Fans were given a hint of what to expect when Cohen made remarks as the recipient of the Principe de Asturias Prize for literature in Spain in October 2011.
"As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. And the instructions were these...Never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity & beauty."
The album was produced with Patrick Leonard, Anjani Thomas, Ed Sanders and Dino Soldo. Complementing Cohen's signature baritone on Old Ideas are the exceptional vocalists Dana Glover, Sharon Robinson, The Webb Sisters (Hattie and Charley Webb) and Jennifer Warnes. The album's cover design and drawings are Cohen's own.