May 2, 2019
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel

Lucky Clark On Music: Bruce Cockburn

Legendary Canadian musician to take the stage May 11 at the Watervllle Opera House. 

After an incredible half-century-long career as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, Bruce Cockburn (Coe-burn) is still going strong with numerous awards and 33 albums under his belt, as well as a 526-page memoir and nine-disc boxed set (both titled “Rumours of Glory,” 2014), and he’s coming back to Maine to perform at the Waterville Opera House on Saturday, May 11. To that end, I requested a telephone interview to reconnect with this talented gentle man once again. He kindly agreed and called me from a recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee, on the 16th of April. I began by asking him how things were going?

Cockburn: Oh, things are going actually really well right now. We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new instrumental album. We’re mixing it now, and we’ll probably get done by the end of today. And, I’m quite excited about that, actually. Otherwise, life goes on and I don’t know if I had my second daughter yet when last we spoke.

Q: I had even had my first and only daughter at that time!

Cockburn: (Laughter) So, some of us have been sort of saving it up, right? Anyway, my younger daughter’s 7 and in second grade and can write and speak fluently in English and French.


Q: Oh, Lord!

Cockburn: Yeah, it’s pretty impressive, actually, and my life is a lot of getting her to and from school. In between those missions (chuckle), then I get to do what I do, which — at the age I am now — half the time is going to doctors and the other half is sort of trying to get work done.

Q: Speaking of work, and the fact that you’re getting ready to complete a new instrumental album, let me ask this: have you done many such albums over your career?

Cockburn: Just one previous one and that one is called “Speechless.” It came out at the end of the ’90s or the beginning of the 2000s, I forget what year. And, it was a compilation of previously released instrumental tracks from throughout the passage of time, with several new pieces, as well. The intention with this album was to do kind of a Volume 2 of that — we wouldn’t have called it that, necessarily.

Q: Was it going to be set up the same as its predecessor, format-wise?

Cockburn: Well, we ended up with so much new stuff that it’s just an album of new pieces, so it’s not “Speechless 2” at all. It will be called “Crowing Ignites,” which is the translation from the Latin of the Cockburn family motto.

Q: Now, just out of curiosity, are instrumentals easier to write than lyrical songs?

Cockburn: It’s a whole different thing. In some ways, yes. There’s one less step involved really, because the songs that I write, most of them have a pretty important instrumental component to them. It’s not like just writing words and a melody for me; there’s always some sort of relationship between the sung part of the song and the guitar. So, in that sense, it’s simpler, because there’s only part of it that you have to worry about, but at the same time it involves the same kind of waiting around for a good idea. In the case of instrumental pieces, the good ideas will come out of practicing. I mean, they don’t come out of the air so much as they do from having your hands on a guitar. You stumble on something that sounds like it could go somewhere, and then you wrestle that into a piece. These pieces are, for the most part, kind of structured like a jazz piece with a head and an improvised section, and then you’ve got the head again. Most of them are like that, but not all. Some are more folk-y and some are — I don’t know what to call them — they’re certainly not jazz. It’s not a jazz record, but there’s a fair amount of improvisation on the record.

Q: What are you playing on this album?

Cockburn: It’s mostly acoustic guitar, and, in terms of the kinds of structural choices you make, it’s really whatever you think of. For me, I’m not constrained by any particular genre. I’m only constrained by my own technique. I guess (chuckle), it’s certainly a constraint, but basically I can do whatever I think of.

Q: Now, when you come to the Waterville Opera House, oh, I’d better ask this first: Have you ever performed there before?

Cockburn: I don’t think so.

Q: Well, then you’re in for a treat, that’s for sure. Now, when I saw you in the past, you had backing musicians. Will that be the case this time ‘round or will you be solo?

Cockburn: This will be solo, yeah. And, I mean I’m not going to be stacking the show with pieces from the new instrumental album. There will be time for that when the album’s actually out.

Q: Will you do any of that new material?

Cockburn: I don’t know what I’m going to do. But, there’s a chance I end up pulling out a couple of those pieces, but it’ll be a cross section of newer and older, typical of my shows.

Q: Now, when you go into a solo show like this one in Waterville, do you make up a set list or just wing it?

Cockburn: I have a set list — I don’t trust my memory.

Q: And with 33 albums out, how on Earth do you create a play list out of all that material?

Cockburn: Well, it’s a balance. It’s like, here’s a bunch of songs that I want to do and then there’s a bunch that people in the audience are attached to, and if you don’t play them, they will feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. So, those go in a show. So, I try to do a mix of old and new, so that some of it is still fresh for people. The last album, which is now a couple of years old, was “Bone On Bone,” and there will be stuff from that, for sure.

Q: I have one last question before we bring this chat to an end. Is there anything, Bruce, that you would like me to pass on to the folks reading this?

Cockburn: Well, just “hello” and “come to the show,” I guess.

April 17, 2019

From Bernie Finkelstein’s Facebook page.

April 16, 2019
The Winnipeg Sun

Cockburn highlights series of events commemorating 1919 strike
by Scott Billeck

A Canadian music legend is among several artists who will headline a free concert to help commemorate the centennial one of the country’s largest and most influential labour movements. 

For 40 years, Bruce Cockburn has been writing and signing about the human experience. In June, the multi-time Juno Award winner and member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame will join Grammy winner and feminist icon Ani DiFranco along with several others for Rise Up 100: Songs for the Next Century Concert, one of four events being put on by Manitoba’s unions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

“We want to welcome people of all generations, all backgrounds, all abilities — everybody in our city — to join us and celebrate the Winnipeg General Strike together, with music, as a community,” said Winnipeg Folk Festival executive director Lynne Skromeda at a launch event on Tuesday. “Folk music has long been tied to the labour movement, advocating for social justice and providing a sense of connection to one another through divisive times, and we need this connection now more than ever.”

