Bruce Cockburn: 'I never had a plan'
At 66, the iconic folk singer is touring and preoccupied with fatherhood
Molly Cormier - Here - Canada East

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16 February 2012 - When you hear the name Bruce Cockburn, what do you think of?

Bruce Cockburn says he's made records the same way since the 1960s - he jumps in the studio with friends and makes the best songs possible. He says it's that sense of camaraderie that's made his career such an enjoyable experience.

He's a Canadian singer/songwriter, sure, one of the best. He's also known as a champion for causes that are close to his heart, like human rights and the environment, and has carried the torch for those issues in many of his own songs.

But there is one specific cause, perhaps the greatest of them all, that's been occupying his time these days. Her name is Iona, and she's his three-month-old baby girl.

"She is the prime cause in my life right now. So, I haven't been looking outward all that much."

That's right: at age 66 Cockburn is a dad again. Iona and her mother (Cockburn's girlfriend) will accompany him across the East Coast to make up for a bout of shows that were cancelled after the new dad fell ill with pneumonia last year.

When 'Here' spoke to Cockburn by phone he was relaxing at home in Ontario before heading out for a tour in support of 2011's Small Source of Comfort. The album was inspired by Cockburn's many travels, including a visit with his brother in Afghanistan who was stationed there with the Canadian military.

"I think my nature is essentially nomadic. Home to me has seldom felt like more than base camp. Even when I was kid, though I didn't know it at the time, looking back I can see there never was a sense of being at home anywhere. I had a perfectly functional middle-class home growing up so it wasn't a physical issue, just spiritually I've always been a wanderer and that continues."

Even though he's been a veteran of the music business since the '60s and has 25 albums to his name, Cockburn says not much has changed about the way he prefers to make records. He still jumps in the studio with a group of friends, picks up a guitar, and tries to find a way to make his songs sound the best they can.

"Generally I've been lucky enough to work with people with whom I have a strong feeling of camaraderie and it's a really enjoyable process."

When asked how he'd describe this stage in his career, Cockburn laughs and says: "I guess I can categorically say I'm not at the beginning."

He also adds that he's not yet in the "throes of death."

Instead, the evolution continues for an artist whose songs have been covered countless times by both his contemporaries and a newer generation of performers. Cockburn is an officer of the Order of Canada, has a stack of honourary degrees from schools across the nation, and is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. But he's still learning about his country.

"When I first started touring in the early '70s it was really exciting. It gave me a sense of what I belonged to as a Canadian."

Fledgling musicians do ask him for advice from time to time, but he downplays his depth of knowledge. The industry has changed too much, he says, and there's no need for him to keep up.

"I don't feel like I'm a very good source of advice with respect to people's careers, in regards to what moves to makes. I never paid any attention to it. I made the moves that came to me when it seemed like the right time. I never had a plan."

Moncton Thursday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m. at Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St. 856-4379. $30.50-$34.50
@For tickets call the box office at 856-4379 or online at
Fredericton Friday, Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. at The Playhouse, 686 Queen St. 458-8344. Regular tickets: $42, under 19: $21
@Buy tickets online at or by calling the box office at 458-8344
Saint John Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m. at Imperial Theatre, 24 King Square South. 674-4100. $42
@Tickets available online at or call the box office at 1-800-323-SHOW

~ from Herenb Canada East by Molly Cormier.

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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.