Trag­i­cally Hip frontman is heard once again on the post­hu­mous record­ing Away is Mine

Montreal Gazette - - YOU - JANE STEVEN­SON

“I don't want to, want to just go, ex­tinct qui­etly,” sings Gord Downie on The Least Im­pos­si­ble, a new song from his fi­nal solo al­bum, Away is Mine, re­leased one day be­fore the third an­niver­sary of his death. And so he's not.

Downie, who died of brain cancer on Oct. 17, 2017 at the age of 53, is posthu­mously re­leas­ing Away is Mine, recorded at The Trag­i­cally Hip's Bathouse Stu­dio in Kingston, Ont., over four days in July 2017 with co-song­writer and lead gui­tarist Josh Fin­layson of Toronto band the Sky­dig­gers, among oth­ers.

Gord's son Louis also played drums on the record, while his two daugh­ters, Clare and Willo, de­signed the dreamy al­bum art. The record­ing it­self is ded­i­cated to his other son, Cle­mens.

And de­spite Away is Mine be­ing his fi­nal record­ing be­fore his death, there is ex­pected to be even more Downie mu­sic — both Hip stuff and other col­lab­o­ra­tions, says his younger brother Pa­trick, Gord's pri­mary care­taker for the last two years of his life and the man in charge of his es­tate.

“There's a lot of projects that Gord was work­ing on, not just in the last few years of his life but over the course of his ca­reer — re­ally longer term projects,” said Pa­trick.

“And so I guess I didn't want those par­tic­u­lar projects to feel cheated. There will be more re­leases and some re­ally ex­cit­ing spe­cial stuff. The (Hip) ar­chives are just be­ing cracked open. Songs that were for­got­ten about, that even went miss­ing, and so I think it's a pretty ex­cit­ing time to be a Hip fan.”

Q Did it seem like a mir­a­cle to you that Gord was able to record months be­fore his death?

A Noth­ing re­ally sur­prised me about Gord's stamina. He had such a strong con­sti­tu­tion. Even in his healthy life, I of­ten com­pare him to a pro­fes­sional ath­lete. He al­ways had this bound­less en­ergy and for­ti­tude.

Q Was Gord writ­ing any­thing else in those last months?

A A book. Ul­ti­mately, gave up on that be­cause I think he found the work not very grat­i­fy­ing. Bi­ogra­phies he'd al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated and re­ally em­braced were ones writ­ten by the peo­ple them­selves in terms of mu­si­cians and artists. And I think he thought, `Well, he should be the one to write his book.' And his style, he tried to do tra­di­tion­ally, and then he thought, `Maybe I'll do it go­ing through my email.' And then he tried to write a re­ally long poem.

Q Will we ever be able to read the book?

A Who knows? There's prob­a­bly five books in there.

Q What res­onated with you on Away is Mine?

A For a guy who wrote a lot about the great puz­zle of life and putting the pieces to­gether, I can now hear an artist who's at his free-est, most un­shack­led self. And that gives me a lot of peace.

Q The new al­bum con­tains 10 songs in both elec­tric and acous­tic ver­sions. How come? A We're just giv­ing peo­ple a lit­tle bit more in­sight into songs and the process of song and what it can be­come. Re­ally if we had any great in­ten­tion for this record we wanted this to be a piece where art pro­pels more artistry.

Q How is the fam­ily is do­ing now fac­ing down the third an­niver­sary of Gord's pass­ing?

A I think we're do­ing all right. I have to say time is prob­a­bly the best healer. In the first year or so, es­pe­cially not just deal­ing with the loss of your brother, your father, your son, there's a lot of de­ci­sions and things that have to be made while you're still griev­ing. It might seem as though the mu­sic and stuff is a great medicine, and I think it is, but it's not ex­actly easy to lis­ten to or do these kind of things when you're in that state.

Q Was the Away is Mine re­lease date of Oct. 16 de­lib­er­ate given the sig­nif­i­cance of Oct. 17?

A It seemed like a nice lit­tle gift for every­body, for our fam­ily. And I re­ally do feel, as much as it still hurts and we still do feel the loss, that this record is a cel­e­bra­tion of Gord. To put it in a nut­shell, it feels all right to fi­nally cel­e­brate Gord and his mu­sic life. And I think in this way, es­pe­cially given the tim­ing, the an­niver­sary of his death, that it gives peo­ple per­mis­sion to do the same.

Q How was it for you all to have to grieve along­side the pub­lic given Gord's beloved place in the hearts of Cana­di­ans?

A The coun­try, the mu­sic fans, what­ever, they lost a great hero and some­one peo­ple felt very close to in their own way. Like peo­ple felt like they lost a friend or a brother. That helps my heart some­how. I don't know. That ev­ery one could know the feel­ing, I guess. And feel that close to him. I don't know what it was about him or his per­son­al­ity that brought that out, but it's a nice thing to share.

Q I re­mem­ber at the time of Gord's death there was talk of a na­tional day of mourn­ing or cel­e­bra­tion of his life that never ma­te­ri­al­ized. What did the fam­ily think?

A We were so over­whelmed at the time, I don't think that would have been able to hap­pen. The time came and it went. Maybe it felt like there wasn't enough of a fi­nal good­bye for peo­ple. I mean we had an Ir­ish wake. That's what we needed to do.


“I can now hear an artist who's at his free-est, most un­shack­led self,” Pa­trick Downie says of his late brother Gord's fi­nal solo al­bum, which has just been re­leased.

Gord Downie

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