The free concert will take place in Old Market Square on June 8 between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Celebrations kick off with the already-sold-out 1919 Social on May 11 at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. The social will be followed by the Winnipeg General Strike Centennial Gala Dinner on May 15 at the RBC Convention Centre. Tickets for the dinner are priced between $100 and $200. The penultimate event comes on May 25 with the Solidarity Forever Parade & Community Concert. The parade will run from the Exchange District to Memorial Park from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by a concert from 12:30 to 6 p.m.

“We want to invite Winnipeggers, Manitobans and Canadians to come and party with us,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck. “Come listen to some excellent music and celebrate our shared legacy of the Winnipeg General Strike, which played such an important role in forging the city, the province and the country we all know today.”

The MayWorks Festival of Labour and the Arts began on Sunday and will run through to June 21st with a host of events including book launches, art exhibitions, concerts and other events.

Husband and wife duo Nolan and Sharon Reilly have also updated their 1919 Winnipeg General Strike driving and walking tour, allowing anyone to pick up one of their brochures and walk or drive to important locations and learn about their significance to the Strike.

More information, including tickets for the gala dinner, can be found at

February 7, 2019
Park Record

Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn finds balance in his 50-year career
by Scott Iwasaki

Bruce Cockburn tries to find a balance between what he wants to perform and what he knows his audience wants to hear.


Doing that can sometimes be a challenge because the Canadian singer-songwriter, who will perform February 7 to February 9 at the Egyptian Theatre, has been playing and recording music for nearly 50 years.

"There's a bit of strategic thinking in getting a show together," said Cockburn (pronounced KOE-burn). "It's between knowing people will feel ripped off if they don't get to hear some songs and me wanting to play what my own particular interests are at any one moment."

Cockburn said he also looks at songs that will go well with his newer songs, some of which are from his most recent album "Bone on Bone," which was released in 2017.

While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard...

While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard… Bruce Cockburn, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee

"Bone on Bone" marks Cockburn's 33rd studio album.

"The answer to writing a good song is always coming up with a good idea," he said. "I feel there is something about the visceral sense that deals with the flow of ideas. Ideas come from the culture around us, encounters with other people or from the things we live through. Those things are shareable, and the sharing is important. I feel what I do is at the service of that idea."

Still, the older he gets, Cockburn knows there is a danger of repeating himself.

"Sometimes I'll get an idea that I think is great, and then I'll start working on it only to realize that I wrote about it 30 years ago," he said with a laugh.

Another challenge is keeping his older songs interesting, he said. Playing solo sets is one way to do that.

"It's just me, a guitar and a voice," he said. "While the solo shows are more scarier, they are more satisfying, because you know the song is being heard. But just like when I'm playing with a band, I still have to execute the guitar parts, and remember the words."


The solo performances also give Cockburn more one-on-one time with his audiences.

"One of the obvious things about playing solo is that it gives me great flexibility that isn't always available with the band," he said. "I don't have to deal with numbers of people, the crew, lighting cues and all sorts of stuff that are of less consequence."

In 2014, Cockburn embarked on a project that required a lot of recollection – writing his memoir "Rumors of Glory."

"That was really hard work," he said. "Unlike songwriting, writing a book was not natural to me. There were long periods when I would get bogged down. My editors were flexible with me and I stood them up a bunch, with respect to deadlines."

When Cockburn was 100 pages into the first draft, he enlisted the help of his friend, journalist Greg King.

"I got stuck and I didn't know how to tell the stories that I remembered," he said. "Greg provided the organizational backbone of the thing."

The book documented Cockburn's family life, relationships, his religious convictions and his social and political views that find their way into his music.

"It was interesting looking back on my career, because I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it in the day-to-day," he said.

Some of Cockburn's milestone events in his career have occured even since the memoir was published.

In 2017, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2018, he won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for "Bone on Bone." That year, he also won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Top Solo Artist.

"Awards are very gratifying, and they're meaningful in a practical way, which means there's publicity," he said. "That, on a good day, can translate to being hired for more shows, or being able to have a band."

The next project Cockburn is preparing for is a new instrumental album.

"We did one called 'Speechless' a few years ago that was a mixture of previous recorded stuff and new songs," he said. "This one will be similar, but the weight will be toward the new music."

January 29, 2019
Bend Bulletin

Bruce Cockburn will headline Sisters Folk Festival
by Brian McElhiney

IMG 1773

It may not be the season yet, but Central Oregon’s festivals are heating up with initial lineup announcements. This week, it’s all about Sisters:

Multiple Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn will headline the 23rd Sisters Folk Festival on Sept. 7.

The festival organization announced Cockburn this week. More artists will be announced in an initial lineup to be revealed in early March, according to an email from festival creative director Brad Tisdel. This year’s festival will take place Sept. 6 through 8 at various venues in Sisters.

Cockburn, known for his thoughtful lyricism and mix of blues, jazz, folk and rock, launched his solo career in 1970 with his self-titled debut album. He found acclaim in the U.S. with his 1979 album, “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws.” He most recently released “Bone on Bone” in 2017.

Tickets cost $170 plus fees for all-event passes or $55 plus fees for youth ages 18 and younger, and can be purchased at, or by calling 541-549-4979.

Though dates have not yet been revealed, the Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival has its headliners for its second year. They include gospel/blues guitarist Mr. Sipp The Mississippi Blues Child, country-blues songwriter The White Buffalo, blues-rockers The Eric Gales Band and young guitar shredder Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. Visit for more information, and stay tuned for more artist announcements and festival dates. 

© Daniel Keebler 1993-2019