The more I traveled, the more I began to realize that other cultures didn’t necessarily benefit from the same things that I did. I became acquainted with people from different backgrounds who began to influence my way of thinking about the world and critics tend to label you as an activist without really understanding that it all starts with a song. I write about what naturally moves or interests me and not necessarily with activism in mind specifically.
MNOD: What did you learn about yourself from traveling to places that most people never get to experience in their lifetime?
Cockburn: The biggest thing I learned is that your baggage goes with you. The obvious element is that I learned about my relationship to the world and how certain people are forced to live in various circumstances. I spent the first half of the ’70s traveling across Canada, which was much different than what we had always learned as children. The truth about how the First Nations of Canada were treated was the beginning of it for me. Traveling also brings you face-to-face with the fragility of democracy and the fragility of nature. A lot of economic and environmental policies have come back to bite us big time, and the impact of development on the natural world is something we can’t ignore.
MNOD: How did you come to live in San Francisco?
Cockburn: My wife got a job here, so it wasn’t my choice. We’ve been out here 10 years now and it’s our home. I never really thought of myself as living on the west coast and maybe the economy will eventually push us out. The scene has changed. When we first moved here, I felt like we arrived just as the last vestiges of the old San Francisco were dying off. Now, the cost of living is very expensive and it’s become culturally one-dimensional in a lot of ways.
MNOD: “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” is a song that has stood the test of time and continued to assume a deeper significance along the way. What does the song mean to you today?
Cockburn: That’s one of the songs that people have latched onto, because it says something worth saying. Its popularity shows that other people feel the same way. My original motivation was thinking about what kind of world I was passing along to my daughter, who was 7 at the time. I grew up with The Bomb and air raid drills. The teacher would blow a whistle and we would have to hide under our desks. If you think about it, we would have been killed by the shredded glass alone, which makes the whole thing ridiculous. The threat of atomic war never went away and then the AIDS crisis happened to add another layer to the song’s premise. It was essentially asking the question of how we find love in a world where the person we love could be infected with a fatal disease, but there’s also a sense of hope that can’t be ignored. There’s always room for hope.
MNOD: What are your thoughts on how the music industry has changed since you first started out?
Cockburn: I don’t pay any attention to the industry today, so I can’t really answer that. I just do what I do and that’s it. My daughter will play songs on Spotify that I’ll inevitably be exposed to, but I don’t really know if I like any of it. I’ve heard Katy Perry and she seems to have some substance. I’ll also hear songs while driving or passing by somewhere, but I can’t say whether or not they’re really any good. If anything, the current industry has illustrated how large the social gap between the stinking rich and the rest of us has really become. You have the Kardashians or other tabloid people who have a hunger for notoriety and that has nothing at all to do with me. They couldn’t care less if I’m listening or not. If I had to give advice to someone getting started today, I’m not sure that I could, because it’s not 1964. The way we communicate in civilized life has changed completely due to the Internet and social media. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed the luxury of having a very capable manager who knows the ins and outs of the industry, so I don’t have to worry too much about the changes.
MNOD: Christianity has often been an important source of inspiration for you. What is your relationship to religion today?
Cockburn: I became a Christian in the early ’70s and it’s kind of been waxing away through the decades, but spirituality is still important to me.
MNOD: Is there anything that you’d still like to accomplish in your career?
Cockburn: I’ve never looked at my career in terms of accomplishments. I just want to keep on making music. What I’m doing now isn’t worlds away from what I’ve always done, but I can continue to incorporate different styles. That’s about the closest to ambition that I get.
His new album, “Crowing Ignites,” is tentatively scheduled for release in September 2019.
~ from musicnotherdrugs.com
2 May 2019 - After an incredible half-century-long career as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, Bruce Cockburn (Coe-burn) is still going strong with numerous awards and 33 albums under his belt, as well as a 526-page memoir and nine-disc boxed set (both titled “Rumours of Glory,” 2014), and he’s coming back to Maine to perform at the Waterville Opera House on Saturday, May 11. To that end, I requested a telephone interview to reconnect with this talented gentle man once again. He kindly agreed and called me from a recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee, on the 16th of April.
I began by asking him how things were going?
