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BRUCE COCKBURN > Articles by: adminsuper

GRATEFUL WEB INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE COCKBURN

ARTICLE CONTRIBUTED BY SAM A. MARSHALL | PUBLISHED ON TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2024

Bruce Cockburn - photo Shannon Stevens

In May 2023, Bruce Cockburn – the highly prolific Canadian singer-songwriter active as a performing and recording artist since the 1960s – released his 38th studio album, O Sun O Moon. Then, not long after that, he began an extensive tour in support of the album that – extending to nearly 50 dates so far – has continued into the present year.

Between late April and early July this year, Cockburn will be logging nearly 25 new shows of his soul-stirring live performances in the U.S. and Canada. And since those dates only cover a clutch of cities in the Southwest U.S. and in Ontario, it’s reassuring for those of us most mindful of the passage of time that the now-78-year-old artist is charting out another run of North American shows for late fall.

Practically on the eve of this next run of dates that begins on April 24, in San Luis Obispo, CA, Grateful Web was most fortunate to have a personal conversation with Dr. Cockburn about the record and upcoming tour. (This took place on April 9, coincidentally the day after the great 2024 North American total eclipse.) This highly-awarded songwriter and performer – and, in fact, a holder of three honorary doctoral degrees in music – touched upon some his personal creative processes, his way of looking at the world and even a bit of the mysteries of existence – all ingredients in the making of O Sun O Moon.

When I attended one of Cockburn’s shows last year in Cincinnati, Ohio, still early on the 2023 tour, O Sun O Moon was certainly the main entree of songs on the menu that night. Yet, there was a good number of recognizable, fan-favorite songs and a few surprises on offer. Over the year since the album’s release and beginning of the tour, faithful fans of the master musical storyteller and guitarist have had a chance to become more deeply familiar with the new album. And – to my ears and mind at least – it may very well become as cherished as any of his most classic collections.

Although I was introduced to Cockburn’s music in the later 1970s, not long after his first few albums had been released, I’ve admittedly drifted in and out through different stages of his career. While I was off following other genres and more rock-oriented artists, I’d keep my ear cocked for what ‘progressive’ folk artists such as he and British folk-rock pioneer Richard Thompson would be up to next, even if l didn’t always listen to every album in depth. Initially more of an solo acoustic folk songwriter, he pursued a more obvious electric route with backing bands in the ‘80s, and in the MTV era even reached beyond his core audience with videos for such electrified rock activism songs as “Call It Democracy” and “If a Tree Falls”. Of course, some of that period drew me back. Yet, I’ve surely missed a good many things, so even now I feel as if I’m still catching up with Cockburn.

With my incomplete knowledge of Cockburn’s entire body of work, I’ve tended to gravitate toward his more rock-oriented releases, and a personal favorite is his 2002, You’ve Never Seen Everything. This album deftly balances ballads against some modern-rock grooves such as the rap-spiel opener “Tried and Tested”. And while there are moments of sweetness and light in the folk-style songs, there are more experimental moments, too, like the album’s title track – a chilling, nine-minute, film-noir-soundscape with spoken-word narration that takes the listener on a journey through a dark night of the soul. I also tend to listen more for his instrumentals and expressive, jazz-flavored guitar performances than for his lyrical songs, so I’ve also been highly impressed with his all-instrumental albums, 2005’s Speechless and 2019’s Crowing Ignites, which are both journeys of their own.

Recorded in Nashville with Cockburn’s go-to producer Colin Linden, O Sun O Moon seemingly reshuffles the deck on listener expectations – and mine. It’s an album of sublimely crafted acoustic songs, rich in musical textures, air, and light that never once leave one wishing for more electrical current. Through alternating modes of quandary, gravity, celebration, sardonic humor and emotional resolve, his poetic and minimalist lyrics explore questions of life and mortality, love and forgiveness, and our place in the world.

So, yes, personal themes abound on the album, such as making the best of the time one has left in life (“On a Roll”), the spirituality in everyday life (“Into the Now”) and looking ahead to the next adventure (“When You Arrive” – a joyous New Orleans’ waltz that not only serves as the album’s grand finale but is also a rousing live sing-along.)

In any case, the longtime social and political activist also hasn’t shied away from contemporary issues but allows them a space of their own on the album. One such song is the percolating, roots-y, climate-change tune, “To Keep the World We Know”, which he co-wrote with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark. And in the probing song about coming to terms with our fellow man and woman titled “Orders”, the perennial humanitarian seemingly answers the biggest question of all – “Why are we here?” – with unflinching directness.

Front and center, of course, is Cockburn’s warm and knowing but not-always-sweet voice, swathed in musical textures that range from soothing and inspirational to ones with more spit and grit. In fact, you might think that his song “King of Bolero” is a fair impression of Tom Waits. His guitar playing is also exemplary, although it never draws undue attention to itself. And both his vocals and instrumentation are kept good company with a fine ensemble of guest vocalists and musicians. Among these are Gary Craig, Sarah Jarosz, Jenny Scheinman, Buddy Miller, Susan Aglukark, Shawn Colvin and Jim Hoke.

O Sun O Moon is a satisfying emotional experience, from start to finish, and if you’re a longtime fan of this veteran songwriter, then you have very likely already moved it upward – if not all the way to the top – on your personal list of favorite Cockburn albums. If you happen to be still largely uninitiated to his musical universe, then this album – with its Zen-like sense of presence, sage wisdom and timelessness – is an excellent place to start your journey.

“One more time,” Cockburn urges his backing singers onward with a glimmer in his voice on the final, life-affirming refrain of “When You Arrive.” And when he plays it live, the whole audience joins in, shedding even more light into all the dark corners. Now isn’t that what friends are for?

