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Old 06-10-2014, 01:38 PM   #1
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Default Canadian Press Interview with Lightfoot

TORONTO - On Neil Young's defiantly decayed throwback "A Letter Home," the Toronto-reared songsmith trilled peeled-bare covers of "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Early Morning Rain" by another fellow mythic Canuck Gordon Lightfoot.

And Lightfoot definitely noticed, having checked out both tunes on his iPad and coming away suitably flattered.

"I was very, very pleased and very honoured that he would do so," an upbeat Lightfoot said in a recent telephone interview from his Toronto home, noting as an aside that he also appreciated that Young started a "national debate on fracking."

"I consider Neil to be a giant of the industry."

Certainly, it's a status the two share, having mutually achieved folk-music folklore status.

As further illustration of Lightfoot's influence, the 75-year-old was announced Tuesday as the next recipient of the SOCAN Lifetime Achievement Award (as well as one of the first to receive the songwriters' organization's Sabian-crafted bronze trophies, constructed from five custom crotales).

Lightfoot is tickled by the honour noting that he was present when the late Stompin' Tom Connors claimed the same even as he remains determined to build, rather than reflect upon, his legacy.

Though Lightfoot has more than 50 tour dates scattered across his 2014 calendar, he took time away from preparing to look backward and forward with The Canadian Press.

CP: Your music career pre-dates Canadian content regulations. How hard was it to get on radio in the early going?

Gordon Lightfoot: It kind of happened on its own. I was looking for rehearsal space here down in the city when I was about 20 years of age, and I'd just moved here. It happened the person who ran the rehearsal studio, Art Snider, also had a recording studio. We did some recording and he said, "Hey, let's give it a whirl and let's ... do something in Nashville," because I was writing songs by that point, I started doing that in Grade 12.

The response we got at that early stage provided me with quite a bit of incentive and got me involved in a couple contracts early on which I later had to negotiate my way out of. I was married with a couple babies by that point. My first wife (Brita Ingegerd Olaisson) was a really good person and strong, too. We worked together. I finally got around to the point where I got a really good contract by the time I was 25 or 26.

CP: You had your first major hit in 1970 with "If You Could Read My Mind," and exactly 40 years ago had your first No. 1 in Canada and the U.S. with "Sundown." "Carefree Highway" came out the same year. What do you remember about that time?

Lightfoot: Well one thing I had to do was hire a drummer, finally. Right up until that point that we had "Sundown," we'd done everything else without a drummer. It was all folk oriented. So we brought in Barry Keane and he's been with me a long time.

The crowds got bigger. I can remember that time playing in front of 9,000 people at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I had another management deal, which I backed out of, which probably would have vaulted me into another stratosphere. But I think I was happy with my position on the totem pole at that time. I really wanted to do it my own way. It was being suggested that I should get in there with an orchestra and really do something with my vocals ... and I didn't want to get involved with orchestras. I would have been pushed toward more of a Kenny Rogers approach or something like that.

CP: Did you ever regret passing on those opportunities?

Lightfoot: Well I couldn't see doing it that way anyway. Linda Ronstadt did it and quite a few people did it. I really preferred to work with my band at the time, because I had a great group of people working for me at that point. I just didn't want to mess around with what we were doing. I was making an album every year and a half or so at that point. I was on a roll, going right up until about 1982.

Then I slowed down. I only did four more after that. I'd only done 15 to that point. (laughs)

CP: And now you've been pretty firm about not recording new stuff.

Lightfoot: Well I know. And then there's family obligations. My personal life has given me an extended family. And boy, they eat some time.

CP: Well, you have six children

Lightfoot: They're spread out, too. There's the mothers too. There are also four mothers involved there.

CP: How much do you think about your setlists?

Lightfoot: We could keep people there for three and a half hours. But it's not fair to people. Everybody is not as into it as everybody else is when we're doing these shows. I realize that.

A lot of people get hooked on (my) music when they finally get the chance to hear it (live), which is where we shine. We couldn't possibly (perform) everything that's stage-worthy. Right now there are 38 songs that are ready to pop right out there. We can field the odd request as we go along without spoiling the pace and I've learned how to do that, but I have to think ahead.

I really love the feeling that I get when I perform.

CP: By the end of the year you will have performed in every Canadian province and a couple dozen U.S. states. Isn't the travel a bit much?

Lightfoot: I worry about the band. I have worries about the band travelling so much. Occasionally we'll get a hard landing or something like that. You wonder. You say, can we keep doing it? There is a lot of flying involved.

CP: Do you think about when you'll decide to stop touring?

Lightfoot: The time came earlier, several years ago, when I couldn't do it for two and a half years (after a stroke in 2006). I had an illness that kept me off for two and a half years and put me out of business. And after I got back, I didn't want to stop.

CP: Last time we talked, you said you were going to the gym almost every day.

Lightfoot: Almost every day is correct. It's impossible to go every day. I plan it around family events on the weekends, you see. I want to see my kids. Two of them are on the West Coast right now. One's in Vancouver and the other's in Los Angeles. So I have to worry about them now. (laughs) But they're working. They're doing stuff.

I've been going (to the same Toronto gym) for 32 years. I just come and I go down there and I'm always approached by people both in the corridors and the lobbies and coming across the City Hall parking lot.

CP: You don't mind chatting with fans or strangers?

Lightfoot: I don't have any trouble with that at all. If somebody recognizes me and walks up to me, I just start talking with them automatically. I try to be as polite as I can be.

CP: How did you celebrate your 75th birthday in November?

Lightfoot: I spent it with my family up in Uxbridge, Ont., which is 50 miles away from where I am right now. Thank goodness they're moving back into town. My God. That's my erstwhile family. That's my second family. My two grandchildren are both older than my two youngest kids.

CP: You begin your next tour June 18. How do you prepare?

Lightfoot: I'm practising quite a lot. I've got one of my old guitars out that had been in mothballs for about 15 years and it just sounds great. I remember trying to tune it and it was like the sword and the stone, but I've learned better ways to tune my instrument the past few years.

It's getting everything out of the way here, on the family side, in this world, that's part of that preparation. Because when I leave town to go on these trips I like to have everything settled down with the family back here in Toronto.

I have an office. I get tons of fan mail. I get tons of stuff sent to me to listen to. And I try to respond. I do the best I can.

You gotta stay on top of everything that's coming down. There's the out flow. The in flow. That's constantly going on.

Answers have been edited and condensed.

Follow @CP_Patch on Twitter.

Copyright Times Colonist

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charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-11-2014, 06:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Canadian Press Interview with Lightfoot

Originally Posted by charlene View Post

Lightfoot: Well one thing I had to do was hire a drummer, finally. Right up until that point that we had "Sundown," we'd done everything else without a drummer. It was all folk oriented. So we brought in Barry Keane and he's been with me a long time.

hmm, SSOL, DQ, ODR also had drums on them as well as IYCRMM!. slip of the tongue!
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Old 06-11-2014, 11:56 AM   #3
Jim Nasium
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Default Re: Canadian Press Interview with Lightfoot

I suspect that Gordon meant that he hired Barry to be part of the Lightfoot band. Jim Gordon is drumming on Sundown. Barry is mentioned on ODR but not as part of the Band.

Last edited by Jim Nasium; 06-11-2014 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 06-11-2014, 12:23 PM   #4
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Default Re: Canadian Press Interview with Lightfoot

I think so too JIm-he meant he hired Barry to be part of the touring orchestra..
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