Cockburn: Oh, things are going actually really well right now. We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new instrumental album. We’re mixing it now, and we’ll probably get done by the end of today. And, I’m quite excited about that, actually. Otherwise, life goes on and I don’t know if I had my second daughter yet when last we spoke.
Q: I had even had my first and only daughter at that time!
Cockburn: (Laughter) So, some of us have been sort of saving it up, right? Anyway, my younger daughter’s 7 and in second grade and can write and speak fluently in English and French.
Q: Oh, Lord!
Cockburn: Yeah, it’s pretty impressive, actually, and my life is a lot of getting her to and from school. In between those missions (chuckle), then I get to do what I do, which — at the age I am now — half the time is going to doctors and the other half is sort of trying to get work done.
Q: Speaking of work, and the fact that you’re getting ready to complete a new instrumental album, let me ask this: have you done many such albums over your career?
Cockburn: Just one previous one and that one is called “Speechless.” It came out at the end of the ’90s or the beginning of the 2000s, I forget what year. And, it was a compilation of previously released instrumental tracks from throughout the passage of time, with several new pieces, as well. The intention with this album was to do kind of a Volume 2 of that — we wouldn’t have called it that, necessarily.
Q: Was it going to be set up the same as its predecessor, format-wise?
Cockburn: Well, we ended up with so much new stuff that it’s just an album of new pieces, so it’s not “Speechless 2” at all. It will be called “Crowing Ignites,” which is the translation from the Latin of the Cockburn family motto.
Q: Now, just out of curiosity, are instrumentals easier to write than lyrical songs?
Cockburn: It’s a whole different thing. In some ways, yes. There’s one less step involved really, because the songs that I write, most of them have a pretty important instrumental component to them. It’s not like just writing words and a melody for me; there’s always some sort of relationship between the sung part of the song and the guitar. So, in that sense, it’s simpler, because there’s only part of it that you have to worry about, but at the same time it involves the same kind of waiting around for a good idea. In the case of instrumental pieces, the good ideas will come out of practicing. I mean, they don’t come out of the air so much as they do from having your hands on a guitar. You stumble on something that sounds like it could go somewhere, and then you wrestle that into a piece. These pieces are, for the most part, kind of structured like a jazz piece with a head and an improvised section, and then you’ve got the head again. Most of them are like that, but not all. Some are more folk-y and some are — I don’t know what to call them — they’re certainly not jazz. It’s not a jazz record, but there’s a fair amount of improvisation on the record.
Q: What are you playing on this album?
Cockburn: It’s mostly acoustic guitar, and, in terms of the kinds of structural choices you make, it’s really whatever you think of. For me, I’m not constrained by any particular genre. I’m only constrained by my own technique. I guess (chuckle), it’s certainly a constraint, but basically I can do whatever I think of.
Q: Now, when you come to the Waterville Opera House, oh, I’d better ask this first: Have you ever performed there before?
Cockburn: I don’t think so.
Q: Well, then you’re in for a treat, that’s for sure. Now, when I saw you in the past, you had backing musicians. Will that be the case this time ‘round or will you be solo?
Cockburn: This will be solo, yeah. And, I mean I’m not going to be stacking the show with pieces from the new instrumental album. There will be time for that when the album’s actually out.
Q: Will you do any of that new material?
Cockburn: I don’t know what I’m going to do. But, there’s a chance I end up pulling out a couple of those pieces, but it’ll be a cross section of newer and older, typical of my shows.
Q: Now, when you go into a solo show like this one in Waterville, do you make up a set list or just wing it?
Cockburn: I have a set list — I don’t trust my memory.
Q: And with 33 albums out, how on Earth do you create a play list out of all that material?
Cockburn: Well, it’s a balance. It’s like, here’s a bunch of songs that I want to do and then there’s a bunch that people in the audience are attached to, and if you don’t play them, they will feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. So, those go in a show. So, I try to do a mix of old and new, so that some of it is still fresh for people. The last album, which is now a couple of years old, was “Bone On Bone,” and there will be stuff from that, for sure.
Q: I have one last question before we bring this chat to an end. Is there anything, Bruce, that you would like me to pass on to the folks reading this?