GW: Glad you could make time to talk to us, Bruce. Our phone call seems very timely, since your recent album is called O Sun O Moon, and yesterday we had the total eclipse in the eastern U.S. A nice coincidence! I’m guessing that maybe if you’re near the East Coast right now, you were able to see the eclipse. If you did, I’m curious what your personal reaction to the that was.

Cockburn: Yes, in fact, I’m in Ontario at the moment. It was pretty amazing, actually.

GW: We enjoyed it in our area, too, and we could travel to where totality was without too much effort. Coincidentally, you often deal with imagery of stars and the cosmos in your lyrics, so one of the things I wanted to ask you about is the struggle between darkness and light in your songs. The album title and lyrics of O Sun O Moon seems to allude to that, but then you have a song like “On a Roll”, which seems to imply that maybe the light is winning this time. Would you say that’s true, or is it still always shifting for you?

Cockburn: That’s an interesting question. I haven’t exactly thought about things from that angle. My songs come from a pretty personal place, so, in my mind, they don’t automatically equate with larger philosophical observations. But, to phrase that question another way: “Do I feel myself to be an optimist or a pessimist?” In those terms, then I do tend to go back and forth.

In certain areas, in terms of individual spirituality, I’d say I’m an optimist. But in regard to the future of the planet, I’m more inclined to pessimism. The pessimism isn’t [giving in] and saying, “Ahh, what the hell! It’s all going down. . . .” It’s because I have grandchildren and also a young child, and I worry about the future for them.

The pessimism comes in where I don’t see as much being done to offset the threats that we’re faced with. Spiritually speaking, I do think there’s a kind of contest between dark and light, and I think that “On a Roll” is a celebration of the fact I feel like – at least while I was writing that song – that light will triumph. Also, that when I cross that boundary to whatever comes next, I’m gonna find myself in a good place. That’s what the hope really is.

GW: That’s good. An interesting thing about the new album is your sense of resolve in the lyrics. Thinking back to your [2011] album, Small Source of Comfort, I sensed that you were in a period of doubt and transition as a songwriter. After that you did one more lyrical album, Bone on Bone, and then next was the all-instrumental album, Crowing Ignites. So did the instrumental album serve as a kind of ‘palate cleanser’ for you, to give you a break from writing lyrics?

Cockburn: I suppose it could have had some of that effect. I had wanted to do a Speechless II, and the original Speechless was a compilation of previously recorded instrumental pieces from my various albums. So my intention was to write a few new instrumentals to go with the same concept, because I had recorded a lot of other instrumentals since the first Speechless came out. And we might still do that someday. But what happened is that once I started writing the pieces, they kept coming and I ended up with a whole album of new stuff that became Crowing Ignites.

So, yes, it was cleansing, and, perhaps, I also didn’t have so many pressing lyrical ideas at the time. It was fun to make an instrumental album and to think only in those terms. When it comes to writing lyrics, I can’t really force the issue very well. I’ve done it occasionally, and I haven’t liked the results very much. But with instrumental music, I can just pick up my guitar, start fooling around and look for things more actively than I can with lyrics. So it was fun to work on Crowing from that perspective.

GW: I do think there’s often a quality in your albums of forward motion, kind of a restless search. In a certain sense, some might consider that ‘progressive’. One of the things I get from O Sun is more of a contented feeling, maybe even a nostalgic flavor. Obviously, you reference your own sound. But it also seems as if you might be giving some stylistic nods to some of your formative influences, such as the Gypsy Jazz of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. With the accordion, vibes and violin, there are also hints of Astor Piazzolla and New Orleans blues and jazz. Would you say that this new album came to you more freely than some of your recent projects?

Cockburn: I guess I’d have to think back to what some of the other albums were like to work on, but this one worked out very smoothly. As I said, when writing lyrics, I wait around for ideas and for the ‘flash’ and little ‘gooses’ of energy that get it going. And when that happens, I’m very grateful.

Several of the new songs were written in Maui when some of my family, friends and I were there [a couple of summers ago]. We rented a house, and it was so calm with tranquil, beautiful surroundings, and good company. That was, of course, before the tragic fires in Lahaina. The effect of that atmosphere was like it popped the cork and out came all of these songs!

For example, two songs that were like that were “King of Bolero” and “Into the Now”. Another song, “Colin Went Down to the Water”, came about a little differently but also in that setting. There was – as I like to think of it – a certain amount of grace that went into the writing of the songs, very little conscious tugging at things to get them to happen.

The oldest song of this set of songs was “When You Arrive”, and the idea for that had sat around in my notebook a long time. Then, one day, it suddenly clicked, and I thought, “Oh, yeah!” And that’s how it works. I’ve had that experience with songs, from time to time. It’s not like I went back to them every day and said, “What I can do with this?” They’re just there, and then something would invite me back to revisit them, and then there it was. Whether all of this was easier than other albums, I’m not sure. I’d have to think back hard about how those songs came to be.

Even the recording [of O Sun]went pretty well, and that can sometimes be more difficult than the songwriting. One thing on this session is that I suffer from Meniere’s Disease, and my vertigo acts up at times. I’d have attacks of vertigo every day during the recording, and yet it came out all relaxed and cool. And – heh-heh – you won’t hear that on the record. We got lucky with that. It could have been worse! But, it was a very pleasant atmosphere at the studio where we recorded in Nashville. I stayed in a house where you walk across the yard, and then you’re in the studio. It made it all very workable and fun.

The way we approached it was that Gary Craig –my drummer and percussionist – and I recorded everything together. So he acted like a kind of human beatbox or human click-tracking, and he kept me in the right place rhythmically. So we had vocals and guitar, and some form of drums or percussion, and then we added people to that. And the great thing about it for me, in particular, is that I didn’t hang people up [during the sessions] waiting for me to get my shit together. And everybody contributed the most beautiful things.

Jim Hoke, the horn [and clarinet] player, walked in, really prepared, and he did the most amazing and beautiful horn parts. He started laying stuff down, and it was really magical, even though I was feeling like garbage.

