When Tom Cochrane released his last album, "No Stranger," in 2006, the Canadian singer-songwriter-legend wasn't convinced that he'd ever make another one.
"I think when you make a record, you have to be inspired to make it," Cochrane tells The Huffington Post Canada, and for years, he wasn't inspired. His charity work with World Vision Canada, and the occasional performance –– either on his own, or with his band Red Rider –– kept him busy and fulfilled.
But he started getting the urge a year or two ago. "It's like a bird flying south: you feel the instinct and it starts gnawing at you and you can't really put it aside. You've got to do it," he muses.
So Cochrane went to work, piecing together his thoughts on spirituality and his fondness for old-school American rock 'n' roll, writing new songs and revisiting a couple of old ones that he'd had kicking around for a while until he’d assembled and recorded a cohesive collection that he wanted to share with the world.
Originally, he thought he might call the record "Back In The Game," named after the record’s swaggering Texas-swing-meets-Yardbirds closing track. But the somewhat more modest and thoughtful "Take It Home" won in the end and drops on February 10.
"'Take It Home' has a number of connotations, not the least of which is it's what I’m always saying to [Red Rider guitarist] Kenny Greer on stage. But also to take it home from the point of view that a lot of this record explores some of my roots, and a lot of the roots are in southern music, whether it be New Orleans, or Memphis, rock and roll, the blues, a hybrid of those, and taking it home to Canada. Canadians have always had a real penchant for taking those roots and making them our own," he says, pointing to the grand tradition of cross-border rock pollination that dates back to The Band and Ronnie Hawkins.
"So it's touching on that a bit, as well as spiritually, taking it home. Taking it back to what's real, what's essential, and what's important in our lives spiritually. It's a pretty catchy title, too," he adds with a smile. "It's a good title for a tour."
Lyrically, 'Take It Home' explores a lot of heavy subject matter along the way. Cochrane has always been a bit of a ponderous rocker, waxing philosophical on subjects ranging from truth to racism in his work with Red Rider, turning a real-life tragedy into compassionate national anthem with "Big Leagues," and making a blockbuster hit out of thoughtful reflection with his 1991 smash "Life Is A Highway."
The new disc takes those ideas and ideals one step further, exploring the story of a family and nurse he met while on a World Vision AIDS-related mission to Kenya a few years ago in "A Prayer For Hope," and tackling dementia and euthanasia in "Pink Time."
There are also moments of levity, though, like "Back In The Game" and the playful cottage rocker "Sunday Afternoon Hang."
"You need a little bit of balance," the singer says. "I like to not get too bogged down in being introspective all the time, because the nature of rock and roll, the nature of the music joyful, and it's defiant."
Cochrane likes to stay fairly current with what’s new, joyous and defiant these days –– he’s rather fond of his friend Kevin Drew's work as a solo artist and a member of Broken Social Scene, among others –– but he doesn't feel any pressure or have any desire to keep up with the kids. At 61, he’s got other concepts and sounds he wants to explore.
"I can really respect remix artists and what they're doing, but you don't just jump in there embrace that, which you might have if you were 25 or 20 doing that, I suppose. I think it all boils down to being true to who you are and being comfortable with that and knowing you don't have to sell a million or two million records to be relevant. It's about satisfying that need to be relevant to yourself. Hopefully there's going to be people that listen to it, but you always want that. But you kind of keep your expectations in check."
What really matters to Cochrane this time around is that his music reaches his fans. "I just want people to give the record a chance and I want people to come to the shows."
Tom Cochrane is hitting the road for a national tour to support "Take It Home," starting with a Valentine's Day show in Thunder Bay before winding back and forth across the country and finishing up at Toronto's legendary Massey Hall on March 13.
After that, he’ll be considering another charity tour, and maybe another album. Not right away, but he's pretty sure that urge will hit him again before too long.
"Based on this one, I think I probably would [make another record]. There seems to be a trend of old geezers that are going out, that keep working. Whether it's the Rush guys, they're going on another tour. Alex is a good buddy and I remember six, seven years ago, he didn't know if he'd ever do it again. I look at Dylan and, for a good chunk of his life, he didn't tour and now you can't get him off the road, and Willie Nelson is the ultimate example!" he laughs.
"I don't know if you get a second wind or not, or maybe it's just the fact that there's a certain freedom in going 'OK, well I've done that and it's a not a desperate situation of honouring a contract, or whatever. I can do what I want now.' There's a certain freedom in that."
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