‘Why say tree when you can say sycamore?’ Bic Runga on stalking, memorising and meeting Leonard Cohen. 

In 2010, Kody [Nielson] and I spent six days on the road as his support act for his New Zealand tour. At the first show at Vector Arena, Leonard came out to meet us before we went on and watched side of stage. Anyone who’s ever played support for a big act knows that this seldom happens, but this seemed less to do with us and more about his basic respect for people around him, how this would simply be the right thing to do as a host.

Weeks earlier we had booked flights to get to the other shows around the country, but we never ended up using them, because after the first night we were invited to travel with him on his chartered plane. This was, of course, uncommon and very special. I got to have a handful of conversations with Leonard, and all I can say is that he was every bit as present, gracious and cool as you might imagine.

I cried a couple of times hearing the news of his death. It was a special honour to have met him. I think it’s fair to say that he elevated the art of popular songwriting as high as it could go; his lyric writing sets the bar. I couldn’t possibly say what my favourite Leonard Cohen song is, there are too many, but to go out on ‘You Want It Darker’ is quite the master stroke.

The Spinoff

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