REGINA — Tom Cochrane knew that it was time to get to work on a new album.
The 61-year-old Canadian music icon unveiled Take It Home on Feb. 10, his first album of new material since No Stranger was released in 2006. According to promotional material for the new disc, Cochrane had “stepped off the music industry treadmill” following No Stranger.
The decision to return to the studio wasn’t part of a master plan for Cochrane. Rather, his inner songwriter indicated that it was time to get back to work.
“It becomes time. It’s like a bird flying south, it knows when it’s time to migrate,” said Cochrane in a recent telephone interview. “You feel this thing gnawing at your soul and it hurts and it’s joyful sometimes. It’s funny — people often mention to me that I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I do and I feel very blessed but by the same token, it’s exhausting and painful.
“If you’re good at it and you do a good piece of work, it sounds effortless. It should sound effortless, it should have the joie de vivre and that energy. With these songs, it just became time. I felt that urge again because it had been five years since I finished No Stranger. It was just time to make a record again.
“It’s self-analysis, that’s what it is. You end up dredging pretty deep into your soul for a lot of the songs and a lot of the work.”
The resulting 12 tracks on the album are proof that Cochrane did delve deep inside himself for material of substance that packs an emotional punch.
While the album sonically fits into Cochrane’s previous work, with some tweaks here and there, it’s the stories that Cochrane weaves that provides Take It Home with its strength.
Topics covered on the disc range from dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s to the impoverished lives in Africa to the courage of activists Rosa Parks and Terry Fox.
Pink Time paints a story of a husband trying to come terms with his wife’s battle with Alzheimer’s. The path of the song takes a strange turn and although some people might object to the vivid subject matter, Cochrane feels the action is acceptable because everything is done from a place of love and commitment.
“If you can write a beautiful song about murder/suicide, then I guess that’s it. That sounds horrible but the thing is, it’s an act of love by him with his wife,” explained Cochrane, who embarks on a 14-date cross-Canada tour on Feb. 14. “It’s a very perplexing issue. You touch on that story and so many people, while they might not relate to euthanasia, they can relate to this guy’s plight. He’s a long-distance truck driver coming home and his wife slowly forgets who he is and he can’t fend for her but he doesn’t want to put her in a home. He wants her to stay by her beloved Georgian Bay.
“There’s stories like that which run through the album, that are specific and are good part fact and small part fiction while there are some that are small part fact and big part fiction. That’s part of songwriting and that song means a lot to me.”
Sonically, the album touches many genres. Of course it includes the rock sound Cochrane made famous during his days with Red Rider but it also includes a measure of southern rock, the blues and roots music.
One conscious decision Cochrane made about the recording process was he wanted to distance himself from all the bells and whistles that are commonly used in the studio these days. He wanted the album to have a raw feel.
“In our approach to the record we wanted to make it very organic. In some ways, if you go back to some of the Red Rider stuff from the late ‘80s, it’s even more organic sounding than some of that stuff,” said Cochrane. “We didn’t treat the drums as much, we took pains to do that and hopefully by the nature of doing that, the record has a pretty natural feel and finds a place where people who want that kind of music can find it.
“They can find it on this record.”
The album is a reflection of Cochrane the man and Cochrane the musician with the underlying message of living a good life.
“As an individual you alone can’t change the world but you keep your eye on the road ahead and spread some good will along the way,” said Cochrane. “As a songwriter, it’s therapeutic. You’ve got to go through the valley to get to the other side and climb up to the top of the mountain to get it done.
“It’s a lot of work but I’m lucky to be able to do it.”