Gordon Lightfoot on life on the road, Jimmy Fallon and more 0
Gordon Lightfoot (QMI Agency file photo)
If you could read Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot’s mind, you’d know he’s still psyched to go on the road.
Even after all this time.
“I’ve been on the road all my life but we’re excited,” said Lightfoot.
The singer-songwriter, whose death was erroneously reported then retracted in 2010 following a real aortic aneurysm in 2002 and a minor stroke in 2006, may be 75 but he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
His latest cross-Canada tour kicked off Friday in eastern Canada and runs until mid-May before resuming in late October out west, winding down with his usual four-night stand at Toronto’s Massey Hall Nov. 26-29.
“We’ve already done two tours this year (in the U.S.)... We have actually eight segments this year,” said Lightfoot. “And two of the segments are western Canada and eastern Canada. ... We’re going to go into St. John’s to start and we’re all excited as heck.”
We caught up with the beloved artist down the line from his Toronto home recently to talk about life on the road, being a fan of Jimmy Fallon and to find out if he’ll record an album again.
Did turning 75 mean a big celebration for you and your family?
It was spread out. It was an extended thing. The party had to take place in two or three different places. But we don’t make a big deal out of that. We’re together. We’re in contact physically, and through the telephone and all that stuff. I live on my own basically.
What is the road like for you at this stage in your career?
Well, when you get out on the road, you get on a roll, but I’m on a roll now. I’m excited. If I wasn’t on a roll now I wouldn’t feel like I was prepared. So even when I’m here looking after my family matters and all the business here in town, I’m thinking about the other dimension which is in the upcoming. And I sort of go back to when I was in the cub scouts - of being prepared. I just have stayed that way all my life.
What do you do on a “down” day on tour?
We only take a down day about every fifth day and by that time you’re usually resting up. So what I do is I go out and walk around. We have the evening off, perhaps have dinner at a restaurant instead of having room service and just get ready for the next day and take it easy and watch television. I went to see Mt. Rushmore one time, though, and a few other things you know along the way that were interesting to see and most of it’s been seen from a car window. I could entitle a book by that title: From a Car Window. What we’ve seen just getting to and from the airports into these places and the way that we get around, it’s amazing. It’s like a truck, a bus and an aircraft. That’s what it takes.
Will you change up the set list at all for the Canadian tour?
We’ve pulled out three or four of the really good ones, dark horse kind of material, that we’re going to put in there that will be a bit a surprise probably as we keep going along. But we’ve got so darn much stuff. We’ve got 12 standards that must be in each and every show, even some of them being shortened, leaving a verse out here and there. Not with The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald though, songs like that. ... It’s not our thing either to keep people too long. We work within a period of time, a couple of hours is pretty good for most any listener I think (with) a 20 minute intermission.
Does it ever become a grind?
Most of the grind is keeping things organized here in town. I’ve got six children! That’s how I spend my time here. That’s why hardly anybody sees me.
Except that I often see you in my neighborhood carrying your guitar case? (His office is near my home.)
I go there every day. And when I leave there, I head on downtown to the (Cambridge Health) club and there’s a whole bunch more people down there. So I’m always meeting people and I stop and talk to people and it’s lots of fun.
Are you a big workout guy?
I’ve figure out the rule for working out. Don’t lift anything heavy. I do a lot of reps and I have a program and I do this because I want to do good work and of course it helps my singing and it helps my breathing and it helps what I do for a living so I do it. But in doing so I meet lots of people because I’m always having to go downtown and it’s fun meeting people.
Do you think about the day when you’ll have to retire from the road?
I think that a health issue could develop and that would be the stopper... Other than that the love is too strong. There’s a great deal of pleasure in singing from the heart and getting out there and belting it out and playing the guitars and having the songs, it just thrills me. Just the thought of doing it excites me.
I was at the Billy Joel show at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre in March of this year and he paid respect to you in concert, mentioning what an impression you made on him when he saw you at Massey Hall years ago and singing snippets of two of your songs. Did you hear about this?
No, but he’s been very kind to me. I’ve yet to meet him. I would have gone but I believe I was on the road while they were here. I’ve heard he’s done Albert Bound a couple of times. I know I’m going to meet him one of these days. I know we’ve both been on the Jimmy Fallon show.
You obviously like Fallon?
Well, we did his (old) show once so I’m his fan for life. It’s a great one to do and all we’ve got to do is get down there the day before. We’re hoping he’ll bring us back. I’ve heard that they’re not (entertaining) any inquiries for the first three months that they are on the air (as The Tonight Show.) They’re running a really tight show. A really tight ship.
