Legendary Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist Bruce Cockburn makes his lone stop in our region on a brief solo tour this Saturday, February 23 when he visits the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Cockburn will perform an expanded take on the solo segments of his recent full-band tour in support of his album Small Source of Comfort.
“From the point of view of the actual performance, it’s a much more intimate shared experience with the audience when it’s just me on the stage,” said Cockburn in a telephone interview.
Cockburn, who suffered terrible stage fright early in his career, still feels anxious before a performance, but he has learned to adapt. “I’m not one of those people that loves to get out in front of people and show off,” he said. “There’s an aspect of performing that’s terrifying. It’s still there, even though it’s faint in the background. When I started, that really was an issue, and my motivation was that I wanted people to hear the songs, and if I didn’t play them, nobody would hear them. But in most circumstances, there’s a real warmth in performing that I appreciate.”
Fans should expect to hear songs from the span of Cockburn’s long career – a philosophy that he used at least in part on Small Source of Comfort, his 31st album. The final song on the record, “Gifts,” is a longtime concert-closer, stretching all the way back to 1968. Asked what it will mean to play on the same hallowed ground as the famous festival, Cockburn replied coyly.
“I wasn’t at Woodstock; I was busy that weekend,” he said. “But I saw the movie. It is a piece of history, and it was kind of the good part of the end of the ‘60s – Altamont, of course, being the other part.”
Back then, Cockburn had already charted his own course. “If I’d have kept up with the course of studies I was on, I’d have had a Bachelor’s degree and I’d have been qualified to teach in high school,” he said. “My parents were anxious for me to have something to fall back on, but I intuitively knew that if you’re going to be a real artist, you’d better not have anything to fall back on, because it’s counterproductive.”
Cockburn is spending his downtime these days not writing new music, but instead putting his memories to paper for a forthcoming autobiography. “I have a contract with a publisher to write a memoir,” he said. “The first draft is overdue by more than two years, so all of the creative energy is going into the book.”
Cockburn said that he was contacted by HarperCollins following the worldwide success of the controversial Christian novel The Shack, in which God makes frequent mentions of his music. (“I don’t know if it’s a great piece of literature,” Cockburn said of William P. Young’s bestseller, “but it’s good enough.”) “When they approached me, they said they were looking for a spiritual memoir,” he explained. “It has presented a challenge. To put things in a spiritual context: I don’t even know what that means. I guess by the end of the book I’ll know what that means.”
An Evening with Bruce Cockburn, Saturday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., $49/reserved, $54/day of show, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ Event Gallery, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.bethelwoodscenter.org, www.brucecockburn.com.