John Cossar
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John Cossar

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Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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Jun
10
John Cossar @ St. George's Heritage Church

Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Jun
09
John Cossar @ Topsail Breeze

Long Pond, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Long Pond, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Jun
07
John Cossar @ The Ship Pub

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


A dream can be accomplished at any age and John Cossar, originally from Burgeo, is living proof of that.

Mr. Cossar, who will soon be turning 61, is set to go on an east coast tour this spring with Jim Dorie from New Glasgow.

They are both singer songwriters who got started later in life and they are joining forces in May and June for "Ballads and Barnacles" a tour of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and PEI.

"I have never been happier personally in my life," said Mr. Cossar. "This is my first tour and I get to do it with Jim, whose music I have heard and I love it."

John learned to play guitar at 14. He listened to the radio a lot so he was well versed in most kinds of music. He started in a band when he was 14 and kept going for 10 years or so and had a fabulous time.
Learning to play guitar at that time was pure drive for him since there were no music teachers around.

He is looking forward to going back to Burgeo this spring and playing on the same stage he started out on.

"That is going to be a great thrill for me," he said.

Mr. Cossar hasn't been back to his roots in 30 years, only for a funeral or two.

For Mr. Cossar this is all new to him. He has been playing different venues for years but this is his first tour.

"I am so excited, I can't even put it into words," he said.

He has his own style and personal preference when it comes to his music. He describes it as eclectic.

"People label me as folk rock and I do play rock and roll, but that is not what I am doing at the moment," he said.

He really started in earnest six years ago writing songs and it still amazes him today.

"It turns out that I can actually write," he said. "People seem to like what I do, which caught me off guard. I was just writing for me, and I do get almost 100 per cent positive responses. I love what I write even though it is just for me other people identify with it," he said.

This has given Mr. Cossar incentive to go on and pursue his music career. So many people have been supportive of him over the years.
Now that he has no responsibilities, he wants to get out there and enjoy himself.

"At 61, not everyone gets to do this," he said. "I only have so much time left and I am cramming it all in."

Mr. Cossar's newest CD, Another Bridge to Burn, was short-listed for the prestigious Atlantic Music Award.

He is still writing and looking forward to getting back into the recording studio, but funding and the tour have that on hold for the time being.

"I am so pleased that Jim is going to be doing this with me," he said. "I get to experience some of the things in Nova Scotia as well. This is going to be a great summer."

Mr. Cossar and Mr. Dorie will be appearing at The Arts and Culture Centres in Gander, Stephenville and Corner Brook.

On May 31 they will be at the parish hall in Burgeo where he first started out. On June 1 they will appear at a bed and breakfast in Burgeo.

For more information on John Cossar, visit his web site at www.johncossar.ca. - Gulf News, Port aux Basques, Newfoundland


“Wait Up For Me” by John Cossar
Jan 9, 2012
by Damian Lethbridge

A couple of weeks ago I caught a live performance by John Cossar at the Atlantis Music Prize Gala. I had been hearing a lot of buzz about John from local music fans and artists alike, and John’s performance that night confirmed what I had been hearing. The next day I dropped by Fred’s and picked up his first full length album "Another Bridge to Burn" and spent the next couple days listening to it on repeat.

John Cossar began playing music in his hometown of Burgeo at the age of fourteen on a guitar his mother bought him from the Sears catalogue. The album liner notes describe his adult life as a “gentle drift from place to place.” He married his childhood sweetheart Betty Buckland in 1979, and her tragic passing in 2001 after battling breast cancer no doubt influenced many of John’s heart-wrenching, bittersweet melodies and lyrics.

At first listen to"Another Bridge to Burn" I was reminded of Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks.

Both albums deal with themes of separation and loss, albeit under two different sets of circumstances. Cossar’s vocal style and phrasing often recall’s that of Dylan’s especially on the album’s opening title track.

Many of the song arrangements such as “Heart of Fire”, “King of the Kindom of Dumb” and “The Secret” are beautifully sparse, opting against a driving rhythm section in favor of giving the music room to breathe and allowing the listener to focus on Cossar’s poetic, autobiographical lyrics.

That’s not to say that the album lacks fire — quite the opposite. John gets toes tapping and spirits raised with tracks like the bluegrass tinged “Run-Away Train”, the rockabilly boogie of “Message” and the triumphant salute to the working man “Every Dog Has His Day”.

