Media


May 28, 2020
Ridgefield Press

Bruce Cockburn discusses new music and his inspirations
by Mike Horyczun

2019-daniel-keebler

Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn released his first album 50 years ago, in April 1970. Thirty-four albums after the self-titled “Bruce Cockburn” disc, the celebrated musician has released an all-instrumental recording this year, “Crowing Ignites,” on the label he’s been with from the start, True North. Cockburn’s accolades include 13 Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys), and induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s received eight honorary doctorates, and his memoirs “Rumours of Glory” was published in 2014. Cockburn’s interest in activist issues and causes has taken him around the world, and he’s been involved in such organizations as Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and Friends of the Earth. His performance at the Fairfield Theater Company was originally planned for May, but was rescheduled for Nov. 4, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Cockburn recently took time out to talk about his musical career.

Mike Horyczun: When you’re on tour, how do you choose what songs to perform from this enormous body of work you’ve accumulated over five decades? Do you ever go back and listen to your early material?

Bruce Cockburn: Nobody wants to hear a show of nothing but new songs. There are the obvious ones that people have become attached to, but around that, I’ll go back and listen to the old material. Every now and then, I’ll stumble across a song that I’d forgotten about that might be worth learning and doing.

MH: How do you know when it’s time for a new album? Your latest, for example, is an all-instrumental recording.

BC: I generally just wait until I have enough material. The instrumental albums are a little different. The ideas for the pieces come out of jamming, basically, stumbling on something that feels like it could be developed into a bigger entity.

MH: Who are some of the guitar players that you admire?

BC: For a while I thought I wanted to be a jazz player, but I never really developed the chops or the ability to play two-five chords. But the influence remained and was strong. So from that quarter, there was Wes Montgomery and Gabor Zsabo, they’d be the two biggest ones, but legions of others, too. From the folk side of things, the biggest single influence was probably Mississippi John Hurt, and Mance Lipscomb, those kinds of country folk blues people. I listened to Ralph Towner. Pat Metheny is really good. I mean, there’s so many beautiful players.

MH: Who were some of the songwriters who influenced you?

BC: I was more influenced by writers, by printed word writers, than by songwriters. But certainly in the beginning, Bob Dylan was a huge influence. Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, lyricists who selected things that made songwriting come alive instead of just ‘Moon in June’ rhymes over standard tune changes. When I heard Dylan and that kind of generation of songwriter, I thought, yeah, maybe I want to do that too.

MH: How important is it for you to write about things that you’ve experienced?

BC: The writing process is always triggered by accident. I want to write about what’s around me, because that’s what I can think of to write about. I’m not good at coming up with teen love songs. Hopefully, the intention is to go around with a mental state that’s receptive to noticing what’s around, visual images, little bits of this and that, a snippet of conversation or whatever. Sometimes it’s really just noticing what’s around, and I try to put that in my songs.

MH: You live in San Francisco now, but when you’re in Canada, are you recognized for your music?

BC: It never was like tabloid material. But it was more of an issue when there were lots of videos out in the ’80s and through into the ’90s, big time. But even then, it wasn’t that bad. Once I was riding my bike down the street in Toronto, and somebody yelled out from the sidewalk, ‘I hate your music.’ Which I thought was kind of funny.

MH: Are there any goals you want to achieve at this point in your career?

BC: I’d like to survive long enough to make another album, which is about the only goal I’ve ever had. I’m not a goal person. I want to be good at what I do. That’s a goal. But it’s ephemeral. There’s no set of goalposts for that. It’s an everyday thing, right? You just try to not screw it up.


May 27, 2020
Roots Music Canada

A Salute to Bruce Cockburn on His 75th birthday
by Paul Corby


Today, as Bruce Cockburn reaches his 75th year, we can rejoice that he is still a stealer of fire, dancing his sunwheel dance in the falling dark of the dragon’s jaws. Roots Music Canada joins the rest of the world in celebrating his birthday, his music, his Junos, his doctorates, his investiture into the Order of Canada, his inductions into numerous musical Halls of Fame, his redemptive presence as a cosmic troubadour in Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren & The Shack by William P. Young, his performances on Saturday Night Live and at Pete Seeger’s birthday party, and his perilous witness, from the front lines of fear, at scenes of political violence around the globe.

