If, as his signature hit suggests, life is a highway, Tom Cochrane’s road has led him many places before bringing him back home.
The famed singer-songwriter is getting set to play Massey Hall in support of his new album, fittingly named “Take it Home”. The album was released in February and, in Cochrane’s words, takes care of some unfinished business.
“The songs on there are stories that have been left untold in my music, both musically and thematically,” he said. “It’s a bit of a retrospective that way. It’s mostly (personal stories) and stories I’ve heard that I haven’t been able to tell yet for whatever reason.”
One song – “The Ones That I’ve Known” – harkens back to the rocker’s early career, when he was a struggling performer pondering a career change. While driving long distances for a tour, a serendipitous brush with a Canadian icon kept him on his current path.
“Back in the 80s, I was thinking of quitting the business,” he recalled. “There were a lot of long drives, and I was on one for a tour when the traffic stops outside of Thunder Bay and this kid runs by with one leg – it was Terry Fox.”
“I thought, ‘man, look at his courage. How tough is what I’m doing? Not very tough compared to what he was doing.’”
Other songs follow Cochrane’s career-long style of telling stories that revolve around everyday life, with the debut track, “Can’t Stay Here,” offering a glimpse into his own life as a travelling musician.
“Everything comes from a storytelling aspect, and that’s because of my folk background, playing in coffee houses,” he said.
Musically, Take it Home is vintage Tom Cochrane – straight-ahead rock with elements of various southern music styles peppered in – with the singer calling it “a sort of outlaw rock record, even though there are ballads mixed in.”
It marks the first album of new music Cochrane has released in nine years, and the rocker said it may well be one of his last.
“I think you have to have a reason to make a record – you have to have something you need to get out there,” he said. “It’s hard to tour without something new to offer. After this record, I may be done, or I may have one more acoustic record in me – something really pared down.”
His upcoming gig at Massey Hall will be a fitting stop on his tour – Cochrane loves the venue and has a history there.
“Massey Hall is the epitome for me,” he said. “It’s where I cut my teeth and where I saw some of the best shows of my life. You can really feel the ghosts when you go into that room.”
Playing such a venerable and beloved concert hall is a long way from where Cochrane got his start as a raw youngster playing coffee houses in Toronto. He recalled an early gig at the Riverboat coffee house, when he kept popping strings on his guitar because he was so unpolished.
“That’s where I learned to tell stories – I needed something to kill time while I fixed the strings,” he said.
Massey Hall is also close to his downtown home – he currently lives with his wife Kathy in a building in which he once rehearsed in his earlier days.
When it comes to his life, his career, and the musical legacy he has created, he clearly has – in the words of another of his hits – no regrets.
“It’s been a good journey and I’ve been really blessed to have the career I’ve had,” he said. “Life’s all about balance, and I’ve found a good balance.”
Cochrane will play Massey Hall on March 13. For information on the show or his new album Take it Home, visit www.tomcochrane.com