Tom Cochrane didn’t let Lockdown lock down his songwriting
As 2019 drew to a close, it had been a year since Tom Cochrane had given a series of shows to tens of thousands of people and released two albums (Revisited and Bare).
But, like everything else in this crazy, crazy world, in a matter of months things have changed dramatically.
After canceling around 30 concerts in 2020 because of the pandemic, it is, he says, the longest period without a show in decades.
That didn’t mean a quarantine on creativity, however. After a 46-year recording career, Cochrane is one of the few rock groups of its generation to continue producing music.
He says he was working on new piano songs in the spring and then took the summer off to enjoy the good weather, go fishing and golf.
And now, with the change of seasons, comes a change of pace, as Cochrane prepares to bend over to create again. âI formulate songs and they are brewing in me. So I have a lot of things I’m working on, âsays Manitoba-born musician.
“I will get down seriously to compile some of my ideas, from a few weeks,” he promises.
As for the performances, luckily fans can at least enjoy an upcoming virtual concert, on December 19 at 8 p.m. ET. âI really think people miss live music deeply,â he says. âIt’s such an important part of the lives of so many people. “
For the uninitiated, Cochrane has released 20 albums since 1974, either solo or with the band Red Rider. Hits including Ocean Blues, Boy Inside the Man, Big League, Lunatic Fringe and others sealed his status as a rock icon.
In a bold launch to his solo efforts, the 1991 single Life Is a Highway surged up the charts and, with his album Mad Mad World, sold six million units worldwide. Thirty years later, the rock anthem is still rotated regularly on the radio, and in recent years, tens of millions of clicks on streaming videos.
âI think I’ve always tried to write songs that are timeless,â he says of his work. “It has served me really well, because I’ve done it with a number of songs, and you don’t always do it as a musician.”
His songs have been featured in television episodes of The Office, Miami Vice, Baywatch, Melrose Place and in the films Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Disney’s Cars.
âMy secret to being successful is probably being stubborn,â he laughs. But upon reflection, it has more to do with creating a unique place in an otherwise crowded industry, it is believed.
âI didn’t really look like anyone else. I think that’s a big part of it. You must have your own identity; your own signature. I have my own voice, âsays Cochrane, now 67.
Honored on several occasions for his contribution to popular music, he has won eight Juno Awards, received a Grammy nomination, and was named both a Member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and an Officer of the Order of Canada, between other distinctions.
Although despite the critical and commercial notes, he insists that he is not a “rock star” and that he bristles even when labeled by the media.
âI used to hate the term ‘rocker’, always in interviews or written articles. I always found it offensive, because it was just a label they put on. I would like to think my music has a little more depth than that, âhe says.
âI also like the acoustic side. I got out of this folk scene. I played in a lot of these folk clubs. And so, the folk tradition of telling stories and songs has always been very important to me, and dear to my soul. This is how I see myself more. I see myself more as a singer-songwriter. It is my stock and my business. This is how I started. So I am a storyteller.
During her time in the music industry, the singer-songwriter – or whatever you prefer to call him – looks back, realizing how so many other acts haven’t lasted, in a industry full of ego struggles.
âThere are pitfalls in show business. I’m just still amazed that this happens to so many bands. In many cases, these are people with common interests, and they have started playing together in a basement or garage. And inevitably, it seems like so many bands are letting the storm of touring, celebrity, fame and business tear them apart, âhe says.
The successful ones, he thinks, “all got along pretty well, from what I understand,” including what he describes as “the flagship bands of our time, like Rush, U2 and AC DC “.
âI am amazed that I have been through a lot without too many bruises. But it absorbs you. It puts a lot of pressure on your domestic life. And very few survive it really intact. It’s a very hard life that way, because it’s very unreal.
How he and his band mates managed to sidestep some of the challenges of the territory, he says, has as much to do with the completion of the process as the fulfillment that fans derive from the results.
âWe’ve always focused on work, music and the reward of being able to make a living from it and raising people. People come to you and say, “This song changed my life” or “it got me through some really tough times.” And this stuff means the world to me. This is really what it is, âhe says.
The two most popular albums are Songs of a Circling Spirit and The Symphony Sessions, both recorded live.
âI love breaking down songs and doing them acoustically,â he says. âAnd when we do them acoustically, they change all the time. It is simply a matter of changing instruments, sometimes of changing approach. This is how I keep it fresh.
It goes without saying that these recordings occupy a special place, as they lately agree with the renewed feeling of pleasure which he derives from the performance.
âNow I probably like to act more than anything else, to go on stage and go back to my childhood. It’s like being that 14-year-old, playing with your friends in the garage, âhe says.
Cochrane’s even noticed the same youthful enthusiasm coming from a contemporary, Bruce Springsteen – opening for The Boss in August 2012 in Magnetic Hill, New Brunswick. “I see he’s been looking at this 15-year-old boy all the time when he’s going on stage, and just that pure joy.”
What would happen after the Born in the USA singer finished his set would be breathtaking.
âThen he asked me on stage and said, ‘You wanna get up and do Twist and Shout with me? I said ‘no, of course not! Yes of course!'”
âI was so inspired and so caught up in the moment. I think I almost broke his arm because I grabbed him by the arm and pushed him up in the air at the end of the song. He has that grimace on his face. It was like a referee holding the boxer’s arm up in the air. I like the guy.
He hopes that as the summer of 2021 approaches, “life will be at least semi-normal” and that he will be back on the road, recapturing that captivating stage energy, once again, for fans. new and old. Hope all too.