Examine his talents. How much faceting can one diamond sustain? Lyrical master of specifically Canadian imagery, startlingly complex guitar explorer, bold mystic with Christian / Taoist / Buddhist / Sufi sleeves proudly spread, one of the original bilingual folk singers (ses textes ont été imprimés en français depuis l’époque de Trudeau senior), international peace-seeker, singer of both delicacy and urgency, shy public figure, punky Gemini,  outspoken political critic and beacon, muscular ecologist, memoirist (Rumours Of Glory, 2014), gentleman feminist, and member of the all-star Canadian chorus, the Northern Lights, that rose up to roar out the crucial ”Let’s show ‘em Canada still cares!” line on the African famine relief anthem “Tears Are Not Enough.”

Bruce is waiting out this current deterioration of normal at home in San Francisco, “quite a lot busier than what used to be normal,” he reported, “(fathering), listening and reading: Fernando Pessoa’s novel The Book of Disquiet, William Gibson’s Agency, and poetry by Charles Bukowski, Joan Logghe and Wislawa Szymborska. For music, it’s pretty random. Recent listens include YouTube videos of David Russell’s stunning guitar playing as well as various performances by Voces8, Charles Mingus’ Tijuana Moods (an old favorite), the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht.”

In honour of this birthday, one of Bruce’s first musical friends who celebrated his own 75th in March, Sneezy Waters, recalled the beginning stages of his journey, saying “When I failed Grade 12 (from too much folly) my parents thought it would be a good idea to switch schools and buckle down. So at Nepean H.S. I ran into Bruce. He told me he played guitar, so I brought my Martin to school one day, and after school we went over to his house to jam. He brought out his guitar, which was a big Gibson hollow-body, just like Wes Montgomery played, and a lovely Ampeg jazz amp. He played so well but wasn’t the least [bit] boastful. He also loved Grant Green’s playing. We really had a good time and arranged many more jams.

“We eventually formed a band called The Children, along with my friends Nev Wells, Sandy Crawley and Chris Anderson. He played some keyboards for us and also played a 12-string, along with a Telecaster.

He was writing back then and encouraging the rest of us to write songs.

The rest, for both of us, is history.”

Fellow musician Ian Tamblyn, who worked with him on 2008’s Dancing Alone: The Songs of William Hawkins, remarked on Bruce’s “composure and openness” in the studio. He also had the honour, in 2014, of presenting Bruce with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Carlton University for his work in environmental, First Nations and social causes. In his presentation, Ian noted that “Bruce has had three overriding themes in his work: his great spiritual search, his dedicated call for social justice in the world, and his articulation of the collision of human relationships in these dangerous times.” He continued, “Bruce Cockburn has been both bold and courageous, whether it be in his work with Lloyd Axworthy to end the use of land mines, his environmental work with David Suzuki and Greenpeace, his work on behalf of the Unitarian Service, or his demands for democratic and environmental rights in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mozambique or Mali.”

His outstanding personal qualities have kept him rooted in long-lasting friendships. Publicist Jane Harbury, who has been buddies with him since their days together at Toronto’s fabled Riverboat, respects him for being always “funny, smart and gracious.” She elaborated: “He doesn’t change on a personal level. He has an ability to make people want to love him. And he remembers everything.” She recalled him best, “coming in the back door of the club in a fluffy old hat with his big dog Aroo.”

Album designer Michael Wrycraft, who has designed the last nine of Bruce’s album covers, revealed that, “although he comes across as serious, Bruce is actually very light-hearted. Once you get past his professional presence, you find out he has a great laugh.” Their creative collaboration in bringing the unique visuals that accompany every new record together is consistently stress-free (with the exception of the altered American cover of You’ve Never Seen Everything, “which the record company thought looked like speed metal, or the devil.”). Of Bruce’s part in the process, Michael confided, “He plants a germ, a tiny seed of an idea, usually drawn from the album title; and after extensive chat, I come back with the work, and he says “That’s great!” Bruce’s loyalty to Michael’s vision has now stretched over 21 years. Manager Bernie Finkelstein has guided his career for over 50 years now, based upon a handshake.