John’s quality song-crafting and honest, passionate delivery are complimented throughout the record by tasteful flourishes from his all star cast of local musicians including the likes of Rick Lambe, Rocky Wiseman, Dan Rubin, Chris Kirby, Craig Follett, Mark Marshall, Rozalind MacPhail, Chris Davis, Joanna Barker, Andrew McCarthy, Shannon Cymbally and his daughter Danielle Cossar.

Another Bridge to Burn has a timeless quality that keeps the listener coming back for more and discovering new beauty and depth with each listen. It is the type of album that can be appreciated while forgetting your cares on a Saturday night or nursing them on a Sunday morning. The buzz is warranted, Another Bridge to Burn hits the spot.

John Cossar’s Another Bridge to Burn is available at Fred’s Records in St. John's and can be ordered directly from his website, www.johncossar.ca.

Check out:

http://www.johncossar.ca

http://www.blueislandrecords.com/artists/cossar/cossar.html

http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Cossar/250435411669813 - The Scope, St. John's NL


John Barry Cossar was born in the isolated community of Burgeo, on the South Coast of Newfoundland, in the 1950s. His dad, a fisherman originally from Red Island, worked for the local hospital after injuring his back. John's mom, Harriet Dicks, finished Grade Eight, then left school to look after her family. Life in Burgeo in those days was isolated, independent, rugged. But thanks to his parents, who were avid readers, the house overflowed with good reading.

His first musical idol was his brother Joe who fronted several rock bands in Burgeo. John's dad was a closet songwriter, who once got to hear a song he had written inscribed to a metal LP disc. John taught himself to play guitar after his mom bought him a guitar from the Sears catalogue when he was fourteen.

He played until his fingers bled, first on the original electric, with a bowed neck and no amplifier, and later on a series of acoustic guitars. He says, "So far I have destroyed eight or nine." John says, "For the longest time I played drunk and stoned in front of a drunk and stoned audience." He calls it his "lost ten years."

Over the years he has lived and worked in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He started working as a baker in Halifax in the late 1970s. His life has been a gentle drift with the tide from place to place. In 1979 he married his childhood sweetheart Betty Buckland-Cossar, an award-winning textile artist. After their first ten years living together and another ten of marriage, he lost her to breast cancer in 2001.

These days he finds himself in St. John's, in the wake of a second marriage, living on his own, but more and more pursuing his passion for songwriting and performing. After years of supporting others, this is his time to shine.

John Cossar's songs stand out as brilliant meldings of passion with well-crafted lyric. They have been compared to the folk and country ballads of artists like Bob Dylan, John Prine and Steve Earle. Audience response confirms it: these songs pierce you to the core with their heartfelt simplicity and deft turn of phrase. John Cossar is a songwriter to reckon with, who continues to develop new material, with more than forty recent songs already written, which he hopes to record. Local artists including Chris Kirby, Sean Beresford and Geraldine Hollett are saying how much they are impressed by his songs.

Over the coming months, you will be hearing more about John Cossar. With a management contract now in place, plans for a demo recording taking shape and increasing demands for his songs, he is making his mark on the local scene here in St. John's. But all agree: he is headed for wider shores and larger audiences. His songs are paving their own way to the world. - What's Up St. John's


FOLK SINGER-SONGWRITER

HEARTFELT, SOULFUL, HONEST

John Cossar is a professional musician.

It took him a while to realize that, but here he is, releasing his first album of tunes at the age of 60. Another Bridge to Burn is beautifully wrought, well produced and deeply personal. And while for many folks who haven’t heard his name before it may seem like the record popped out of nowhere, it’s not hard to imagine this music has been brewing inside Cossar ever since his mom gave him his first guitar on his 14th birthday.

It’s also obvious that life hasn’t been easy for him.

Over those years he lost his wife to breast cancer, he lost ten years to the bottle, his second marriage disintegrated, and he has often struggled to stay afloat financially.

Going from that to the joy he felt watching the backup vocalists—including his daughter Danielle—lift the songs up in the studio, must have been intense.

“I’ve been to hell and back,” he said in a recent interview in The Telegram. “But I’m back, you know?”

And the Atlantis jury agrees. This record is the product of real passion from a real musician.