GW: I’m glad you mentioned that. I wanted to ask you specifically about the horn, vibes and violin arrangements and how much of that you pre-composed. From what you say, it definitely sounds like you gave the musicians a blank page.

Cockburn: Yes, I’ve always taken the approach that you hire somebody based on the fact that you like what they do. So I just see what they’re going to do. And if something isn’t working, then I’ll intervene and say, “OK, how about more of this, or less of that?” But, generally, with the calibre of people we’ve had coming in, that hasn’t been much of an issue.

Sarah Jarosz came in and sang and played great. And (violinist/vocalist and previous Cockburn collaborator) Jenny Scheinmann – we got lucky with her, because she just happened to be in Nashville at the same time. We had no budget to fly people around. We had to use people we had access to, and Jenny was someone I’ve worked with a lot in the past.

GW: Yes, I saw her warm up and perform with you in Michigan in 2011, so I know just how good she is.

Cockburn: There was a lot of magic like that around the making of the album, and a lot of really good feelings.

GW: Briefly, I’d like to have you touch upon your own musical training and education. For example, I know you studied jazz guitar at Berklee School of Music early in your career (mid-1960s). Just curious whether you always approach your songwriting from a theoretical perspective, or, for example, if you like to experiment and create new harmonies using altered tunings?

Cockburn: I do use some different tunings, although for a long time I didn’t. Way back near the beginning, I did use ‘open C’ and that’s the tuning I use on “Soul of a Man” (Note: This is a song that Cockburn has been performing on his recent tours). I learned that song in the ‘70s from the Blind Willie Johnson record. But I had observed the tuning from watching the Reverend Gary Davis. But other than that, I steered away from using open tunings back in the early days because I was hearing a whole lot of people who really couldn’t play guitar using those tunings to make the songs sound different from each other. And – heh – that didn’t work very well as that kind of function.

So I didn’t want to get stuck in that. For me later on, that ceased to be an issue and I just started exploring other tunings. That’s especially evident on Crowing Ignites. And there’s a song on this new album that’ s in what I call “E-GAD”. It’s DADGAD (six-string) tuning with the low string left in E instead tuned down to D. That gives you a nice combination of fourths and modal harmonies that you can move with, kind of like [jazz pianist] McCoy Tyner. Y’know, I’m not comparing what I do with what he did. . .

GW: Right. I understand, though, that you’re augmenting your harmony by changing the chord voicings. . .

Cockburn: Yeah, and it applies on some other songs, like the “King of the Bolero”, “When Push Comes to Shove” and maybe another one. Sometimes, all you have to do is change [the tuning of] one string, and then that suggests some new kind of riff that you hadn’t stumbled on before. And that can become the basis for a new song.

GW: As I’ve seen from setlist.fm – if that website is at all reliable, your sets over the last year have remained fairly fixed since the start, with a focus on O Sun O Moon and a pretty consistent selection of your other historical songs. I’m curious whether you’ve been writing any new songs in this period and trying any of them out live, and whether you feel like another album is possibly taking shape.

Cockburn: Not really. . .I’m not ruling out the possibility of doing another album. I’ve just been busy doing what I’m doing, and the energy that might have gone into songwriting – some of that’s gone into figuring out new ways of doing songs that my arthritic hands won’t do very well now.

Songs that I’m doing are the ones that people would want to hear. I had to come up with a new way of playing “All the Diamonds in the World”, for instance, and “Pacing the Cage” and a couple of other things that people are always asking for. For a long time, I’d have to say, “No, sorry, can’t do it because my hand won’t make those chord shapes. And that’s one area where using alt tunings can be very helpful.

So, I’ve been doing some of that [re-arranging] and that’s been taking up some of the songwriting energy. But it’s worked, and I’m able to play those songs now. Whether people approve of the change in my guitar [parts], I don’t know. There are a lot of guitar players who’ll come to the shows, and they’ll see that those aren’t the same shapes they’ve seen me do before. But I think the music works now, and hopefully they’ll think so too!

GW: As you were writing O Sun O Moon, life was obviously going on all around us. Global warming, for example, is obviously a big modern problem that you call out in the album, and you alluded to other things such as the Covid period of 2020-2021. So do you like to be more indirect now in your observations or do you still like to be blunt, as you were with “All Our Dark Tomorrows” or “Trickle Down” (Two overly political songs from You’ve Never Seen Everything.)?

Cockburn: I think it depends on the circumstances and what kinds of ideas come to me. I don’t have any specific ‘policies’ about that. It’s just what comes up. Susan Aglukark approached me about co-writing a song. And her idea about “To Keep the World We Know” was about global warming, and that song was much more intentional than I usually am. It’s because another person was involved, and it was her idea. Not the title, but she had some phrases and the concept. She wanted us to write a song about wildfires. I kind of took the ball and ran with it, and then we tossed its back and forth – over the phone, by email, etc. – and we came up with that song. I think it worked out well, but that’s quite specific and pointed.

In terms of what the song’s talking about, it doesn’t name people. But the problem [of global warming], of course, is bigger than just calling out people’s names. To single out certain decision makers for a song like that would be pointless, because they’re all screwing it up. Who’s your ‘bad guy’ today? The ‘bad guy’ is the money interests that are financing our politicians and financing their policies. That’s hinted at in the song, but that’s the enemy and it’s how we handled it.

GW: Touching on your repertoire in more detail, I wanted to ask you a bit more about your fans’ expectations. You mentioned before that fans ask for songs, but you’re not always able to play them now, even if you want to. Which songs from your history do you enjoy playing the most, and which ones, if any, would you like to ‘retire’?

Cockburn: Ohhhh, there’s – heh-heh – um, I don’t think I’d necessarily want to name specific songs. But, really, not because I don’t like the songs, but when I’m thinking of putting a show together, there’s always a short list of songs that have to be in the show. And sometimes I find that kind of confining. So it would be nice to just not do them. For a while, anyway, and have them come back later.

