15 August 2016 - Bruce Cockburn’s toughest critic is a pint-sized package of opinion.
The bespectacled singer/songwriter laughs as he describes the brutal honesty with which his four-year-old daughter assesses his iconic catalogue.
“She enjoys some of it, and the stuff she doesn’t enjoy she goes, ‘What’s the name of this song?’ I’ll tell her and she’ll go, ‘Skip it’,” Cockburn says.
She does this as they travel to and from preschool, letting dad know her preference for the gentler acoustic numbers – ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’ remains a favorite - over “the rockier stuff.”
“She’s really without mercy, but it’s fun,” Cockburn tells Simcoe.com in advance of an Aug. 17 solo performance at the Orillia Opera House. “It’s fun to kind of hear this stuff through her perspective.”
An 11-time Juno Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada, Cockburn has released 31 albums over the past four decades.
As the current tour winds down, plans are in the works to enter the studio for his next release, the songs brought into being over the past year-and-a-half.
Previous to the tour, he’d devoted his creative energies to penning the 2014 memoir ‘Rumours of Glory’.
It was at the end of that experience that Cockburn found himself questioning whether he still possessed the intangible quality necessary to the songwriting craft, a combination of roll-up-your-sleeves hard work and something akin to divine inspiration.
"I hadn’t written any songs during the whole time I was working on the book, which was about three or four years,” he adds. “I was looking forward to getting back to being a songwriter again, but I wondered if I still was one, just because I hadn’t done it for so long.”
Inevitably, “the songs started to come, and they kept coming.”
While Cockburn has yet to firm up plans for the recording session, fans should expect something that leans “towards the bluesy end of the spectrum,” he says.
“They are written mostly on acoustic guitar … but there are some songs that are going to want electric guitar in them.”
No doubt there will be some measure of social commentary, Cockburn having earned a reputation for his keen eye, wit and laser-sharp assessment of society’s ills.
More than 30 years after releasing the gutsy and provocative single ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’, he sees little evidence that the world has rid itself of the murderous dictators and corrupt governments that impose their will through brute force.
If anything, that troubling reality only seems to have intensified.
“At least I feel like it has,” he says. “Maybe I’m just more aware of the goings on. I feel like that whole scene has kind of gotten worse to the point where it is sort of hard to say anything about it.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t try, but where do you start?” he adds.
While Cockburn has never been one to shy from the political, don’t expect him to weigh in on the subject of all subjects these days: presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump.
At least not in song.
“I’m not wasting my energy on that idiot,” he says before expounding on the three-ring circus south of the border. “(Trump) represents something that I think is much bigger than him.
I think what he represents is the expanding chaos, and he is furthering it better and more visibly at least than most of the other parties that you might think of as guilty in that regard.”
Incessant fear mongering by Trump and his ilk have left the populace increasingly alarmed, Cockburn included.
“My own inclination is to be afraid of the stuff that I see around – afraid in the sense that I worry for the world that my little girl is going to grow up into, for instance,” he adds. “I suppose somewhere underneath there I’m afraid for myself, too, but I outthink that because it’s my nature.”
Mix in the exploding role of technology in our everyday lives and the self-described “Sci-Fi buff” can’t help but consider it all with a mixture of wonder and suspicion.
“When drones the size of horse flies go around spying on people, it’s crazy. And that kind of craziness is sort of fun at the same time as it’s sinister. Of course, when you start looking at the human cost of all of this stuff, it ceases to be very entertaining.”
As an artist, Cockburn finds himself gravitating toward the spiritual as he attempts to come to grips with the mixing of the personal and external worlds.
“That’s always been there, but it’s come back around in a bigger way than it has in a long time,” he says.
While stopping short of describing himself as a Christian – “but I’m certainly leaning that way” – Cockburn has returned to church after drifting away decades ago.
“I go to a church that is the kind of church that I would never have imagined going to, where it’s kind of an evangelical thing with a rock band,” he adds, laughing.
~from Simcoe.com - Orillia Today - by Frank Matys.