“It was a big learning curve, in so many ways. Learning to spit it out, just do it,” he says. “To achieve this in the year I turn sixty, well, that was something else.” - The Scope, St. John's, NL


John Cossar Another Bridge to Burn
by Keith Collier (Dec 2, 2011)

Catchy tunes, reinforced by tasteful use of a variety of accompanying instruments and memorable lyrics.

His voice is sometimes reminiscent of Bob Dylan, or it would be if Bob Dylan enunciated and stayed on key. Sometimes he reminds me more of Ron Hynes. Mostly though, John Cossar sounds like a man from Burgeo, who sometimes drops his H’s at the start of his words even while singing, and who has some things that he wants to sing about.

The songs on “Another Bridge To Burn,” John Cossar’s first full-length album, capture some of life’s moments of heartbreak, hope and tenderness, and without presuming anything it seems fairly obvious that these are scenes from Cossar’s life. If they are not, then he is all the more genius at writing heartfelt lyrics. His lyrical style avoids sticking to a strict number of syllables per line, which gives a certain poetic freedom, although this does sometimes make the tune a bit halting, not to mention sometimes a little hard to sing along.

Cossar’s lyrics are paired with deceptively simple music, with recognizable guitar chord changes belying the songs’ complexity. They tend to sound a little familiar yet strikingly original — their arrangements melodic and sometimes unexpected. The accompaniments are well chosen, well written and well played, from the violin to the horns. “Like a Drunkard on a Spree” is an excellent example – it starts with just an acoustic guitar and piano, and builds to include strings and Hammond organ, and even an electric guitar solo. Although there’s no percussion on the song, it sounds like there is. The minimal use of percussion is common throughout “Another Bridge to Burn,” putting the focus on the instruments and Cossar’s singing.

Cossar has a talent for writing catchy tunes, reinforced by tasteful use of a variety of accompanying instruments and memorable lyrics. Try listening to this album and NOT get the chorus from “Wait Up For Me” stuck in your head, for example.

His songs are about the timeless themes of love and longing, heartbreak and loss, and the passing of time and loss of youth, but they avoid sounding overused or clichéd, and instead come across as honest and sincere. Cossar does indeed have something to sing about.

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for somebody with a taste for good songs, for somebody who’s a fan of Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash or Ron Hynes, track down this album. It’s available at Fred’s Records, and online at www.johncossar.ca. - The Independent, St. John's NL


John Cossar’s musical career was kickstarted about five years ago after a 25-year hiatus.

He said he put down the guitar in his late twenties, and didn’t really pick it up again until his mid-fifties.

Since starting again and taking up songwriting, the Burgeo native had become a well known figure in downtown St. John’s, busking on the street and playing open mics at various pubs and coffee shops.
His first album, Another Bridge to Burn, has been released to critical acclaim and has been shortlisted for the Atlantis Music Prize. Also up for the award are national heavyweights Hey Rosetta! and The Once, among others.

The sudden rush of attention has left him a bit awestruck. Mr. Cossar had some of Newfoundland’s finest musicians lining up to accompany him on his first recording.

“They were incredible: Chris Kirby and Rick Lambe, Rozalind MacPhail, Joanna Barker and my producer Dan Rubin…”

Mr. Cossar is the brother of Burgeo musician Joe Cossar, who plays in Route 480. John learned guitar from his big brother as a teenager.

“I was plying from the age of 14 to 28,” said Mr. Cossar. “A lot of that time was just playing in a band that’s all I did to get by. But then I stopped. You go through mental changes so I wanted to do something else and be something else.”

Through the intervening years, Mr. Cossar lost his first wife of 32 years, artist Betty Buckland-Cossar, to cancer. After his second marriage ended, he said he was drawn back to music. It was a rough time in some ways.

“Poverty just forced me out of the house I had no other source of income,” he said.

From street corners, he moved to open mics, and there he developed a small following. One night his now-manager Dan Rubin heard him. The next day they met for coffee.

“Within ten minutes he offered to be my manager. We’ve been in that arrangement ever since.”

Mr. Cossar said Mr. Rubin should get a lot of credit for the album.

“He was the producer he cradled it babied it, he did everything in detail.”

