Gordon Lightfoot’s notable life is appearing in all forms currently.
There was Nicholas Jennings’ 2017 bestselling biography, Lightfoot, and a new 2019 documentary, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, directed by Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, which will have its world premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs on April 27 before it gets a theatrical release in early summer and TV broadcast on CBC in the fall.
So the next thing could be a feature film right?
Sure, says the 80-year-old folk-pop legend who is touring southern Ontario including two dates on April 15-16 at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.
“Well, I mean if somebody wanted to take it on,” said Lightfoot with a laugh. “I’m sure there’s some out there that would jump at the opportunity, who could really get into it with vigour.”
Just don’t ask him if he knows who should play him.
“No,” said Lightfoot. “That’s always such a thing to think about. My goodness. Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s meow if anybody ever did that? I wouldn’t care. Whatever anybody wants to do. It’s a free world. We live in a free world, thank goodness. If they do, I’ll try and help them. If it came down to that I would try to offer some input but I would not spend a whole lot of time. But I could certainly add something.”
We caught up with Lightfoot recently on the phone in Toronto.
What can you tell me about the new documentary?
We worked on that over the last three-and-a-half years with Insight Productions.
Have you seen it?
No, of course not! It’ll be the first time for me (on April 27).
Is it true you have 14 new songs ready to go for a brand-new studio album that would be your first in 15 years?
Yeah, I’ve got a whole bunch of material that I wrote a long time ago that I discovered one day while cleaning out my office. It was a very, very lucky day. They go back to about the turn of the century, 2001, just before the (stomach) aneurysm (in 2002). And let me tell you this. I had already chosen a number of tunes for the Harmony album (recorded in 2001 but not released until 2004) while I was still in the hospital getting over the first series of operations. I had seven operations. I was out cold for six weeks. I had no idea how close it came.
What approach might you take with the new album?
I’m half-tempted to let the whole thing go solo. I’m trying to figure that out right now. That would be really interesting. I remember when Bruce Springsteen did that with his (1982) Nebraska album. It could be (just me and my acoustic guitar) or I could go in with my orchestra and we could start working on the stuff that works into the fall. What I’m trying to say is, I would like to get on with it because I’m not getting any younger, let’s put it that way.
So when do we get to hear it?
Well, if I do it this way (solo acoustic), it’d probably come out in the fall. You don’t want to come out short and you don’t want to come out long. Albums can be too long and you wind up with a couple of sleepers. So like 10-12 (songs). I don’t like 11. I’ve got a couple of newer ones too that I want to record, demos, which will also be originals.
How are you feeling at the ripe old age of 80?
I feel that I move slower and my mouth dries out. (Laughs). I forget names.
But you’re still touring a lot so you must be feeling okay?
We’ve got the crowd these days. Everywhere we go anywhere now usually we’re full. So we’re just going to cruise along and hope that everybody stays healthy.
You closed Toronto’s Massey Hall last year before two years of renovations. Do you expect you will reopen it again?
Probably. They will do whatever they want. (They haven’t asked) not to my knowledge yet, but how could I not be there? For openers. The only thing that could happen is that it could be some kind of a health issue or something like that. So we always try to stay prepared for that mentally. We’ll see if they want me. If they want me, I’ll be there.