In a way, that happened with “All the Diamonds”, “Pacing the Cage” and “Lord of the Starfields”. They’re all songs that because of the [chord] fingering of the original versions, I could sort of play them, but they didn’t come out well. They were all sort of messy sounding. So I had to come up with new ways of playing, and that made them fresh again.

Having to not be able to play them for a couple of years, at least — it’s been about that long that I’ve had this problem. So people would call out especially for “Pacing the Cage” and I’d really [regret] not being able to do it. I’d say, “I’m really sorry, but I’m working on it.” So that was one that got a rest and then it feels to play it again – feels good. With “All the Diamonds”, I did go through a phase where I hated that song – not as a song, just having to play it. But that was years ago, and I got over it.

Some [older] songs are lighter and they don’t require quite as much from me to perform them. I don’t have to go quite as deep to perform them as I do with “Pacing the Cage”, y’know, to make them meaningful in performance. I’m happy I got a rest with “Pacing” because it’s not a happy song, and I have to go back to where I was emotionally when I wrote the song.

GW: You’re being kind of a ‘method actor’ then?

Cockburn: Yeah, I’m in the emotional state of when I wrote those songs in order to make them mean anything. It’s not by choice, either. It’s just what happens. It is how I feel I have to do it to make the songs real for people who are listening. Some of the songs are less pleasant to do that with than others. It was helpful to have that break.

GW: Looking ahead, could you share what your plans are for more tour dates beyond this next tour, which I know ends in early July?

Cockburn: My wife and family are probably going to want me to take some time and go somewhere, because she’s the one who needs the break. So I’m sure we’ll get away somewhere, and that might involve going back to Hawai’i. We’re looking at possibly adding some dates in the Southeastern U.S., in the November timeframe. Not confirmed yet, but that’s the general plan.

GW: Wrapping up then, Bruce, with one last philosophical question, coming back to the question of darkness and light. Obviously, with your faith, you have often expressed a fascination with the nature of existence, cosmic questions and starlight as a symbol. So time and again, you’ve shared your own spiritual outlook that seems certain but still allows room for the listener’s interpretation. Do you think we go to a good or a bad place when we die, or do you think we all become stars?

Cockburn: No, I don’t think we become stars. But I do think it’s very possible that we become [another form of] energy. And one point of view is that the energy we experience as living creatures dissipates and goes somewhere after our bodies die, right? Because, as we know, energy is not created or destroyed. The body goes to bits but the energy goes somewhere else. Whether it retains a consciousness or sense of its own identity is a different question altogether.

Some people think that it doesn’t, but I think it does. I do think there is darkness in the universe and you don’t have to look far to find it. I can buy into the Christian viewpoint, but I don’t think there are literally Pearly Gates or streets paved with gold. I think that’s a metaphor for something beautiful. And I kind of see it as involving a connection with the Divine and the ruling principle of the cosmos, which is a beautiful and loving presence.

I think when you look at a starry sky and you are moved emotionally by that, what’s moving you is your sense of connection with the bigness of everything. I think bodies get in the way of that, so if you get the body out of the way, then your relationship with that will become more direct, pure and accessible.

GW: Thanks, Bruce, for sharing some of your perspectives on what goes into your songwriting. Your imagery of stars is one of the things that stands out for me in your songs, and I appreciate hearing more of your thoughts about that.

Cockburn: There’s an incredible amount of beauty and energy out there. And who knows? We may all get swallowed up in a black hole!

Photo: Bruce Cockburn in focus, in 2023 | Photo: Shannon Stevens, Cincinnati OH | Composite: Sam A. Marshall

Bruce Cockburn Tour Dates, Spring-Summer 2024

Credit: https://www.gratefulweb.com/articles/grateful-web-interview-bruce-cockburn


Bruce Cockburn – Mountain Stage Radio Show Appearance Airdate on March 29

Mountain Stage airdate 29 March 2024

Legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn, whose palette of honors and awards includes 13 Canadian JUNO wins, two Hall of Fame inductions, countless honorary Doctorates, Officer of The Order of Canada and recent inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame spanning a 50+ year career, is set to appear on the National Public Radio performance show, “Mountain Stage,” beginning Friday, March 29th. Recorded on February 1st at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California, Cockburn was joined on stage that night by Colin Hay, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Chuck Prophet & the Make Out Quartet and The Lucky Valentines. “Mountain Stage” with host Kathy Mattea airs on over 260 NPR Stations nationwide. You can find the station listings here: On The Radio – Mountain Stage

Hour: 1
Chuck Prophet & The Make Out Quartet
Julie Adams
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
The Lucky Valentines

Hour: 2
Bruce Cockburn
Bob Thompson
Colin Hay
Kathy Mattea & Company

Bruce Cockburn & Maria Muldaur at Mountain Stage taping February 2024
Bruce Cockburn & Maria Muldaur at Mountain Stage taping February 2024

Bruce Cockburn’s most-recent album, O Sun O Moon, has generated world-wide acclaim and radio airplay. He’s enjoyed an illustrious career shaped by politics, spirituality, and musical diversity. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, rock, and worldbeat styles while earning high praise as a prolific, inspired songwriter and accomplished guitarist. He remains deeply respected for his activism and humanist song lyrics that thread throughout his career. On all his albums Cockburn has deftly captured the joy, pain, fear, and faith of human experience in song.

“Trademark poignant lyricism and impeccable guitar work.” 10/10 – L.A. Music Connection
“One of our most important artists of the past five, now almost six decades.” – Glide Magazine

Bruce Cockburn will continue touring in support of O Sun O Moon, check the tour dates below.

