A GIFT FROM GORD
Tragically Hip frontman is heard once again on the posthumous recording Away is Mine
“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.