An accomplished musician, lyricist, poet and singer, Gord Downie is best known as the lead man for the legendary Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. Gord discusses everything from his musical roots to his thoughts about the environment and his support for renewable power â€“ all while raking the yard at his newly bullfrogpowered home in Toronto.
BP: How did you first get involved in music?
GD: I discovered my older sisterâ€™s 45 collection and would listen to everything I could. I used up my entire allowance buying records. I scored a gig as the lead singer with a school bandâ€¦ not necessarily for my singing ability but rather for my sheer memory power. I could memorize huge quantities of lyrics â€“ mostly the Doors. I think it was the Doorsâ€™ song â€œThe Endâ€ that really got me the gig.
BP: What led you to a career in music?
GD: I never wanted to do anything else.
BP: Where did the name for the band come from?
GD: We were watching a movie called “Elephant Parts” â€“ at one point in the movie, people were asking for donations to a foundation called The Tragically Hip.
BP: Is there a connection between music and the environment?
GD: Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point â€“ at its central core, itâ€™s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives â€“ when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.
BP: Have you always felt an affinity for the environment?
GD: I grew up on the lake and spent most of that time outdoors. As a musician, I travel widely around the country and talk to a lot of people, from all walks of life. That experience, combined with my rock and roll roots gives me something of an affinity for the underdog. In many ways, the environment is also the underdog â€“ so, itâ€™s an easy fit.
BP: Why did you make the decision to switch to renewable electricity from Bullfrog Power?
GD: Well, first of all, this was very much a family decision. Everyone, the kids included, weighed in on the decision around the dinner table. But for me personally, what instantly caught my attention was that I had a choice that never existed before. That choice opens up a whole new part of the mind â€“ now, when a light bulb in the house is turned on, suddenly it means something. For me, consumer choice is the most powerful method for effecting change in our society. And, as a society, we have had a tendency to never question where our power was coming from. Now, with Bullfrog Power, we have an alternative â€“ once I realized that, it only took me about five minutes to exercise that choice.
BP: What would you like to tell your fans about renewable power?
GD: I would simply like to remind people, or make them aware, that they do have a choice now about the kind of electricity they buy. We need to start diluting this vat of dirty energy weâ€™re using. By making a choice with your wallet, you can help build more windmills and bring more renewable power into the mix. Change has to start somewhere, and right at home is as good a place as any. We need to act now to help our local and global environment.
BP: Are you involved in other environmental initiatives?
GD: Yes, Iâ€™m a trustee with Waterkeepers, an organization that was first started by Robert F Kennedy Jr. in the US to save the Hudson from pollution. Waterkeepers is now a global organization, dedicated to healthy management of our rivers, bays and lakes across the world. My focus is Lake Ontario. Supporting Waterkeepers is a great way to help preserve and protect our waterways that provide us with so much â€“ water to drink, a place to swim, transportation routes, and more.
BP: What does the future of renewable power look like and what role do you want to play in that future?
I would like to see lots of people make the choice. I would like to see a revolution in this province and ultimately beyond to other provinces. I want to help by putting this choice in front of people. Iâ€™m really excited about it.