APR 24 SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA HAROLD MIOSSI THEATRE
APR 25 LAS VEGAS NV SMITH CENTRE FOR ARTS
APR 27 PRESCOTT AZ YAVAPAN ARTS CENTER
APR 28 TUCSON AZ RIALTO THEATRE
APR 30 ALBUQUERQUE NM KIMO THEATRE
MAY 2 AUSTIN TX 04 CENTER
MAY 3 HOUSTON TX HEIGHTS THEATRE
MAY 4 DALLAS TX KESSLER THEATRE
MAY 6 ROGERS AR VICTORY THEATRE
MAY 7 ST. LOUIS MO DELMAR HALL
MAY 8 OKLAHOMA CITY OK TOWER THEATRE
MAY 10 BOULDER CO BOULDER THEATRE
MAY 11 BASALT CO ARTS CAMPUS
MAY 12 SALT LAKE CITY UT STATE ROOM
MAY 24 LINDSAY ON FLATO ACADEMY THEATRE
MAY 25 TORONTO ON MASSEY HALL
MAY 26 GUELPH ON WAR MEMORIAL HALL
MAY 28 LONDON ON GRAND THEATRE
MAY 29 HUNTSVILLE ON ALGONQUIN THEATRE
MAY 30 KINGSTON ON GRAND THEATRE
MAY 31 OTTAWA ON NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE

Credit: Mark Pucci Media


James Toth Presents… ‘Imaginational Anthem Vol. XIII – Songs of Bruce Cockburn’

Updated: 29 March 2024 – Listening Party info added!

James Toth & Tompkins Square present

Imaginational Anthem vol. XIII - Songs of Bruce Cockburn

3 February 2024 – Bruce Cockburn is one of the most celebrated Canadian artists of all time. Unlike fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell or Neil Young, Cockburn has not been fully embraced by a younger generation of indie musicians and younger fans. Tompkins Square recruited well-respected indie artist James Toth, known for his work with Wooden Wand, to curate the 13th volume of its guitar series, Imaginational Anthem, out April 5, 2024. Although there is a focus on Bruce as a guitarist, there are also vocal tracks on the album. Indie stalwarts Bill Callahan, Matt Valentine, Luke Schneider and Jerry David DeCicca all step up and pay tribute to this musical hero, proving that Cockburn is not only influential, but also the keeper of a deep catalog of songs ripe for discovery by a younger generation.

PURCHASE HERE

Foxglove – Eli Winter
40 Years In The Wilderness – Jerry David DeCicca (featuring Bill Callahan)
Up On The Hillside – Matthew “Doc” Dunn
Fall – Powers Rolin Duo
Pacing The Cage – Lou Turner
Waiting For A Miracle – Wet Tuna
One Day I Walk – Armory Schafer
You Don’t Have To Play The Horses – Jody Nelson
All The Diamonds – Kyle Hamlett Duo (featuring Luke Schneider)

UPDATE: Join James Toth and Tompkins Square for a Record Release Party celebrating the release of ‘Imaginational Anthem vol. XIII – Songs of Bruce Cockburn’.

Listening Party
‘Imaginational Anthem vol. XIII : Songs of Bruce Cockburn’
May 27, 2024 at 10:00 AM PDT
Listening Party!

We will also be celebrating Bruce’s 79th Birthday !

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Bruce Cockburn: On a Roll – Women of Ill Repute

Feb 26, 2024 Women of Ill Repute

38 albums in, most of them gold or platinum, Bruce Cockburn is still Kicking at the Darkness. He’s a legendary singer-songwriter-activist who’s won 13 Juno awards, and is now heading out on tour with his latest, “O Sun, O Moon”, where he sings “In my soul, I’m on a roll”.

Now 78, Bruce is still trying to make the world a better place. We talk about the one time “the suits” got a say (Franklin the Turtle lyrics ), about others having hits with his songs (Lovers in a Dangerous Time), and the story behind his signature round glasses!

Bruce tells us he wondered if he was lacking the proper paternity gene, as he didn’t get to be around much for his first daughter. Now he has a second, and he’s become a US citizen to be with her and her mom in San Francisco. We were worried, him being a Canadian icon and all, but he’s kept his Canadian citizenship.

Interview date January 17, 2024

Women of Ill Repute – podcast



Fans Compare Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ to Franklin TV Show Theme

as Composer Says They’re ‘Similar’
Bruce Cockburn, who composed the ‘Franklin’ theme song, tells PEOPLE he “can’t claim to have had any part” in crafting Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em”

By Daniela Avila and Jack Irvin
28 February 2024

Social media users are drawing comparison between Beyoncé’s country hit “Texas Hold ‘Em” and the theme song for the Canadian cartoon show Franklin.

Since Queen Bey, 42, dropped her hit song on Feb. 11, fans have noticed some similarities between the two tracks. Meanwhile, Bruce Cockburn, composer of the animated series’ theme song, acknowledges they’re similar — but says “Texas Hold ‘Em” is entirely her own.

“Millennials trying to figure out why this sounds so familiar,” one TikTok user wrote over a video, where “Texas Hold ‘Em” played in the background and scenes from the cartoon show flashed by.

In another video, a TikTok user stared into the camera as one song played after the other. He captioned the post, “People keep telling me this Beyoncé song sounds similar to this.”

Another TikTok user broke down different parts of the songs — demonstrating which parts sound similar. “I don’t know if it’s actually a sample but I love the inspiration,” she said.
In light of the comparisons, Cockburn, who composed and performed the theme song for the cartoon series that ran from 1997-2004, is sharing his thoughts on the matter.

Official Statement from Bruce Cockburn

“I think Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ is a good record. Unfortunately I can’t claim to have had any part in writing it,” he tells PEOPLE in a statement. “The rhythmic feel is similar to my theme song for the Franklin TV series, but to my ears that’s where the similarity stops. ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ is her song, and I wish her success with it!”

Continue Reading on people.com


The Divine Sounds of Bruce Cockburn

By Steven Libowitz | November 21, 2023

Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has released some 35 albums over his half-century career, enjoying enough success stateside to sustain making music, but also falling far short of the household name recognition of fellow Canadians like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, or even Gordon Lightfoot.

