Tom Cochrane: 'You sometimes write the happiest songs when you're down'

Canadian rock legend Tom Cochrane looks back on how he wrote one of his biggest hits, 'Life is a Highway.'
Musician Tom Cochrane performing in the q studio in Toronto, Ont. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

"You sometimes write the happiest songs when you're down," says Tom Cochrane. 

The Canadian songwriter is referring to his 1991 hit, "Life is a Highway," which was written as a result of an intense experience in West Africa where he recalls being shot at and seeing people die of starvation. 

"It was an overwhelming experience that left a lot of scars on my psyche," Cochrane remembers. When he came home, he was "in a bit of a funk," but decided to one day channel it all into songs. The best, most poppy-sounding result of that writing session was the hit we know Cochrane for today.

"I needed something really positive to pull me out of this funk," he explains. "This song had the ability to, no matter who the people were, just light them up — that power and that momentum just made people happy, if only for four minutes." 

The National Music Centre in Calgary is honouring Cochrane with an exhibit called Showcase: Tom Cochrane, which will run until April 30, 2017. Cochrane is touring across Canada next year, check out all the dates on his official website.


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