We interviewed recording artist Tom Cochrane while he was on Long Island recently. His solo debut album “Mad Mad World” features the current hit single “Life Is a Highway.” He is a very dedicated artist who does all his own writing and composing. He was born and raised in Manitoba, Canada. We enjoyed meeting him.
Q. What did you do before you became famous?
A. I drove a cab for about four years in Toronto, Canada. I moved to Los Angeles and I lived there for about a year while trying to get my songs published. I delivered telephone books, washed dishes, did whatever I had to do while I was trying to establish a career. I even crewed for a while on a boat in the Caribbean. I sold paints; I did a lot of odd jobs while I was trying to get ahead in my career.
Q. What would you have done if you hadn’t gone into the music business?
A. I would have been a journalist. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent when I was a kid. But when I was about 13, I discovered Bob Dylan and he made me aware that music could be more than just hearing pop songs on the radio. I played in a band. I went to college and took a little bit of journalism, and I started playing coffee houses.
Q. Was anyone else in show business in your family?
A. Well, my grandmother on my dad’s side played the ukulele. No, not really, but as a kid I was exposed to a lot of classical music because of my older sisters. We lived in a remote Northern mining town in
Canada; my dad was a bush pilot who flew in supplies to people in distress in the wilderness. He was like their lifeline to civilization.
Q. What’s the good part of your job?
A. It’s gratifying; there is a lot of dimensions as to what I do. I love to get mail from fans who tell me that my songs have helped them get through a difficult period in their life. I know I have the opportunity to reach a lot of people. I went to Africa last year in conjunction with the relief organization WorldVision. I saw a lot of things that were very distressing.
Q. What’s the bad part?
A. Sometimes you even get confused as to where you are. Often you only get to see the hotel, the bus and the stage. I have two little girls, 9 and 5, and I miss seeing them.
Q. What were your thoughts when you wrote the song, “Life Is a Highway?”
A. I wrote this song after the Africa trip. I was so overwhelmed by this trip; they have been at war for 17 years and many of these people have been forced from their villages, so they go to these relief camps. We saw some people die in front of us from related diseases. The thing that made the most impact was that no matter how tough things got over there, people could find enjoyment in the simpliest things. I was very inspired by the strength of these people. In our society we find everything in the world to complain about. I wanted to write a song about how short life is, and we have to just get on with it. The song says don’t get bogged down in the negative, just keep moving forward.
Q. Have you performed with other bands?
A. Oh yes; there were a lot of bands, but the one I am most noted for is Red Rider. (He recorded the hit song, “Lunatic Fringe” with them).
Q. Do you have an idol?
A. I don’t have idols, just people I respect. I look at people like Terry Fox, who lost his leg to cancer and yet ran half way across Canada to raise money for cancer until cancer took hold again. I saw him running just two days before he had to quit again; it was a very powerful experience to see him. I respect people like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell and many others. Currently I like the bands coming out of Seattle like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Nirvana, for example, breaking out last Christmas was an important event because it shows that people make the decision as to what they want to buy, corporations don’t. At that time of year, recording studios spend a lot of money producing albums they think people are going to buy.
Q. Do you play any other music besides rock?
A. I like to mix different kinds of music and see what I can come up with. “Life Is a Highway” has a swing feel, it almost reminds you of the ’50s. I have blues influences on songs like “The Secret Is to Know When to Stop,” “Get Back Up.” I love all kinds of music.
Q. Do you get nervous before a concert?
A. Oh yes, I get the butterflies. At least I don’t have stage fright like I used to.