Mr. Cossar held a launch party for Another Bridge to Burn at Gower Street United Church on Nov. 19. He said The Wonderful Grand Band was playing a gig elsewhere in town, and he was surprised at the number of people who came out for the intimate show. In all at least 50 turned out.

“It was the most supportive and loving thing. We laughed and we cried. It was very intimate and very nice.”

Mr. Cossar’s songwriting is causing a buzz among artists and music lovers. Although he only recently took up songwriting, his deep and well-crafted lyrics have people comparing him to John Prine and Steve Earle.

He said being shortlisted for the Atlantis Prize is a real honor.

“There’s some amazing company there. Hey Rosetta! for one. I don’t know. I’m kind of taken aback by it. But it’s beautiful. It’s a very nice feeling.”

John said he still has a place in his heart for Burgeo, the place where he grew up.

“I took a piece of Burgeo with me when I left. A part of me never did leave - a piece of my heart is very much Burgeo. I don’t think when you’re living in a place you really appreciate what you have.”

He recommends anyone listening to his album sit down in a quiet place and play the songs in order from beginning to end.

“I put some effort in designing it so it plays all the way through. It’s 14 different samples of my writing so I tried to make it a cohesive flow. There is a mood that comes with listening to it. It builds in the middle and changes mood near the end. But the only way to experience is to listen to it all the way through.”

The Gulf News has a copy of Another Bridge to Burn. To have your name entered in the draw to win it, send an e-mail to editor@gulfnews.ca and tell us the name of John’s brother who still resides in Burgeo, and the band he plays in. Deadline is Friday, Dec 2. - The Gulf News, Corner Brook NL


Every now and again I'd see a man with long greying hair walking the streets of downtown St. John's, toting a guitar case everywhere he went.

He'd look me straight in the eye if we passed on the sidewalk, but no words were ever exchanged, perhaps because his piercing blue eyes bemused me every time.

There was something different about him, something I would never understand unless I actually met him. So my curiosity persisted until we finally crossed paths one evening last summer outside The Ship in Solomon's Lane.

I introduced myself and, though we'd just met, our conversation about music and life left me feeling like this was some kind of reunion of old acquaintances.

So when I told John Cossar I'd spent my last buck on getting in to see this band, I wasn't surprised when he pulled a $20 bill from his pocket and offered to break it so he could give me half.

"I was broke this morning too, but things always seem to work out," he said, explaining that a friend had just handed him the $20 earlier that day.

It was a kind gesture, but I didn't take the money. I just remembered the sincerity behind his offer and something he said about making his first record at the age of 60.

Well, that record's out now and, as it happens, "Another Bridge to Burn" is probably one of the best folk-rock albums from these parts in recent memory.

Set apart

I sat and talked with Cossar again last week at the café where he tells me he penned a lot of his songs, and I gradually became acutely aware that something does in fact set him apart from most people.

In his eyes, words and songs, Cossar offers a kind of unabashed honesty that's rare these days.

"You go around with your own hopes and dreams and wishes and things, and in this case my other life had just come to an end," he says, pointing to the leather chair where he sat the day he made a choice five years ago. "And I'm almost starting from day one with zero - no money and no plan, except, 'What is it I really want to do?'

"I think I want to see if I can write songs and sell them. That's my passion. I didn't know it was my passion, just as well," he continues. "But I went, 'God, I can actually write!' And so a wonder world opened up and what should have been the five hardest years of my life turned out to be the most magical thing that I've ever experienced."

Ten years ago, Cossar lost his wife of 22 years, his high school sweetheart from Burgeo, and probably one of the most unappreciated artists he knew, Betty, to breast cancer.

Emotion in songs

During our interview, Cossar doesn't talk much about his "past life," but in the way he occasionally tears up while trying to tell his story without direct reference to certain people and events, and in the lyrics and emotion in his songs, it seems he's en route to one life from another.

He left Burgeo 30 years ago, spent some time in Halifax before moving to St. John's, and with Betty raised their daughter, Danielle, all while Cossar transitioned through countless jobs and trades to support his family and his wife's passion for art.

He says those who've met him along the way, including during his 17 years as a baker and time as a family man, "know me as somebody else, if you know what I mean. All I'm saying is I'm John the musician. If you didn't know me back when I was 14 to 28, I'm sorry, this is who I am now. And those back in Burgeo, they would just know me as this guy who moved away."