Cockburn: Well, just “hello” and “come to the show,” I guess.
~from Lucky Clark on music - Bruce Cockburn
17 April 2019 - Celebration!!
Hi, Here I am in Nashville with Colin Linden and Bruce Cockburn. We're at Colin's studio putting the final touches on Bruce's new instrumental record. Might be out by mid to late September. ~from Bernie Finkelstein's Facebook page.
17 April 2019 - A Canadian music legend is among several artists who will headline a free concert to help commemorate the centennial one of the country’s largest and most influential labour movements.
For 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been writing and signing about the human experience. In June, the multi-time Juno Award winner and member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame will join Grammy winner and feminist icon Ani DiFranco along with several others for Rise Up 100: Songs for the Next Century Concert, one of four events being put on by Manitoba’s unions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
“We want to welcome people of all generations, all backgrounds, all abilities — everybody in our city — to join us and celebrate the Winnipeg General Strike together, with music, as a community,” said Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Lynne Skromeda at a launch event on Tuesday. “Folk music has long been tied to the labour movement, advocating for social justice and providing a sense of connection to one another through divisive times, and we need this connection now more than ever.”
The free concert will take place in Old Market Square on June 8 between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Celebrations kick off with the already-sold-out 1919 Social on May 11 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. The social will be followed by the Winnipeg General Strike Centennial Gala Dinner on May 15 at the RBC Convention Centre. Tickets for the dinner are priced between $100 and $200. The penultimate event comes on May 25 with the Solidarity Forever Parade & Community Concert. The parade will run from the Exchange District to Memorial Park from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by a concert from 12:30 to 6 p.m.
“We want to invite Winnipeggers, Manitobans and Canadians to come and party with us,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck. “Come listen to some excellent music and celebrate our shared legacy of the Winnipeg General Strike, which played such an important role in forging the city, the province and the country we all know today.”
The MayWorks Festival of Labour and the Arts began on Sunday and will run through to June 21st with a host of events including book launches, art exhibitions, concerts and other events.
Husband and wife duo Nolan and Sharon Reilly have also updated their 1919 Winnipeg General Strike driving and walking tour, allowing anyone to pick up one of their brochures and walk or drive to important locations and learn about their significance to the Strike.
More information, including tickets for the gala dinner, can be found at mfl.ca/1919.
This will be a free concert on June 8 at The Cube, Old Market Square.
from – The Winnipeg Sun
20 March 2019 -
7 February 2019 - Bruce contacted me recently, letting me know a sequel to Speechless (2005), the all instrumental album, is being planned. He has a bunch of new instrumentals he is quite happy with. This album, unlike the 2005 Speechless, will have more new material than older material. Colin Linden will be producing and they expect to be in the studio in early spring. I will have more info soon.
7 February 2019 - Bruce Cockburn tries to find a balance between what he wants to perform and what he knows his audience wants to hear.
Doing that can sometimes be a challenge because the Canadian singer-songwriter, who will perform Feb. 7 to Feb. 9 at the Egyptian Theatre, has been playing and recording music for nearly 50 years.
"There's a bit of strategic thinking in getting a show together," said Cockburn (pronounced KOE-burn). "It's between knowing people will feel ripped off if they don't get to hear some songs and me wanting to play what my own particular interests are at any one moment."
Cockburn said he also looks at songs that will go well with his newer songs, some of which are from his most recent album "Bone On Bone," which was released in 2017.
While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard… Bruce Cockburn, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee
Bone On Bone marks Cockburn's 33rd studio album.
"The answer to writing a good song is always coming up with a good idea," he said. "I feel there is something about the visceral sense that deals with the flow of ideas. Ideas come from the culture around us, encounters with other people or from the things we live through. Those things are shareable, and the sharing is important. I feel what I do is at the service of that idea."
Still, the older he gets, Cockburn knows there is a danger of repeating himself.
"Sometimes I'll get an idea that I think is great, and then I'll start working on it only to realize that I wrote about it 30 years ago," he said with a laugh.
Another challenge is keeping his older songs interesting, he said. Playing solo sets is one way to do that.
"It's just me, a guitar and a voice," he said. "While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard. But just like when I'm playing with a band, I still have to execute the guitar parts, and remember the words."