Michael Reinhart is a composer/singer-songwriter and visual artist who has released five albums, the most recent being eCHO. He lives and works in both Montréal, QC and Edmonton, AB. Recently he’s been creating several new instrumental guitar pieces. He has been a Cockburn fan since his teens. “I loved that on those seminal albums, with so many instrumentals featured, above all I could hear the rich wood tone of the guitar, moreso than the metal of the strings, an analogue sound I still aspire to myself. I’ve never been much interested in doing cover versions, but among the few that I have attempted, ‘Foxglove’ was one that, despite the initial frustrations and physical pain involved,  was invaluable to my finding my own way, my own style, my own sound.”

On behalf of all of his friends and fans at Roots Music Canada, we would like to say “Steady on Mr. C., and well done.”


May 4, 2020

Bruce Cockburn Announces
True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Set
Limited Edition Vinyl Set Arrives September 25th, 2020

PRE-ORDER HERE


TORONTO, ON, May 4, 2020 -- To be active and relevant in music for 50 years is a significant achievement for any individual recording artist. The same can be said for any independent record label. To achieve this milestone together as an artist and label team without interruption, has to be one of the most extraordinarily rare events in music.

To celebrate this milestone, Bruce Cockburn and True North Records have produced True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Set, a Limited Edition vinyl box set containing three of Bruce’s most significant recordings. The first album where it all started, the self-titled debut Bruce Cockburn along with two albums that have never before been released on vinyl; The Charity of Night and Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu. Each album has been re-mastered by Bruce’s long-time producer Colin Linden, and is pressed on coloured vinyl. The five-180 gram discs are contained in original artwork sleeves adapted from the original designs by the acclaimed graphic designer Michael Wrycraft, and housed in an individually numbered box signed personally by the artist. There will be only a limited initial pressing. 

Bruce Cockburn was the first artist signed to True North Records, the tenacious independent label founded by Bruce’s manager Bernie Finkelstein and first operated from a Yorkville Avenue phone booth. Bruce’s debut self titled album was the label’s first album release on April 7, 1970, produced by Eugene Martynec, with the catalog number TN1. Fifty years on, Bruce Cockburn still records for True North Records, which released his 34th album “Crowing Ignites” in late 2019. 

Bruce says, “In 1969, when I was feeling the need to record an album of the songs I’d been writing, I had no concept of what that might lead to. In some organic way it felt like it was time. The future wasn’t really an issue. It still isn’t. For each of us, there’s a future or there isn’t.

“But looking back over the arc of 50 years of recording, performing, and travel, not to mention relationships and personal challenges,” he continued, “I can only shake my head and mutter a word of thanks for all of it.”

Cockburn concluded: “Even if I’d been a planner by nature, I doubt I could have predicted how things have gone… and they’re still going!”

Cockburn has also scheduled fall tour dates celebrating the 50th Anniversary   Additional updates and ticket information can be found through the official Bruce Cockburn website and the complete list of tour dates is below.

Although Mr. Finkelstein sold True North Records to entrepreneurs Geoff Kulawick, Harvey Glatt and Michael Pilon in 2007, True North continues to be a vital independent label signing and releasing records by Bruce alongside many of Canada’s leading singer-songwriters and musicians including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Murray McLauchlan, Matt Andersen, Colin James, Sass Jordan, Sue Foley, Natalie MacMaster and Jimmy Rankin.

Bruce Cockburn: True North - A 50th Anniversary Box Set

TND750 - Bruce Cockburn (LP) | A Charity of Night (2LP) | Breakfast In New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu (2LP) - 5 x 180 Gram Colored Vinyl Discs original artwork sleeves.


May 1, 2020
Toronro Globe & Mail

Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn on the challenge of writing in reaction to a crisis
by Brad Wheeler

In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour.