'To hell and back'

Cossar remarried "too soon" after Betty's passing, he says, and eventually, after a divorce, hit rock bottom.

"And here I am, with a whole lot of too much to cram into an evening to tell, you know? A lot of life experience. I've been to hell and back," he says, pausing for a moment while his eyes fill with water and a smile emerges. "But I'm back, you know?

"I've suddenly discovered I can write," he continues. "It's one of those things that sometimes is in your blind spot.

"Everything that had happened to me was so overwhelming and sad and unforgettable that I thought about how to write it and rhyme-so if I write this, then I've got to think about it," he says, explaining the therapeutic essence he experiences in songwriting.

"I'm looking for an ending to that thought - please, give me an ending to that thought. And there it is. I don't even know what it is - it's something I subconsciously felt. And I sit back and think about that, another little thing, and it resolves. Over time it just resolves."

Though he'd never agree, Cossar's songwriting is on par with Atlantic Canada's best, including Ron Hynes and Al Tuck. And though he says he "can't sing," he shares that vocal quality of Bob Dylan or John Prine, where a voice that wouldn't necessarily make the choir is elevated to sonic beauty by its emotional delivery. Cossar's songs, without exaggeration, radiate from a much deeper place than most of his contemporaries'.

"Like a Drunkard on a Spree" is his story.

"That took me nine months to write, and I loved every second of it," he says.

"When I ended up by myself I very deliberately gave away every cent I had ... so I could say I am absolutely busted. I had nowhere to go. I gave up everything and slept on my daughter's couch for four months. Got my own place after that, but I was rock bottom and started from there."

Forced to play

"When I had no food ... busking was something that I pretty much had to do," he continues. "I learned a lot. I learned if you were singing to two people then they will run away from you. But if you sing for yourself and just close your eyes and get lost in what you're doing, which is all I was doing when I was writing," he says, ending the thought and moving to realization, "coincidentally, I needed to be there.

"I would go down every day and busk ... and man, I hadn't played a guitar for 35 years with any intent, and I didn't know how to play, didn't know how to sing," he continues.

"I had no self-confidence and it beat the shit out of me. So I'm down there learning like crazy and all of a sudden, one night, I realize that I got to stop. And it was cold as bejesus and it was getting dark, and the wind was whistling down on the corner of George and Water Street and it was f--kin' snowin' and it was minus two and I couldn't feel my fingers," he says, pausing to seize the memory as his eyes water again.

"And my gloves had f--kin' holes in 'em, and and I'm thinkin', I gotta stop. And I'm cussin', 'Where did the f--kin' summer go?'" he continues, his voice trembling. "I was just, for the first time in my life, learning.
"Every day was like that, and I never learned so much so fast in my life, and all of a sudden it's snowing and I'm still starving and still poor. But I was pissed because I had to stop: 'I can't do this anymore. I got to find a way to play indoors - I gotta get good fast enough that I can do it.'

"But as I'm walking home the poet in me took over, and ... I'm thinking, where did the year go? A year went by just like it was a season. It was just really short, and the season went by like a day. And, OK, years go by like seasons, seasons go by like days, and I'm sorry, but this is startin'," he says, cutting himself off to recite what became the line that inspired his own personal magnum opus, "'And the days go by like turning pages from the cradle to the grave.'

"And I thought, that's a really nice lyric and I f--kin' well better write something nice behind that. And then I started to pay attention. My son, there are so many stories connected to that, that my experience in the nine months of writing that wowed me to all kinds of stuff that I couldn't begin to explain because they're all side stories.

"This is where my subconscious life (began): 'I'm beat, I'm done, I'm weak, I'm bottomed out. And I'm gonna spend all my time and money like a drunkard on a spree 'cause if you're gone time can't go fast enough for me.' Well there's the story in that verse - that's all my life right there. And it went, and it went, and it went. If I died right on the spot after finishing that I would have been a happy camper.

"The thing is, I'm fulfilling what I was put here to do," Cossar had told me earlier in the conversation, expressing the epiphany with a smile. "I know this, so I'm happy for me. And this (album) is a representation of what I'm doing at the moment. But it didn't stop," he continued, opening a notebook and flipping through the pages of lyrics. "I've got books and books of it, so (the album) is just a small piece of it all."

