1 August 2014 - For the first time in his career, Bruce Cockburn has taken a break from songwriting while working on his memoirs.
“I’ve been writing a book the last two years or more,” he said from his home in San Francisco. “I look forward to actually being a songwriter again, starting any time now.”
Rumours of Glory: A Memoir has gone into final editing and is scheduled for release Nov. 4. In the meantime, he’s back touring again and will bring his trio that includes violinist Jenny Scheinman and drummer Gary Craig to the inaugural Kingsville Folk Festival, Aug. 8.
Having recorded 31 albums in 40 years, Cockburn said it has been a strange experience not to have new product to promote. His last studio album was Small Source of Comfort in 2011.
But then his life has changed dramatically in the last four or five years.
He married longtime companion M.J. Hannett, a lawyer, just after the birth of his second daughter, Iona, in 2011. The family moved to San Francisco where Hannett works for the U.S. government.
Iona is two-and-a-half and keeps the 69-year-old Cockburn on his toes.
“Between the baby and the book, I’ve had no time at all to work on music,” he said.
That’s going to change soon, however. “I won’t promise but I may have something new to play when I get to Kingsville.”
Cockburn said he spurned previous offers to have his life story told. “The timing just didn’t seem right.”
But when his new publisher, Harper Collins, approached him with the idea of doing a book of memoirs with a spiritual focus, he agreed.
“They had this idea for a spiritual memoir but didn’t offer any thoughts on what they meant by that. So I sort of came up with the concept with the help of a journalist friend of mine, Greg King.”
Cockburn said he “knocked off” about 100 pages about his childhood in short order, but then got bogged down.
“The kinds of memories you have of your childhood life are different from the kinds of memories of your adult life. In many ways adult memories are intertwined with what’s going on in your life right now.”
He dug through notebooks of his many trips around the world which are archived at Hamilton’s McMaster University. But he decided not to simply publish a compendium of old notes.
“I include some stuff that comes from my trips to Central America and Chile,” he said. “But mostly there are a lot of song lyrics because much of the book is about how the songs were born.”
Rumours of Glory, the title of course scooped from one of his best-known songs, takes readers from his birth in Ottawa in 1945 to his visit to Baghdad in 2004.
“I felt that was the right place to end it. So many things have changed in my life since 2004. My life had headed in many different directions, and where it ends is unknown as yet.”
He documented some of his thoughts about Iraq and the political situation at the time in the album, Life Short Call Now. The song This is Baghdad is a monumental, strings-laden portrait of the war-torn city, not a polemic as some of his songs can be.
Since that time, his music has taken on a mellower, almost playful, quality.
He’s not tipping his hand about what’s next musically, but he is enjoying not having to pump the songs of his latest album on the current tour.
“It’s kind of nice to be free of the need to emphasize a particular album,” he said, although admitting he usually prefers to play his newer songs.
Part of that urge has been satisfied by rearranging some of the older stuff.
“The curious thing is that after a while the songs are old enough that they could almost be somebody else’s songs. If I were to play an Elvis Presley song, I wouldn’t just do it like Elvis Presley. I’d have to think of how to do it in my style.
“How would I do Rumours of Glory or World of Wonders now? It’s a mental process you go through.”
~ from The Windsor Star - Bruce Cockburn itching to get back to writing songs - by Ted Shaw