At home with his family in San Francisco, the rock troubadour and guitarist Bruce Cockburn isn’t in songwriter mode. Among other things, he’s helping his young daughter with tele-schooling. “She puts on her little headset and gets on the computer,” Cockburn told The Globe and Mail recently. “But somebody has to get her to the computer on time and make sure everything is working right.”

With his 50th-anniversary tour postponed because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we asked the Ottawa-born writer of Lovers in a Dangerous Time about the challenge of writing in reaction to a crisis.

In his words

I think back to 9/11. Initially I felt like nothing I could say would contribute anything useful. Eventually Put It in Your Heart came out of me and became a song. But it took a long time for me to have a perspective that would produce something like that.

For me now, the concerns are immediate. I don’t want my family to get sick, and I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to put that on my family. I’m old enough that if my time is up, my time is here. I’m not really worried about that, more than I would be anyway. But I worry about it for my family.

I’ve never been the kind of writer who sits down and writes everyday. Rather, I sit around and wait for a long time, then I get a bunch of ideas. I’m jotting down things in my notebook, but just bits and pieces. Whether that’s this current situation affecting me or it’s just my natural rhythm, I’m not sure.

There is a stream of things being put out there by other artists. Are any of them saying anything? I don’t know. For me, perspective is important. So, I don’t feel either an urge or an ability to say anything about the pandemic right now. It’s too ephemeral. You can’t grab it.

The way I write is asking myself, “How do I fit into this and, by extension, or perhaps projection, how do we, as spiritual human beings, fit into it?” But it’s too early in it to have any sense of that.

In parts of my life, I’ve certainly questioned why was I singing things to people who don’t want to hear it. I don’t do what I do because I have any premium on the truth. I do it because I want to do it. But why should anybody care about it? That’s a different thing. It’s disconcerting to go there.

Maybe I felt that doubt earlier in my career. But, then again, at the very beginning, you don’t know any better as an artist. You kind of think, “Well, this is important. I’ve got to put it out there.”

I absorbed from poets, painters and jazz musicians in the 1960s. I picked up the attitude that “I’m going to get up there and play my songs and I don’t care if anybody likes it or not. Because they won’t. Or four or five of them will get it and the rest of them won’t.”

It’s a defensive position you adopt that allows you to do your thing. There’s heartbreak around every corner, but you develop whatever calluses you need to get you through it. When you’re in that position you embrace that “I don’t care” attitude.

In my own case, I wondered if people would pay attention. Except I knew what I was doing was good. So, you coast on that, I guess.


April 21, 2020
McMichael Canadian Art Collection


Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Group of Seven

Join us on May 7 at 2 pm for a virtual presentation celebrating the centenary of the Group’s founding with Ian Dejardin, Executive Director of the McMichael and curator of the exhibition “A Like Vision”: The Group of Seven at 100.

Followed by a special musical performance by Bruce Cockburn.

Please register below through Zoom and you will be sent a link to the event on Zoom in advance. You do not need any special equipment to participate. Simply click the link that is provided in your confirmation email from your computer, tablet or smartphone to access the presentation on the day of the event. The presentation is password protected so you will also need to enter the password found in the confirmation email. Register here.

In an email from Bernie Finkelstein regarding this event he said:

Bruce will be doing a song which we will keep as a surprise, but it's not one that you hear him do too often.

He also will be providing the gallery with an essay on Tom Thompson, who actually is not a member of the Group of Seven but was their biggest influence. This essay will be part of a book the gallery is preparing, but at this time I don't know when it will be released. The book will have several essays from famous Canadians who are familiar with the Group of Seven and Tom Thompson. You might recall that Bruce played and wrote the Mount Lefroy Waltz for a display of guitars built by luthiers (his was built by Linda Manzer) inspired by the Group.


April 18, 2020
JerryJazzMusician

Bruce Cockburn: Life during isolation and social distancing

In recent days, I have posed this question via email to a handful of creative artists and citizens of note: 

“During this time of social  and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?” (If you wish, please feel free to also share your thoughts on the effects this isolation is having on your creativity or on your world).