Now at 78, Cockburn – whose catalog includes such transcendent love songs as “This is One of the Best Ones” and polemics like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” – has released a new album, O Sun O Moon, that shares how time takes its toll and slipping the mortal coil, but also invites us “out of the armor and into the now” and exclaims when “push comes to shove, it’s all about love.” He talked about all of it in a far-reaching conversation from his San Francisco home in advance of a solo show at the Lobero Theatre on November 18.

Q. Let’s just jump right in: How do you think your songwriting has changed and evolved over the years?

A. The perspective I have now is as an old guy, and you can probably trace how that’s changed. But not the point of view. Opinions might be different, but it’s more a deeper understanding because when I was young, I didn’t really understand anything… The songs have always just been a product of the time in my life that they appear – triggered by what I encounter that produces a strong emotional response, and what happens in my heart and mind.

Q. So is songwriting a way of processing, a method of making sense of the world and yourself, sorting that through in search of understanding, or more a way of communicating what’s internal?

A. I really only know after the fact… It’s not like I have something burning to get off my chest. But when I go for a long time without writing a song, I do feel choked up and confined. But it’s only with hindsight that I can see that a given song was processing something.

Q. You’ve been praised for the ability, more than most singer-songwriters, to balance between the outer and inner world, and the gritty details and the spiritual essence. Does that resonate? And if so, how do you navigate between them?

A. I’m aware of the degree to which being able to do that pleases me. It’s how I like to see things. I don’t think any good purpose is served by separating the day-to-day from the spiritual. I think they should mix, and they should influence each other, or at least the spiritual should influence the day-to-day. So it’s never very far from my line of thought, and therefore it shows up a lot in the songs no matter what I’m talking about.

Q. What about the permeability of the inner and outer worlds?

A. They’re not distinct at all. The phrase “my journey” sounds so grandiose, but I feel like it’s a thread that’s run through my life from the beginning of being self-aware that the membranes are permeable. The older I’ve gotten, there’s refinement of where I started. Early songs “Spring’s Song” and “Man of a Thousand Faces” I’m asking, “What is this? Where are we? What are we doing?” … I’ve always expressed my understanding of the need for a relationship with the divine. I feel like it’s clearer now, and the weight of it is more evident now.

Q. People tend to want to separate your catalog into political and personal songs. But you’ve shared that there’s no difference to you.

A. They’re all love songs. Even “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” – it’s a cry of pain, not hatred. I was expressing anger, but the last thing I wanted to do was go kill anybody. I wanted people to feel what it’s like to be in a situation like that, which is the point of art. Whether it’s something physical like a refugee camp under attack, or dealing with your own inner processes, you’re still singing your truth so that people might see things in new ways. Otherwise, why bother?

Q. How have you been able to maintain that equilibrium as our world has become even more polarized? You seem to still seek commonality, practice acceptance, and yearn for understanding. Someone else put it that you have a hope for a better world that you can’t shake.

A. It’s more necessary than ever to allow any worthwhile thoughts and feelings about that out to where they can be heard. It’s not in the dialogue that we see around us, which is so fragmented – everybody’s talking at the mirror. I think it’s really important now to offset that in any way available… When an idea for a song like “Us All” comes along I jump on it, because it means something bigger than some of the other ones, which all have their own significance and meaning and importance to me personally. I really want to get that out there and heard… Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have enough self-confidence to think of myself as influencing people, which is an utterly foolish goal anyway. Or maybe it’s a dodge, I don’t want to accept the responsibility. But what I see myself doing is sharing what I have experienced, felt, questioned, and understood with whoever’s willing to listen.

Q. Your new album has the thread of contemplating mortality, but you’ve been doing that for decades, going back at least to “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” which repeats the phrase “I’m thinking about eternity.”

A. It’s just part of the landscape… but you can’t help noticing that the horizon is getting closer all the time … My fear and my hope – the fear leads – is that when I get to that threshold and step over it, or I’m dragged over it, that I recognize the divine when it shows up. What that means in practical terms, I have no idea.

Credit: montecitojournal.net

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Nearing 80, Bruce Cockburn angles into mortality on ‘O Sun O Moon’

‘The songs are written from the view of an old guy,’ says the legendary Canadian musician. ‘I invited people to notice.’
By Lou Fancher
November 16, 2023

Bruce Cockburn 2023 photo Keebler

If there are albums that cause a person to think about time and tone beyond tempo and a voice’s timbre, Bruce Cockburn’s O Sun O Moon is one of them. Its 12 tracks open onto galaxies of contemplation, with the 78-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist now based in San Francisco musing on topics from aging to climate change. Common humanity prevails—track “Orders” reminds that “Our orders said to love them all.” Another song, “Us All,” has Cockburn crooning, “Open the vein, let kindness rain/O’er us all/O’er us all/O’er us all.”

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame musician, whose 22 gold and platinum records have sold nine million copies worldwide, continues his penchant on this 38th album for crafting complex lyrics in marvelously simple, guy-in-a-bar-style language. Their sophistication lies under the surface, with each line honed to sleek essentialism. Cockburn’s impeccable guitar playing is given at this point in his career, but cannot be overlooked—the production elucidates the acoustic elements of his voice and guitar—and on one track, dulcimer—along with those of a stellar group of guest artists.

O Sun O Moon might be Cockburn’s most personal album—even his most optimistic. Songs contemplate the end of life, and puzzle over human inability to care adequately for each other, ourselves, the planet. Lyrics sometimes float, delivering soft scents that seem carried by winds from long ago. Yet at other times, words explode with hard-truth vigor.

“Most optimistic? I’d say I have no idea,” says Cockburn in an interview with 48 Hills. The rest of his reply displays his typical, straight-off-the-cuff dry humor, followed by practical reflection.