The solo performances also give Cockburn more one-on-one time with his audiences.
"One of the obvious things about playing solo is that it gives me great flexibility that isn't always available with the band," he said. "I don't have to deal with numbers of people, the crew, lighting cues and all sorts of stuff that are of less consequence."
In 2014, Cockburn embarked on a project that required a lot of recollection – writing his memoir "Rumors of Glory."
"That was really hard work," he said. "Unlike songwriting, writing a book was not natural to me. There were long periods when I would get bogged down. My editors were flexible with me and I stood them up a bunch, with respect to deadlines."
When Cockburn was 100 pages into the first draft, he enlisted the help of his friend, journalist Greg King.
"I got stuck and I didn't know how to tell the stories that I remembered," he said. "Greg provided the organizational backbone of the thing."
The book documented Cockburn's family life, relationships, his religious convictions and his social and political views that find their way into his music.
"It was interesting looking back on my career, because I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it in the day-to-day," he said.
Some of Cockburn's milestone events in his career have occured even since the memoir was published.
In 2017, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2018, he won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for "Bone on Bone." That year, he also won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Top Solo Artist.
"Awards are very gratifying, and they're meaningful in a practical way, which means there's publicity," he said. "That, on a good day, can translate to being hired for more shows, or being able to have a band."
The next project Cockburn is preparing for is a new instrumental album.
"We did one called 'Speechless' a few years ago that was a mixture of previous recorded stuff and new songs," he said. "This one will be similar, but the weight will be toward the new."
1 December 2018 - Bruce wins Solo Artist of the Year award for Bone On Bone at the 2018 Canadian Folk Music Awards.
2 October 2018 - Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn returned to Japan after 26 years to play a two-day, four-set engagement at Billboard Live in Tokyo on September 29 and 30. The guitarist and singer has long been connected to the country for songs he wrote in Japan when he visited in the 1970s.
Cockburn has been on a year-long tour supporting his 2017 album release Bone on Bone. The shows have seen him perform both with a band, and solo as he was in Tokyo.
Cockburn’s last appearance in Japan was 1992 when he was supposed to play and a huge Amnesty International benefit concert headlined by Neil Young. But due to illness, Young had to withdraw and the event was canceled. Since Cockburn was already in Japan he played an industry-only event at the Canadian Embassy. Before that, Cockburn had performed in Japan in the 1970s.
Japanese fans were clearly ecstatic that Cockburn was finally returning to perform live in the nation. All the shows played to enthusiastic packed houses. This is especially notable for the sets on Sept. 30 as Typhoon Trami was bearing down on Tokyo and many train lines were stopped. The streets were nearly deserted but you wouldn’t have known it from the full seats at Billboard Live. Cockburn performed on a steel string acoustic, a steel-bodied Dobro resonator guitar and a charango, a stringed, Andean folk instrument smaller than a ukulele.
The sets were a liberal mix of new songs and Cockburn classics, including “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “Peggy's Kitchen Wall.” After performing “Tokyo,” Cockburn told the audience “I wrote that song almost exactly 40 years ago… and I’m still here.” Paying homage to his bilingual Canadian roots, Cockburn performed the French track “Mon Chemin” and warned the audience that they might be baffled if they tried to decipher it as English.
Cockburn concluded the final set with one of his political tracks, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” about the killing of innocent civilians from the air in Latin America, and the U.S. radio hit “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980. He came out for an encore of “All The Diamonds In The World” from his 1974 release Salt, Sun and Time.
Billboard Live, in the Roppongi district’s Midtown complex, is well known for bringing renowned acts with long careers to play in its relatively intimate setting.
Cockburn will continue the tour through February 2019 with nine more dates in the U.S. and seven in Europe.
Bruce Cockburn at Billboard Live Tokyo, 2nd set, Sept 30
1. After the Rain
2. Last Night of the World
3. States I’m In
4. Lovers In A Dangerous Time
6. Cafe Society
7. Peggy's Kitchen Wall
8. Bohemian 3-Step (Instrumental)
9. Mon Chemin
10. If I Had a Rocket Launcher
11. Wondering Where the Lions Are
Encore. All The Diamonds In The World
~from Billboard.com, Photo by Masanori Naruse
View photos and setlists from both shows.