This edition features the email response of recording artist Bruce Cockburn.

You might think, in this time of isolation, that there would be an opportunity for catching up on all sorts of things: household tasks that we’ve been putting off, books waiting to be read, etc, but for me the reality is that with my wife teleworking and my 8-year-old “teleschooling” and having ZOOM play dates, and all of us together 24/7, I’m quite a lot busier than what used to be normal. That said, I have been listening and reading: Fernando Pessoa’s novel The Book of Disquiet, William Gibson’s Agency, poetry by Charles Bukowski, Joan Logghe and Wislawa Szymborska. For music, it’s pretty random. Recent listens include YouTube videos of David Russell’s stunning guitar playing as well as various performances by Voces8, Charles Mingus’ Tijuana Moods (an old favorite), the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht..I haven’t watched any TV. That’s something I mostly do in hotel rooms. My daughter and I watched the second Smurfs movie the other day, which I love!

We are lucky in that my wife is still working. I feel for the baristas and waiters and cab drivers and everyone who depends on being able to move around and congregate for work. There’s an undercurrent of worry we all feel. My daughter feels some stress that gives her trouble getting to sleep sometimes. I feel somewhat fatalistic about COVID-19 with respect to myself.

I suppose each of us has to find whatever ways we can to put our “house arrest” to good use, even if it’s only resting, which a lot of us probably need. After a month, it still feels like a novelty. The challenge of coming up with creative ideas of how to pass the time, maintain friendships and acquire toilet paper is still kind of entertaining in itself. I’m not sure that will remain true if we have to live like this for too long.


April 7, 2020
Toronto Globe & Mail

Moment In Time
by Brad Wheeler

bruce-circa 1970

The turn of the sixties into the seventies was a time of thoughtfulness and patchouli-scented spirituality, reflected by charting hits that included, in the spring of 1970, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and the Beatles’ Let it Be. “Speaking words of wisdom,” then, was something of a genre unto itself. It was in this era that on April 7, 1970, the young Ottawan Bruce Cockburn released a spare, acoustic and introspective self-titled debut album that was at turns gentle and jaunty, marked by flowery lyricism and the lucid, seeking outlook of a self-aware artist on the cusp of something yet unclear. “It’s my turn, but where’s the guide?” the nascent troubadour wondered on Man of a Thousand Faces. The political activism of 1984′s If I Had a Rocket Launcher would come later, as would 13 Juno Awards. In 1970, though, with songs such as Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon, the gifted musician sought connections behind the things he observed. As for what lay ahead, he was characteristically clear-eyed, singing “Jesus, don’t let tomorrow take my love away.” Cockburn would win that fight.


March 21, 2020
Via email from Bruce

Bruce out for a walk in San Francisco at Tank Hill Park on March 20, 2020.

IMG 0421-200dpi












February 3, 2020
True North Press Release

Bruce Cockburn Announces 50th Anniversary Shows.

BC 50th admat colour WEB-crop

Is it really fifty years ago that Bruce Cockburn’s first album came out?     

Indeed, it is. His eponymous titled album which included “Going To The Country” and “Musical Friends” was released on April 7, 1970.  Coincidently it was also the first album released by True North records. TN 1 was its catalogue number.     

Although mostly recorded in late 1969 the first album hit the stores and airwaves in 1970 and started the long, long journey that continues to this day.

Here’s what Bruce has to say:

“In 1969, when I was feeling the need to record an album of the songs I’d been writing, I had no concept of what that might lead to. Not unusual for a young person, I guess. In some organic way it felt like it was time. The future wasn’t really an issue. It still isn’t. For each of us, there’s a future or there isn’t. But looking back over the arc of fifty years of recording, performing, and travel, not to mention relationships and personal challenges, I can only shake my head and mutter a word of thanks for all of it. Even if I’d been a planner by nature, I doubt I could have predicted how things have gone. And they’re still going!”

Bruce has now released 34 albums and played thousands of concerts around the world, something that he continues to do to this day.

























© Daniel Keebler 1993-2020