Backed by band

On "Another Bridge to Burn" Cossar is backed by an incredibly tight band, featuring Dan Rubin, Rick Lambe, Chris Kirby and Rick Hollett, and a handful of other local musicians who contributed to the songs, including Cossar's daughter Danielle, Rozalind MacPhail, Andrew McCarthy and Joanna Barker, among others.

At 60, life has only just begun for Cossar, because that's the only way he'd have it. There's no question that his music will travel far and wide, carrying with it the honesty, compassion and wisdom implicit in his songs.

He and his band will celebrate the release of "Another Bridge to Burn" Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Gower Street United Church Hall. Tickets are $10 in advance at O'Brien's Music and Fred's Records, or $12 at the door.

For more information, visit www.johncossar.ca. - The Telegram, St. John's NL


Fresh Tracks: John Barry Cossar

Published on October 14, 2011

John Barry Cossar is a rising star in the Newfoundland music scene. At the age of 60 he has just released his first full-length recording, “Another Bridge to Burn.”

His songs are being compared to the country/folk ballads of Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and John Prine, full of power and grace. As a performer, he moves people to tears with his honest, humble insights into life, love and the challenges we face. Among local musicians he is already recognized as one of the province’s great songwriters. Cossar’s songs are brilliant blendings of passion with well-crafted lyrics. Audience response confirms it: these songs pierce you to the core with their heartfelt simplicity and deft turn of phrase. Cossar is a songwriter to reckon with, who continues to develop new material, adding to the more than 40 recent songs already written.

He has just released his second recording with funding from MusicNL. “Another Bridge to Burn” was completed in September, with more than a dozen other prominent musicians contributing to the recording, including Chris Kirby, Rick Lambe, Rick Hollett, Rozalind MacPhail and Dan Rubin. Cossar ‘s CD launch will be held Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Gower Street United Church Hall.

You can listen to the title track from his new CD at the article site.

We invite everyone who knows John's music to join us on Saturday, November 19th at the Gower St. United Church Hall for his CD launch. Guest artists will include Chris Kirby, Rick Lambe, Rozalind MacPhail, Dan Rubin and others, to be announced. Tickets are on sale now at Fred's Records and O'Brien's Music ($10 advance, $12 at the door.)
To reserve tickets, you can also email us at secondstage@hotmail.com

We hope to see you there! Please tell your friends. - The Telegram, St. John's NL


LIKE A DRUNKARD ON A SPREE

John Cossar makes a go of it as a singer-songwriter, at the age of 60
By: Gavin Simms

John Cossar’s goldmine has been waiting a long time. Sixty years and only now is he getting around to gutting it out.

“It pours,” he says. “It pours out of me.” The words of a perpetual songwriter, with more music in him than any machine could keep up with. An old man with more history to impart than future to fit it all.

It was four years ago when John decided to start a career in music, at the age of 56. Single, after 35 years as a family man, he found himself with a guitar to his name and a wealth of words to be written.

Eighty songs later, John’s now working on his first album. And he couldn’t be more convinced he’s finally living the life he was meant to.

Begins in the bay

John was born in Burgeo, the baby of “a bunch of brothers and sisters.”

And as far as his memory can tell, he was raised up by the radio.

“I listened to lots of radio. All we could get was CHCM Marystown and I was kind of warped by that — I wanted to play rock music and that’s all I was interested in.”

A confessed bad boy, he got into the habit of staying up all hours of the night, channeling music from thin air.

“In the early morning hours where Burgeo is situated, there’s an atmospheric skip and it changes the angle of whatever radio station is broadcasting. You pick up unique ones you wouldn’t normally pick up all hours of the night.”

“I wanted to play rock music and that’s all I was interested in.” —John Cossar
He found himself listening to New York stations, around the time when the Beatles landed — he even heard them being interviewed in their hotel rooms. Says he was a Beatles fan before anybody knew of them in Newfoundland.

At 14, his parents bought him his first guitar from a Sears catalog, so he could at least pretend to be some sort of rock star.

“I was playing somewhere in my head. I didn’t care how it sounded; I just wanted to play it,” he says.

The cover band years

Then there was his big brother Joe…

“He was the coolest guy. He could play guitar — was the best in town and still is.”

It was a while before John says he was cool enough to play with his brother, but they eventually wound up in bands together. One in particular, called The Movers, covered songs John suggested, the likes of Carl Perkins. Nobody knew the words but John, who was on rhythm guitar.

