Gord Downie talks about his music and battling cancer

In an exclusive interview with Peter Mansbridge, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie talks about his illness, music and his latest project, Secret Path.

Latest solo project, Secret Path, has already drawn praise from First Nations communities

Gord Downie on living with cancer

6 years ago
Duration 2:02
In an excerpt from an exclusive interview airing Thursday, Downie talks about brain cancer

The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie has been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive and terminal form of brain cancer, since December.

In an exclusive interview airing Thursday for The National, the first since Downie's cancer announcement, he sat down with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge at a friend's house in Toronto to talk about his illness, the Tragically Hip, and his latest project, Secret Path.

Downie's treatment has involved a couple of surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and constant MRIs. He doesn't remember the whole list himself.

His memory often fails him, so he writes notes on his hands

Memory used to be his "forte."

"And now I can't remember hardly anything. I have, I have Peter written on my hand. I have things written, a few things written on my hands. And I say that, just to be up front. 'Cause I might call you Doug," he told Mansbridge.

He has good days and bad days. On the bad days, Downie, 52, struggles to remember the names of his four children.

"I am resigned to the direction this is heading, yes I am. I really am and because I can see it and feel it doing some, not doing some good, but it's creating, it's creating something," he said.

One creation is Secret Path, a solo album, graphic novel and animated film, inspired by a 12-year-old Ojibway boy named Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack who died from hunger and exposure after trying to find his way home from a residential school.

Proceeds from Secret Path will go to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

The album and graphic novel, illustrated by Jeff Lemire, will both be released Oct. 18 and the animated film will be broadcast on CBC on Oct. 23.

For the full, exclusive interview with Downie watch The National Thursday night.