Anything else TV appearance-wise in the works?
Do you know this Katie Couric? They want me to do that one. I’m waiting to hear on that one. I would do that but with a trio. I would go on there and do If You Could Read My Mind with just the three of us. Just the bass, the lead guitar and myself on rhythm guitar. They want to interview me as well. I would like to get a chance to be interviewed like that so that they let me have a chance to have a word or two maybe the next time I’m on Jimmy Fallon. One thing leads to another. We did a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, it was good. It was done in the last five-six months. Two or three things that have come our way to create a little more interest. But I feel a groundswell going on anyway. I can feel it in my heart. I know that we’re getting more people to our shows. I know that.
Have you changed your decision at all never to record another album again?
I’m too darn lazy to do that right now. People have been coaxing me to put one a good (song) up on YouTube but I haven’t gone for it yet. Just for the heck of it. There’s always something underway. There always has been, two or three songs underway. But to complete (it), I would have to have like 15 or 18 songs when I would go into do an album. ... It’s not feasible. It’s not even practical. There’s the family. You got to consider your family. And we’re capable of doing these wonderful shows that we’re doing and getting excited about it and that carries the day for me.
5 essential Gordon Lightfoot tracks
When Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot goes on tour he says he has a dozen or so songs that he HAS to play.
I’m guessing that these five – my faves - are among them.
What are yours?
Early Morning Rain (1966) - A down on his luck Lightfoot composed this after seeing a friend off at LAX. Best lyric: “This old airport’s got me down - it’s no earthly good to me, ‘cause I’m stuck here on the ground as cold and drunk as I can be.”
If You Could Read My Mind (1970) - Neil Young JUST recorded this Lighfoot classic on his covers album, A Letter Home, on the voice-o-graph at Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville. Best lyric: “When you reach the part where the heartaches come, The hero would be me.”
Sundown (1974) - Rumored to be about the troubled relationship with Lightfoot’s then girlfriend Cathy Smith, who later became infamous when John Belushi died. Best lyric: “I can see her looking fast in her faded jeans, She’s a hard loving woman, got me feeling mean.”
Carefree Highway (1974) - This was named after Arizona State Route 74 north of Phoenix. Best lyric: “The morning after blues, from my head down to my shoes.”
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1976) - Written to commemorate the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, it also got name-checked on a Seinfeld episode. Best lyric: “The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, When the skies of November turn gloomy.”
Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian 2014 tour dates:
April 25-26, ARTS & CULTURAL CENTRE, ST. JOHNS, N.L.
April 27, PEPSI CENTRE, CORNER BROOK, N.L.
April 29, KEATING CENTRE, ANTIGONISH, N.S.
April 30, METRO CENTRE, Halifax, N.S.
May 1, CREDIT UNION PLACE, SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I.
May 2, CASINO NEW BRUNSWICK MONCTON, N.B.
May 3, HARBOUR STATION, SAINT JOHN, N.B.
May 4, AITKEN CENTRE, FREDERICTON, N.B.
May 8, MEMORIAL CENTRE, PETERBOROUGH, Ont.
May 9, K-ROCK CENTRE, KINGSTON, Ont.
May 10, BUDWEISER GARDENS, LONDON, Ont.
May 11, LUMLEY BAYSHORE ARENA, OWEN SOUND, Ont.
October 21, THE PORT THEATRE, NANAIMO, B.C.
October 23, ROYAL THEATRE, VICTORIA, B.C. V8W 1E5
October 25, QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE VANCOUVER, B.C.
October 26, SAGEBRUSH THEATRE KAMLOOPS, B.C.
October 28, KELOWNA COMMUNITY THEATRE, KELOWNA, B.C.
October 31, CHARLES BAILEY THEATRE, TRAIL, B.C.
November 1, ENMAX CENTRE LETHBRIDGE, AB
November 2, NORTHERN ALBERTA JUBILEE AUDITORIUM, EDMONTON
November 3, EPCOR CENTRE’S JACK SINGER HALL, CALGARY
November 6, TCU PLACE SASKATOON
November 7, CASINO REGINA SHOW LOUNGE REGINA
November 8, MTS CENTRE THEATRE WINNIPEG
November 20, THÉÂTRE MAISONNEUVE , PLACE DES ARTS, MONTREAL
November 21, AULTSVILLE THEATRE, CORNWALL, ONT
November 22, NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE - SOUTHAM HALL, Ottawa
November 26-29, MASSEY HALL Toronto