Gordon Lightfoot quits smoking, gets back into songwriting for new album

By David Friend, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Gordon Lightfoot says he recently kicked his smoking habit and rekindled a reluctant relationship with songwriting in the process.

The 80-year-old Canadian musician says the two life changes have led him towards planning a full-length album due out sometime later this year or in early 2020.

The untitled project will be his first in 15 years, and even Lightfoot seems surprised at how it took shape. He’d largely sworn off writing new material — calling the process “isolating” — before he picked up the pen more seriously again last October.

“I started the same time I quit smoking — cigarettes that is,” he said from his Toronto home.

It helped that Lightfoot discovered a treasure trove of unreleased material while he was housecleaning last year. Two CDs of songs he recorded nearly two decades ago were tucked away in his office.

“I didn’t even know I had about half a dozen of these tunes,” he said.

Lightfoot says the songs were created in late 2001 and early 2002, as he worked on “Harmony,” an album that was sidelined when he suffered a near-fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm later that year. While “Harmony” was eventually released in 2004, he says several of the songs went missing in the process.

“I know why I was saving them now… but I don’t know why I forgot about them,” he says.

Hearing them again, Lightfoot started thinking about the possibilities of a few other lingering ideas.

“I’ve had four or five that I had been working on for a long time, but finding these other ones just topped me right off,” he said.

Lightfoot’s new burst of creativity comes as his legendary status goes under the microscope in the new documentary, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind,” a reflection on his career and influence, which premieres Saturday at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.

He’s also continuing with his steady-as-she-goes touring schedule, which rolls through parts of the United States in May and June.

Lightfoot says he’s still undecided on how he’ll present the new songs, though he favours releasing them as solo recordings with only him and a guitar, similar to Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 album “Nebraska.” He’s confident that whatever form they take, the album is “going to be a nice one.”

“There’s about three or four (songs) on there that I really think are good — valid good. They’re philosophical and they’re kind of funny,” he says.

“There’s a couple of lovey-dovey tunes in there, too.”


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David Friend, The Canadian Press

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