“The singer at the time would be peering back at me asking what the words were to the point when they said, ‘you might as well sing’.”

He was a musician playing other people’s songs on through high school and into his twenties. But he didn’t mind, as long as he got to play — back then playing whatever song was all he cared to do.

“I also played as I watched them fool around on each other and watched them fall apart,” —John Cossar
“When I was a teenager playing in the band, I avoided work like the plague. I didn’t even know there was two 3 o’clocks in the day for Christ sakes. I couldn’t see the point in working like everybody else.”

From the stage, John says he watched other people dance with his girlfriend, and later watched them dance with his wife. He watched while all his friends grew up and saw them get together, and he even played for their weddings.

“I also played as I watched them fool around on each other and watched them fall apart,” he says. “You get the entire perspective. It made me wonder, how do people survive the way they do?”

Well into his twenties, John came to the conclusion it was time to call it quits with music altogether, and make a go at a straight life. So he did, starting with a job in construction.

“It taught me to work. Good physical tiredness — coming home and passing out because you couldn’t do anymore — it toughened me up.”

He came out of the experience wanting a family with his high school sweetheart, Betty. And as the years went by from there he became a dad to his daughter and husband to his wife.

For the past thirty years he’s worked as a baker, trading time for money with Wonderbread, Auntie Crae’s, Sobeys, Purity Factories and Tim Hortons.

That second chance

John’s wife of 22 years died of breast cancer in 2001. He later remarried, but it didn’t last.

“They say write what you know,” John puts it. “And all I know is this right now.”

He’s since left the straight life behind him and picked things up where he left off in his twenties, with the exception of playing covers.

“I’m never going to play anyone else’s songs again. I played cover songs for ten years and even though I like Irish songs, I don’t ever want to sing another one for a long time.”

He’s not about to waste his second shot at this. Wiser now, John lives in day and night devotion to his music, regardless of the cost or what anyone else might think.

“I live my life like I live my life. I’ve let other people’s opinions of me bend me into shapes where I didn’t recognize me, and I no longer do that. I’m not living to anyone else’s standards.”

Being a full-time musician has meant busking on the streets of St. John’s for money to eat over the past two years, but John doesn’t mind. He’ll write songs right there on the sidewalk.

Making music has become his obsession and filled a huge hollow space in him.

“I can’t even put it into words, just how much I admire what comes out of me,” —John Cossar
“I can’t even put it into words, just how much I admire what comes out of me, and it sounds so friggin’ vain. I don’t even give a rat’s ass if anybody else ever reads it.

“I would look at this as if you were to make your favorite stew — for that stew you go to the grocery store and get all the things you want to put in it. My little grocery store is filled will all the words that I know, so I’m walking down the aisles choosing this word and that word. I’m making a stew — I don’t quite know what it is but I do know one thing for certain; I’m not going to be putting things in that stew that you like. I’m putting stuff in that stew that I like. I’m the one that this is made for.”

Another bridge to burn

Not intentionally, John says he’s caused more hurt than anything by not doing what he should have been doing a long time ago. But hurt belongs in the past, is something he lives by. And now that he’s reaping the benefits of being himself, he’s the most grateful man you’ll meet.

“It’s been one nice thing after another. I got a manager out of it I didn’t even ask for; I got a recording contract; I got funding for a demo, and now I have funding for a full-length CD.”

Listening back to demos he’s recorded, John can’t believe it’s him — he can’t believe he wrote the words or played the guitar. To his ear (he’s deaf in one) the music is flawless — something he never considered himself to be.

He’s a man of metaphors, and there’s no line between his life and his music. Performing what he’s created on stage, he says, “It’s like this big ball of sadness has left me. I roll it away and it hits people — they cry and I smile.”

John’s also been known to shed a few tears on stage. Lyrics like these are the reason…

These precious years are flying by so fast,

I swear, the seasons feel like days.

And the days feel just like turning pages,

from the cradle to the grave.

Still, I’m spending all my time and money,

just like a drunkard on a spree,

‘cus if you’re gone,

time can’t go fast enough,

for me.

