EXCLUSIVE | Gordon Lightfoot's artistry is complete, say creators Martha Kehoe, Joan Tosoni before docu release
'Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia and Gord were all managed by Albert Grossman in the '70s, so they got an opportunity to meet each other. So, they are very much co-inspired'
Before the theatrical release of 'Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind', MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke with its creators. Read our exclusive interview below with director-writers, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni, on the esteemed Gordon Lightfoot himself.
What would you say is the most fascinating thing about Gordon, and what was it like working with him in the documentary?
Joan: We have worked with Gord for many years and know him quite well. We've done several projects with him, so he wasn't a new personality to us, but we were pleased during the documentary that Gord revealed himself a little more than he usually does. He's a very, very private man, but I think he wanted to share more with us than he usually does. He's always up for an interview and everything like that but I think he knew this one had to go a little deeper.
Martha: One of the most fascinating things about Gord is his personality which is of an artiste. So there's a very fascinating quality to him that his artistry is so complete, he's so poetic in his songs and he's very plain-spoken, humble and down-to-earth in day-to-day life. Even when you ask him a question, he gives you a matter-of-fact answer, whereas he has such a poetic nature as well. So, there's a little bit of a dichotomy with Gord.
Was he open to the idea of the film and was it easy to convince him in?
Martha: We'd always wanted to make a documentary about him and he was never very anxious to do so. And in fact, if he'd had more say in the film, I think it would have been just entirely music. He finds the talking part of it all is not of his interests, but as Joan said, we've had a good relationship with him and he trusted us, and he felt it was an important time. Like he said, "Well, I'm getting to be 75, I guess it may be time to do that movie."
Joan: It took us five years to fully fund the film to do it. Between the time he agreed to do the documentary and the time we made it, about five years had passed.
Martha: We were lucky he agreed to it and he knew what he was in for. When we first met him, I'd said to him, "Gord, I'm gonna really be digging around," and I think he had gone to you, Joan, and said he was ready to talk — that he was ready to talk about Yorkville and his past, instead of just always being future-looking.
Joan: We launched the shooting at the very well known concert hall in Toronto called Massey Hall where he does a several-day stint every year that is always sold-out. It's kind of his concert hall — it's really associated with him — and they closed it down now for renovation. So, he was closing down that Massey Hall concert and that was the first day that we started shooting.
Gordon has had plenty of amazing musicians cover his music, such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and many more. Could you share details on his friendship with artistes who've covered his songs?
Martha: There's a section in the film that talks about his long-held admiration for Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia and Gord were all managed by Albert Grossman in the '70s, so they got an opportunity to meet each other. So, they are very much co-inspired. They consider themselves colleagues. But Gord likes to make a joke:
Joan: He says, "I've never heard a cover I didn't like." He's very appreciative of the artistes that have covered his material. Even though he may not be friends with them, he's always appreciative. After the launch of our film at Hot Docs Festival last year, we had a party afterward where several artistes covered his songs and he just was enjoying every minute of it. He's a generous artiste.
Do you perceive any subtle differences between Gordon's public persona and how he is in private? How does he keep up public appearances?
Martha: He does present himself. For one thing, there was recently a little news saying of him: he had been walking in Toronto and a bunch of people had been taking pictures with him and stuff like that. That's very much the guy he is, but he is a consummate professional. So, any professional is gonna have gear that they get into for public appearances, and you're not gonna see him complaining, you're not gonna see him being rude. He's a guy that's gonna put his best foot forward — he is a huge believer in putting your best foot forward.
Joan: If you go to a concert of Gord's, he always holds a meet-and-greet with his fans afterward, and he will still stay till he's, pretty much, seen everyone he wants to see. And he finds that very, very important. That's a very important thing to him. He recognizes the fans are who make you a success and if they make the effort to pay the money and come and see him, he's gonna spend an effort to meet them if they want to meet him.
Martha: I feel like the fans and Gord now share memories and he respects the longevity of their fandom and the longevity of the mutual relationship.