“I’d have to go back and listen to them all. But no, I think Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaw was a pretty optimistic record. All the ’70s albums are like that, and it gets darker as time goes on. This new one is certainly more optimistic-sounding than You’ve Never Seen Everything. It’s always been back and forth for me. This album doesn’t have too much tragedy, other than ‘Colin Went Down To The Water.’ That’s specific to being in Maui, when a friend drowned in a scuba accident, but it’s not the kind of tragedy we see all around the world today. If not the most optimistic, this album is certainly one of the more optimistic.”

With two exceptions—the song about his friend and one about global warming, written with Inuk singer Susan Aglukark, Cockburn says O Sun O Moon‘s tracks aren’t inspired by real-life people or happenings. The claim is mildly disingenuous. “On a Roll,” the album’s first track acknowledges an aging body’s crumbling infrastructure, a clear reference to the substantial back pain that has Cockburn fighting to get and remain vertical each day. “But in my soul/I’m on a roll,” the song concludes. Cockburn insists the album is not so much disassociation from human loss and environmental devastation as it is attention to internal tunings that have long been present in his music.

“It was the greater focus I’ve had during the last few years: the spiritual side of things that previously has always been there. That’s always been a conspicuous part of the songs, but there’s a point in your life where you feel you gotta go deeper. These songs reflect that intention, and I have no way to measure how deep I’ve got [he laughs], but the songs reflect that process. ‘O Sun O Moon’ and ‘When the Spirit Walks In the Room’ are certainly about the spiritual side.”

After not writing songs for an extended period of time, Cockburn spent a summer month hanging out with friends and family in a house they had rented on Maui. “The songs came out of getting up early, before everybody else, and sitting on the porch and looking at scenery and playing the guitar. The imagery in those songs reflect that experience. It’s the essence behind the scenery that’s really what the songs are about. They’re not attempts to produce descriptive landscape.”

He refers to “Push Comes To Shove” as “a more straight-up love song,” and says “King of the Bolero” just “came out of nowhere. That song started with an idea that came in San Francsico and had sat around in his notebook for a while—and a memory about a comment someone once made about a man of considerable heft whose double chin wrapped “all the way round his neck.”

That song most surprised Cockburn, who adds, “but it’s like they’re all a surprise; ‘When the Spirit Walks In the Room’ came in hour. I see those things as such a gift. They feel like a surprise; the ones that have to be worked on and take more time, less so. ‘King of The Bolero’ is so utterly non-autobiographical. It was typical of me back in the day, and reminded me of songs on my first two albums, songs like ‘Happy Good Morning Blues.’ There’s a kind of lighthearted surrealism. How vivid it is surprises me. You don’t have to think about it too much. Once the picture is there, it’s just a matter of painting it in.”

The album’s one instrumental piece “Haiku” was written in Maui; its title came from the name of the little village he stayed in.

“It’s another in a long line of guitar instrumentals I’ve come up with over the years. They come from a different process because they’re not triggered by lyrics. They’re triggered by stumbling on something, usually on the guitar. Trying a new tuning and seeing what comes out, for example.” In the case of “Haiku,” he was “stumbling” on what became the first phrase of the piece; moving double stops over a drone bass Cockburn has used in lots of songs.

“It was, where can I take this? It just built up from that. I give myself some sort of jamming room in instrumental pieces like this that aren’t so folky. When I wrote it initially, it was, ‘What can I get the guitar to do here?’ Then when it was almost done, I thought it would be nice if it had a bossanova feel to it. If you’d heard the guitar by itself, your imagination wouldn’t necessarily have taken it in that direction, but that’s where it went to for me. I wouldn’t have minded a little more of bossanova, but what we got was good.”

Asked about messaging, Cockburn says, “I wasn’t thinking of messaging so much, as the stuff that’s on my mind isn’t exclusive to me. We’re all thinking about the same stuff, and the older we get, the more proximate that horizon becomes. Mortality’s never been off the radar for me, from the get-go. I’ve always been aware that life ends. If I think about the actual moment, it makes me nervous. But the concept does not. The older I get, the balance shifts; there’s some reconciliation between those two things. The songs are written from the view of an old guy. I invited people to notice.”

What does a song do? Willing to admit songwriting is indirectly a way of getting people to notice him and his perspectives, Cockburn makes it clear as to what his songwriting is not.

“It’s not about persuading people, it’s about observing, and wanting to share the observation. We’re seeing protests, counterprotests, horrible behavior all over the place. We don’t thrive in that atmosphere. It would nice if we could all just step back, so there is in the songs that underlying feeling. That said, it wasn’t like I was deliberately thinking I had to say something about spirit or manifestations of the divine. It’s just what came up.”

Cockburn’s about to embark on an extensive North American and world tour, which includes appearances December 1 and 2 at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. He says the most satisfying songs to play on the road are the new ones—“when I don’t screw them up.” “When You Arrive” is a gas, because he plays it as a sing-along.

“It cracks me up every night when I can hear a whole audience singing, ‘And the dead shall sing/To the living and the semi alive.’ People are bellowing it out and it’s really great,” he says.

The conversation ends with Cockburn saying he’s holding out not just to live for several more decades, but to reach his 500th birthday while still vertical—and writing songs. But before allowing him to return to his daily life (which includes picking his young daughter up from school), one question remains that the non-traditional Christian musician seems to have never been asked: about his favorite hymns. Also, would he most want to sing them during one’s final hours?

“One of them is partly a favorite by association: ‘A Closer Walk With Thee.’ You don’t hear it often these days, but I walked into church on a day before COVID when I wasn’t playing with the band. I came in and they were playing it. It was so cool to hear it as a swung song. It really worked. Another on is ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.’ It comes at the end, and actually runs all the way through, the Coen Brothers’ movie True Grit. They use Iris Dement’s version of it in the soundtrack. It’s beautiful, partly because of the harsh context in which it comes up in the film. It’s a favorite of mine. I’m trying to get my daughter to learn it.

