Tom Cochrane rides the highway to Westerner Days

With lots of shows on his plate, it’s Alberta that’s been near and dear to his heart

Tom Cochrane is still riding that highway of success after many years of entertaining audiences around the world. He will making a stop at Red Deer’s Westerner Days on July 21st with Red Rider and couldn’t be more excited.

“I’ve been there quite a bit over the years, and feel right at home there,” he said. Part of the reason is the many friends he has here.

“Somebody a lot of people might not have heard of, but Ron MacLean,” he said with a laugh. MacLean, the hockey icon and broadcaster, spent several years living in Red Deer.

“This guy has a mind like a steel trap, man. He’s got a photographic memory,” said Cochrane. Another friend of his is Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar who spends a lot of his time in the City.

He said he’s looking forward to coming out to play at Westerner Days, saying that nobody appreciates summer more than Canadians do, especially westerners. “Places that you haven’t been to or you haven’t been to for a while are always that much more exciting.”

To celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the 1991 release of Cochrane’s album Mad Mad World, Universal Music Canada reissued it in a remastered deluxe edition last fall – Mad Mad World 25 (MMW25). This was complete with the previously unreleased original demo recording of Love is a Highway which then grew into the hit Life is a Highway.

The anniversary was also topped off with a full tour across Canada in early 2017 among other things.

“We had so much fun on that tour and people just embraced the songs, and the interesting thing about doing that is probably half of those songs on the record I haven’t played for 20 years – so it’s a lot of fun playing those songs,” said Cochrane.

Mad Mad World remains among the top-selling albums in Canadian music history, achieving rare Diamond-certified status. Cochrane is one of only three Canadian males to reach this status.

“It was just a blast playing those songs and having people respond to them, songs that you might not normally play in the course of a tour, where you’ve got to get the songs that people are aware of, that they’ve grown up with and that are like snapshots of their lives.”

There’s about 12 or 13 of them, he said, that people definitely want to hear.

“But there’s those songs when you advertise them and you go out on the road, and you’re celebrating one particular record. It’s really a lot of fun playing some of these songs that you haven’t played for a while and how fresh they are and how current they feel.”

He said with festival audiences, like that of Westerner Days, there’s a real mix.

“We get a mix at our shows anyways in terms of demographics. We get everything from kids and college kids, all the way up to people that are my age, and it’s very cool, but the festival dates in particular get a stronger component of some of the younger demographics.”

And like his famous hit Life is a Highway goes, Cochrane’s been riding it, saying that every bit of his life has been like a highway. “Even when we’re not on the road and not on the tour bus, that sometimes feels much like a pirate ship than anything else. I love driving and I spend a lot of time driving.”

The Manitoba native currently resides in Toronto with a studio and cottage up on Georgian Bay, which he finds is where he gets most of his thinking and writing done.

“It just always opens the possibilities to the bigger world, and I think that’s one of the reasons that song really hit home with people. Somebody said, ‘Well you know it’s a bit of a cliche isn’t it?’ and I said ‘Yeah, but I invented that cliche!’”

And it’s that cliche that has reverberated for a lot of people to relate to, becoming part of their collective dialogue.

“It resonates with a lot of people and I feel blessed that I was, excuse the pun, the vehicle for that song, the vessel the song was delivered through.”

Looking back on his career, he said there isn’t just one great moment, there are many.

What came to mind besides the important stuff like the birth of his daughters and things like that were some of the big shows he got to perform at; Massey Hall and Montreal’s big birthday bash to name a couple.

Cochrane is also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, among others. He was also invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“I’ve been very blessed. I’ve had one of those careers where you put one foot ahead of the other and see where it takes you, and it’s been a really great ride.”

With lots of shows on his plate, it’s Alberta that’s been near and dear to his heart.

“I’m always so grateful for Alberta and its home to me. I’ve got so many dear friends out there.”

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