John Cossar, who turns 60 April 8, is currently in the studio working on his debut album, Another Bridge to Burn. Sample the song ‘Trouble’ at the website for this review!
- The Independent, St. John's NL


Discography


HEART ON FIRE - Seven Tune Sampler EP: December 2010
released by Blue Island Records (www.blueislandrecords.com)

ANOTHER BRIDGE TO BURN - Fourteen tune commercial CD: September 2011
released by Blue Island Records (www.blueislandrecords.com)

Photos

Bio


John Cossar is a rising star in the Newfoundland music scene. At the age of sixty he has just released his first full length CD "Another Bridge to Burn" to overwhelming acclaim from the media and local musicians. His songs are being compared to the country/folk ballads of Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and John Prine. They are full of power and grace. As a performer he moves people to tears with his honest, humble insights into live, love and the challenges we face.

JOHN BARRY COSSAR was born in the isolated community of Burgeo, on the rugged South Coast of Newfoundland in 1950. His dad, a fisherman originally from Red Island, worked for the local hospital after injuring his back. John's mom, Harriet Dicks, finished Grade Eight, then left school to look after her family. Life in Burgeo in those days was isolated, people there were independent. Thanks to his parents, who were avid readers, the house overflowed with good reading.

His first musical idol was his brother Joe who fronted several rock bands in Burgeo. John's dad was a closet songwriter, who once got to hear a song he had written inscribed to a metal LP disc. John taught himself to play guitar after his mom bought him a guitar from the Sears catalogue when he was fourteen.

He played until his fingers bled, first on the original electric, with a bowed neck and no amplifier, and later on a series of acoustic guitars. He says, "So far I have destroyed eight or nine." John says, "For the longest time I played drunk and stoned in front of a drunk and stoned audience." He calls it his "lost ten years."

Over the years he has lived and worked in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He started working as a baker in Halifax in the late 1970s. His life has been a gentle drift with the tide from place to place. In 1979 he married his childhood sweetheart Betty Buckland-Cossar, an award-winning textile artist. After ten years of living together and another twenty two of marriage, he lost her to breast cancer in 2001. His daughter Danielle is the light of his life.

These days he finds himself in St. John's, in the wake of a second marriage, living on his own, but more and more pursuing his passion for songwriting and performing. After years of supporting others, this is his time to shine.

John's songs are brilliant meldings of passion with well-crafted lyric. Audience response confirms it: these songs pierce you to the core with their heartfelt simplicity and deft turn of phrase. John Cossar is a songwriter to reckon with, who continues to develop new material, with more than forty recent songs already written, which he hopes to record. Established Newfoundland artists Chris Kirby, Sean Beresford and Geraldine Hollett are impressed by his songs and consider him to be one of Newfoundland's great songwriters. Chris Kirby says John Cossar "writes songs that change lives."

In December 2010 we released John's first CD, a seven-tune sampler titled HEART ON FIRE, at a well attended house concert in St. John's. Signed, numbered copies of that release are still available. It will be a true collector's item. The sampler was recorded with funding from MusicNL.

We applied again for funding for a full album, and again we were funded by MusicNL. Work on the full release began in February and we finished mixing and mastering late in the summer. The album was supported by more than a dozen musicians who contributed tracks, including Chris Kirby, Rick Lambe, Rick Hollett, Craig Follett, Mark Marshall, Roz MacPhail, Dan Rubin, Andrew McCarthy, Chris Davis and Rocky Wiseman. It is a wonderful collection of tunes, very powerful and varied in the musical styles it includes.

ANOTHER BRIDGE TO BURN was released in late September, 2011. It is beginning to gather a lot of attention from local media, musicians and fans. It's a classic collection of fourteen of John's original tunes, a journey of the heart. Copies are available at local outlets and a launch event was held in November, 2011. The CD has been reviewed eight times, all positively. In addition to this attention and being on the bestseller list at Fred's Records in St. John's for weeks, the album has earned a position as nominee, then short listed recording for the Atlantis Music Award.

Over the coming months, you will be hearing more about John Cossar. With a management contract and a record label supporting him, a demo EP and now a full commercial CD released, he is making his mark on the music scene in Canada. In May and June of 2012 John Cossar will be performing in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and across the island of Newfoundland along with Nova Scotia songwriter Jim Dorie, who will be on their "Ballads and Barnacles" Tour. Check John's website (www.johncossar.ca) for details and tour dates.