“‘Peace in the Valley,’ I’ve loved that ever since I heard Elvis Presley do it in the ’50s. I actually do know how to play that one. If I get around to doing my imaginary album with the writing of other people’s stuff, that’ll be on it. It’s a Thomas A. Dorsey song and he wrote it for Mahalia Jackson. Her version, the one they recorded, sounds like they did it the way they felt they should. Maybe I’m biased because I’m so attached to the original version I heard, which was Elvis’. I’d have my daughter do that with me too, because she’d be more reliable.”

BRUCE COCKBURN plays December 1 and 2 at Freight & Salvage, Berkeley. More info and tickets here and here. Purchase O Sun O Moon here.

Credit: 48hills.org

Photo: Daniel Keebler


Stalwarts Of Music with Aditya Veera interview with Bruce Cockburn

Aditya Veera (from India) interviewed Bruce on July 15, 2023.

Stalwarts Of Music with Aditya Veera (@adix70) ft. Bruce Cockburn, the much-awaited interview is out now on:
Youtube – https://youtu.be/zFtD-caDnDI?si=gAp3j98flSWIGsJY

Premiered Nov 8, 2023
This episode of Stalwarts Of Music with Aditya Veera, Season 2, features the celebrated musician Bruce Cockburn as the guest. Bruce, a renowned Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist, has earned global recognition throughout his extensive career, marked by numerous awards, including 13 Juno Awards. He holds a place in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Aditya Veera delves into Bruce’s background, starting with his earliest musical influences shaped by exposure to classical, Broadway tunes, and pop music. However, the emergence of rock and roll in the late 1950s significantly impacted his musical preferences. In his teenage years, he explored classical music and self-studied jazz composition and musical theory.

The conversation navigates through various aspects of Bruce’s life, including a remarkable encounter with Ali Farka Touré in Timbuktu, Mali, during a documentary shoot about desertification. Bruce vividly recalls a memorable, albeit linguistically limited, collaboration with Touré during a performance.

Bruce’s environmental activism, reflected in his music, becomes the focal point. He discusses the intention behind songs like To Keep the World We Know, addressing climate change and wildfires. His insights emphasize the emotional core of his songwriting, aiming to raise awareness and possibly serve as rallying cries for environmental concerns.

The interview progresses to discussions about global efforts to address environmental issues, emphasizing the complexity of balancing economic prosperity with sustainability. Bruce recognizes the reluctance of individuals to attribute human causes to climate change and underlines the importance of imagination and will in decision-making.

They delve into the symbolic and emotional resonances within Bruce’s music, particularly the song Colin Went Down to the Water, inspired by a friend’s tragic drowning incident in Maui. Bruce’s creative process involves channeling emotional experiences into relatable songs.

The conversation shifts to his song Pacing the Cage, rooted in mortality and aging, aiming to celebrate life despite the inevitability of mortality. They discuss his guitar style, influenced by blues musicians, and how arthritis is prompting him to reconsider the guitar parts in his songs.

Spiritual and existential themes within Bruce’s music and his beliefs become the focus. He discusses his explorations of different spiritual paths, emphasizing the importance of personal relationships with the divine and transcending cultural limitations in spiritual expressions.

Aditya explores Bruce’s hopes for his music’s timeless quality and its potential to resonate with future generations, akin to the lasting impact of old blues musicians. Bruce addresses the sensitive political themes in his music and his belief in portraying his truths, even if they might be contentious.

The interview encompasses Bruce’s experiences in diverse cultural settings worldwide, touching briefly on his limited visits to India. He also reflects on overcoming physical challenges and the influence of his comfortable upbringing on his perspective.

The final segment introduces a Rapid Fire round, providing insights into Bruce’s preferences and thoughts, culminating with his essential qualities as a singer-songwriter and his humble wish to be remembered positively for his contributions to the art.

In essence, the interview presents Bruce Cockburn’s multifaceted journey, emphasizing his musical evolution, environmental activism, spiritual explorations, and his resilient, authentic approach to life and art. His desire to leave a positive impact through his music and contributions is central throughout the conversation.


The interview live stream will later be available on all major audio streaming platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeart Radio & many more). You can head out to the podcast section at www.adiveera.com to watch more interviews or click here – https://linktr.ee/adityaveerapodcast
Do subscribe to Aditya Veera’s YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo6o9P_k7HxkPDdb4gEUJkg
Leave a review on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts and spread the love 🙂

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Bruce on eTown – recorded August 30

eTown taping for this show was August 30, 2023 with it going live to the masses in early October.

Bruce Cockburn - Nick & Helen Forster - Abraham Alexander - Kelsey Freeman - photo Dave Dorset

Bruce on eTown 2023, Part 1

Bruce on eTown 2023, Part 2

Synopsis –

Part 1 (posted October 11)

Abraham Alexander
Knee Deep / Today / (Interview) / Stay (1:25-28:45)
Bruce Cockburn
Into The Now / On A Roll (43:46-54:33)

Part 2 (posted October 22)

Bruce Cockburn
Café Society / Orders (1:09-13:59)
(Interview) / To Keep The World We Know (15:14-35:39)
Abraham Alexander
Blood Under The Bridge / Tears Run Dry (37:51-48:50)
Bruce Cockburn
O Sun By Day O Moon By Night (49:09-55:11)

Both episodes conclude with shortened versions of the show’s finale, a smoking rendition of “Soul Of A Man.”
Counting the full-length finale, Bruce’s segments add up to about 57 minutes.
Enjoy! ~Steve Zarate

eTown On-Stage Interview – Bruce Cockburn

On A Roll

Cafe Society

Into the Now & talk

O Sun by Day Oh Moon by Night

eTown Finale with Bruce Cockburn & Abraham Alexander – “Soul of a Man”