20 July 2018 - Hawaii Public Radio - All Things Considered - Dave Lawrence interviews Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn is a major name is Canadian music, but not nearly as well known in the US, where the talented guitarist/vocalist/songwriter has a smaller, but strong following, where he's almost a cult-classic artist. He spoke to HPR All Things Considered Host Dave Lawrence ahead of a two-night run of 7 p.m. shows at the Blue Note Hawaii tonight and tomorrow.
In this conversation, hear about his critical discovery of a guitar in his grandmother's attic, which led to a lifetime of music. He explores his time in Europe busking on the streets and developing his craft, as well as the influence of his time at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the bubbling 60's music scene there. Experiences opening for Cream and Jimi Hendrix are discussed, plus the way that some major artists, from Jimmy Buffett to Jerry Garcia, have coverered his material, and exposed it to wider audiences.
Listen to full interview here
4 May 2018 - Watch his recent interview with CTV. Bruce gives a personal account about live music, new projects, health, family and how politics have shaped his songwriting.
Two Hour Special and Interview with Bruce Cockburn
on WMBR's Lost & Found Program
Hosted by Bob Dubrow
25 April 2018 - Bruce Cockburn has been one of Canada's greatest musical exports for the last 50 years, starting out with psych bands in Ottawa and Toronto in the mid-60's and moving on to an extraordinary international career as a folk/pop singer expressing both spiritual as well as worldly concerns. He is perhaps best known for his 1984 hit "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," a song of outrage over the horrific treatment of Guatamalan refugees at the hands of the military. He continues to release albums, his latest being "Bone on Bone" from 2017. Bruce arrives to play solo at the Narrows Centre of the Arts in Fall River, MA on April 27th and the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH on the 28th. Hosted by Bob Dubrow.
This show aired April 24, 2018 12:00p–2:00p but you can still listen through the WMBR archives.
To replay Bob's show with his Bruce Cockburn interview any time from now until two weeks from today, go to the WMBR Archives page http://wmbr.org/cgi-bin/arch and select "Lost and Found" from the files listed for today's date, then your choice of .mp3 or HTML audio files to stream. (Wait for the last few minutes of the previous show to end). You can also get the HMTL stream for two weeks from the show playlist page In addition, Bob may post the interview on his own site as well. Thank you for listening! ~WMBR
Bone On Bone wins JUNO Award
25 March 2018 - Hi, Really excited to tell you that Bruce Cockburn won his 13th Juno last night for "Bone On Bone".
It won for Top Contemporary Folk Album of the Year.
A little backstory for you. Bruce won his first Juno in 1971 and his latest in 2018. That's a span of 47 years. To put it in perspective, someone like Beaches (great band,) who just won their first Juno in 2018 will have to win again in 2065 to do what Bruce has just done. Now I know I'm biased and love Bruce, but I also like baseball and it's love of stats, and let me tell you that's a pretty amazing stat. Congratulations Bruce and everyone who worked on the album. So well deserved. ~Bernie Finkelstein
5 February 2018 - On this week’s podcast, we talk to legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce was featured back in the Fretboard Journal #23 and he offers plenty of updates since then on his career, music and projects during our conversation. We chat about his Linda Manzer-built instruments (including the electric charango that she built for him), his memoir Rumours of Glory and the full-length documentary on his life, Pacing the Cage.
This episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast is brought to you by our friends at Dying Breed Music, where you can find a bevy of great acoustic guitars from the Golden Era.
Fretboard Journal - Bruce Cockburn podcast #185 by Jason Velinde.
24 January 2018 - While visiting Studio Bell, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Cockburn reflected on words and rhythm, and how they play into his songwriting process.
The National Music Centre and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame held the formal plaque ceremony as part of Bruce Cockburn’s induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on January 21, 2018.
22 January 2018 - Bruce Cockburn is not in the habit of listening to his old songs. But he did find a unique way to review his canon of music a few years back.
It was when he drove his daughter to preschool in San Francisco. He became his own captive audience.
