The Tragically Hip return with Now for Plan A

The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie talks to Q about his songwriting process, what keeps the band together and the provocative name of their new album.
The Tragically Hip includes (from left) Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Gord Downie, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker. (Clemens Rikken/Canadian Press)

The Tragically Hip have set fans buzzing this week with its series of live performances on the streets of Toronto's Kensington Market neighbourhood.

They're the kind of spontaneous, live shows The Hip does best and meant to introduce the group to a new generation as the band launches its 13th studio album, Now for Plan A.

"It’s a practical I’m going to stand and deliver I’m going to sing these songs and I’m going to really, really sing, I’m going to inhabit them," frontman Gord Downie said in an interview with Q, CBC’s cultural affairs show.

There's no magic formula for a winning Hip song, even after 29 years together, according to Downie. The group — comprising Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay — has sold eight million records since forming in 1983.

Downie admitted that he sometimes doesn’t like the songs he's laboured over as much as those that seem to pop into being, fully formed. It's one reason that live performance works so well for the band, he says.

"Improvisation can sometimes be better than how it is written," he said. "We played Modern Spirit for the first time yesterday and it jumped forward into its rightful spot as that kind of jam, Stones, attitudinal, swaggering song."

Downie talked to Q host Jian Ghomeshi about his songwriting process, what keeps the band together and the provocative new album's name, Now for Plan A.