Interview: John McCutcheon on confronting cancer and family crises, and returning to Sonoma County

john-mccutcheonOne year ago, on the eve of his annual tour to Northern California, singer-songwriter John McCutcheon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Fortunately, that diagnosis turned out to be wrong.

What McCutcheon actually had was a severe lung infection.

Still, his condition was serious enough to keep him off the road, and he was forced to cancel his annual tour to the West Coast, including his expected January 2016 appearance at the Sebastiani Theatre. Twelve months later, McCutcheon is now feeling significantly better, and is ready to hit the road.

“When you get to be my age,” says McCutcheon, 64, “even if you just stub your toe, the doctors says, ‘It’ll be a year until you’re back to 100 percent.’ Well, it’s been just about a year, and I’m doing really well. It was a scare and a bit of a hiccup, but I’m through that now, and I’m really excited to come back to Sonoma.”

At his delayed Sebastiani appearance – now scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9 – the multiple-Grammy nominee will be playing songs from his new album, one of his first collections of new and never-recorded songs in several years. Titled “Trolling for Dreams,” the deeply personal recording of 14 tunes marks McCutcheon’s 38th album to date. That’s a number that officially ties him with the remarkable output of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

“And that is probably all I have in common with the great Bob Dylan,” he says, “that we have the same number of albums. But believe me, if the Nobel Prize ever came to me, which it won’t, I’d actually show up to accept it.”

As to the inspiration for the new album, McCutcheon says it just felt like it was time. He’s spent much of the last few years recording and performing songs by other people, including the late union organizer Joe Hill, who McCutcheon has played in Si Kahn’s one-actor play “Joe Hill’s Last Will.” The new album is a combination of new songs, written over the last year, and several others he’s written but never gotten around to recording.

“I keep a file of stuff that, for one reason or another, never seemed to fit on another album, or I didn’t think was ready, or any other of a dozen reasons a song goes unrecorded,” McCutcheon says. “So I put together a band I’ve worked with in the past, and we just had a ball recording these songs. I’m probably more excited about this album than any album I’ve done for a long time.”

Click ‘Here‘ to read the full story in the Sonoma Index-Tribune

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