"She would always insist on hearing my stuff in the car," said Cockburn, talking to media on Sunday evening at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. “‘Can we put on your music in the car?’ Every day this would repeat itself. ‘Do we have to? Can I not play somebody else?’ Nope. So I’d play me. It’s like looking at an album of snapshots in a way. It brings back all the feelings. Not all of the details, some of those are lost to the murk of time. But, certainly, that brings back the feelings that went into those songs."
Cockburn was in a bit of a reflective mood Sunday evening at the National Music Centre, where he participated in the plaque ceremony held in honour of his 2017 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. It found him placing his plaque on the wall, which already holds the names of artists such as Leonard Cohen, Hank Snow, Joni Mitchell and Wilf Carter.
Now housed at the National Music Centre alongside the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the organization is overseen by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). The honour seems long overdue. Somehow SOCAN managed to find more than 50 songsmiths to induct before honouring Cockburn — a songwriter’s songwriter who wrote If I Had a Rocket Launcher and Lovers in a Dangerous Time — this year, alongside Neil Young, Beau Dommage and Stéphane Venne.
But he was gracious and had high praise for his fellow songwriters from the Great White North.
"I think Canada punches well above its weight in terms of the quality of songwriting that comes out of this country relative to the size of the population," said Cockburn, who will play the Jack Singer Concert Hall on Tuesday night. "When you think how much we were influenced by English pop music in the ’60s and American pop music forever, there’s a lot of American pop music that is actually Canadian. And a lot of it that is not pop but has more serious intent than what often gets called pop music comes from here and I’m proud of that."
Cockburn, 72, recounted his beginnings as a songwriter. Initially, the Ottawa native saw himself becoming a composer for jazz ensembles. But he also became interested in poetry.
"Then, along came Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bob Dylan and others who woke me up to the notion that interesting music and poetics were not mutually exclusive, that you could put serious music together with melody, a chant or a groove," he said. "I was hooked."
Wearing a tie and his trademark Doc Martens, Cockburn also showed a flash of the political irreverence that informs many of his most beloved songs when talking about Canada versus the U.S., where he has lived for the past nine years.
"As people who belong to this country, we should know that we belong to the one island of sanity in the Western Hemisphere,” he said to cheers from the audience. “Everything south of here is (expletive) up."
~from Calgary Herald by Eric Volmers.
Photo: Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Additional photos can be viewed on brucecockburn.com
23 January 2018 - Legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn was honoured at a celebration hosted by the National Music Centre (NMC) to commemorate his 2017 induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The event took place Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, at Studio Bell in Calgary, where Cockburn formally placed his inductee plaque onto the wall. A reception followed, featuring a tribute performance by Calgary-based artist Aaron Young.
In her remarks, CSHF Executive Director Vanessa Thomas identified Cockburn as one of Canada’s greatest and most influential songwriters. “For the past five decades, Bruce Cockburn has made music delineated by his spiritual quest, humanitarian activity, and political viewpoint,” said Thomas. “In a body of work encompassing folk, rock, pop, reggae, jazz, blues, gospel and world music, his songs prove, every day, that music can effect change.”
"It’s a remarkable gift to have been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Cockburn. “If it’s not presuming too much, I’d like to offer a word of thanks on behalf of the whole community of Canadian songwriters. The effort to create a home for the pursuit and honouring of our art is much appreciated.”
Since opening in 2016, Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (NMC), has been the physical home of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In December of 2017, the CSHF announced a temporary exhibition at Studio Bell, in partnership with the NMC, to honour the four 2017 inductees: Bruce Cockburn, Beau Dommage, Stéphane Venne and Neil Young.
The exhibition, called Showcase, displays personal items and instruments from this year’s honourees, including one of Young’s practice guitars – a vintage 1970s Epiphone acoustic – on which he wrote “Natural Beauty,” from his 1992 Harvest Moon album. Other treasures include the written lyrics for Cockburn’s 1984 political anthem “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” and 1988’s “If A Tree Falls,” along with a Linda Manzer-built acoustic guitar owned and played by him.Two 2017 Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, Paul Brandt and Harvey Gold, are also being feted in the exhibition, which opened on Dec. 13, 2017, and will run until the fall of 2018.
~from SOCAN.ca. With files from Nick Fedor. Photo: Neil Zeller Photography