Three years after Gord Downie passed away, his final solo album Away is Mine was released.
The LP, released on Oct. 16, is comprised of 10 songs in both their electric and acoustic forms which were recorded at the Bathouse Studio near Kingston—these are the last 10 songs ever written and recorded by the vocalist of The Tragically Hip.
In an interview with The Journal, Gord’s brother Patrick Downie spoke about the album, his brother’s passion and talent, and why Gord chose to keep working until the end.
“I was Gord’s primary caretaker for the last three years of his life, and I basically rode shotgun in everything he did in terms of allowing him the ability to write and work on all of his stuff, and through all that, recording,” Downie said.
“The record was more or less done by the time he left the studio. I picked up where Gord left off to get this record to its final audience.”
Gord passed away Oct. 17, 2017, from a rare form of brain cancer. In the aftermath of his death, Away is Mine was still taking shape.
“There’s many things you have to do with the record company, all the album artwork, all the thinking behind singles, release dates, promotion, mastering,” Downie said. “We had to master it out in Los Angeles in a place called The Bakery […] It’s everything that goes into making a record, which is—as I learned—quite extensive.”
Three years on, the new album gives family, friends, and fans alike the chance to hear Gord pour out his soul one last time. The 10 deeply personal songs serve as a perfect last act, both capping off his legacy and keeping it alive.
Aside from all the technical tasks needed to finalize the album, Downie explained that releasing Away is Mine this year felt only natural.
“We really didn’t decide [the release date] because there was so much going on in terms of coping with the loss of Gord, and all the tributes and all the things that we don’t really have control over,” said Downie. “We waited patiently for the time to present itself and it just seemed like the right time.”
Gord was first diagnosed with his condition in December of 2015 and went on to live 22 months after that. In that time, he released two solo albums, Secret Path and Introduce Yerself, and a final Hip album, Man Machine Poem, with which the band embarked on a final tour across Canada from July to August 2016. In July 2017, three months before his passing, Gord wrote and recorded Away is Mine.
“The pace at which Gord works didn’t really change that much previous to his illness,” Downie said.
“He’s a guy that had a tremendous work ethic and really had a way of seamlessly weaving it into his life, and you hear that in some of the recordings. I’ve been with him when—even prior to him getting sick—he works tirelessly […] he’s a very detail-oriented guy. From the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed, he seems to be always doing something.”
According to Downie, it was simply for the love of doing it that Gord gave everything to his music, continuing to write and record even in his final year, knowing he had brain cancer.
“It was everything,” Downie said. “It was his therapy and his joy and his language. It would give him the ability to express not just his gratitude but some of his own life’s mysteries, and figure it out on the page.”
During the recording process of this final LP, the two brothers kept talk of Gord’s troubling diagnosis at a minimum.
“We kept things very normal and strove to keep them as normal as possible,” Downie said.
“I guess that’s where the work comes in because that was the most normal thing for Gord. So, in actual fact we didn’t really do too much with a lot of heavy sadness. The subtext is always there, but we didn’t know when that final time was going to come, and until that time, we weren’t spending any of it thinking about him dying.”
Away is Mine is a deeply personal album, the culmination of a career spent standing up for truth and justice. Gord’s lyrics reflect that. His fans will certainly cherish these last recordings, but it’s his brother Patrick who will cherish them most of all.
Although the album is tinged with a lot of sadness for Patrick, he said time has allowed him to separate the songs from the emotionally distraught context of their creation.
“In the time since Gord passed, it’s something I would only reach for when I knew I could actually hear it. At times, it’s super soothing and it gives me a lot of solace, and there are other times it can be kind of painful,” he said.
“For now, what I hear is a man who spent his whole life trying to express himself in song, and in this particular instance, he was faced with a very uncertain future fraught with fear and loneliness and all kinds of things, and I see a guy who’s pretty reconciled and at peace, and that gives me a lot of peace as well.”
Album, Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip
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