At 65, Kenny Loggins Sings On With Blue Sky Riders

Logic, it turns out, isn’t always the way to go, at least not for Kenny Loggins.

Photo: Terry Mayer /
Walworth County Fair, Elkhorn, Wisc.

Had he listened to that particular little voice in his head, the two-time Grammy winner with 12 platinum records would be kicking back at home right now in Santa Barbara, Calif. Instead, at 65, he’s hitting the stage and studio with a whole new act and a whole new sound nearly five decades into his music career.

He’s got three songs on a CD tucked inside a new “Frosty the Snowman” picture book out on Imagine, Peter Yarrow’s imprint.

But he’s been making serious music with the Blue Sky Riders, his country rock trio with Nashville’s Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman. They have a new Christmas CD, Finally Home, co-produced by Peter Asher and featuring a tune called “Dream” that has this line: “You take the glory days/I’ll take what’s on its way/No one can tell me my best days are done.”

The Associated Press: How has storytelling changed for you?

Loggins: At the beginning of my career, Loggins and (Jimmy) Messina, Jimmy was my mentor. I had not done anything professionally, so it was all a period of learning and just kind of sitting back and watching, seeing how things were done. Then when I went solo I started to take what I’d learned and put it into action. No matter what phase of life you’re in, it’s always a learning procedure. Then when I hit this third act, as some people are calling it, I discovered that I had a pretty clear picture of the kind of thing I wanted to do for this next part of my life. … In ‘Dream,’ ‘Too old to dream’ became this pivotal phrase that Georgia developed into the chorus of the song, that sometimes logic doesn’t win out, that the heart and the passion has got to win out.

Are there similarities between your blend with Messina and your blend with Gary?

The blend with Messina is more akin to the Everly Brothers. There’s a certain nasal, edgy thing that Jimmy and I had in common. We wrote two songs together in the six years that we were together, but Loggins and Messina was Jimmy doing his thing and Kenny doing his thing and then we’d bring it together to blend it. Blue Sky Riders is very much a writing machine. We write together as a trio. Ninety-eight percent of what we have on the new record we wrote together. And we do the vocal arrangements as we’re writing the songs, so it’s much more of a partnership, a family. And we love and respect each other, and it’s been a great ride. I hope that it holds.

Part of how Blue Sky Riders has financed the group is through house parties. Are you all still doing those?

We are doing house parties. We also play gigs now that the price of the gig has gone up enough that we can use that money. We’ve taken none of the money we’ve made, either through gigs or house parties, personally. And we were just debating today if we could take a couple of thousand individually ’cause, you know, Christmas is coming and they need the dough.

You’ve written all these songs. You’ve collaborated on numerous others. Are you hurting for money?

Sometimes, yeah. The second divorce was a problem. But it’s not that I’m hurting for money as much as I need to stay creative. … When Columbia Records dropped me from the label and I flirted with the idea of retiring, I found that I was getting very depressed. And that I needed to write. I needed to record in order to stay alive, to stay in touch with my own juice, and that made me happier and therefore I became a better dad, an easier person to live with.

How has the music industry changed for you? Do you find yourself being cynical about the industry as a whole?

I think that the music industry has changed dramatically, as we know, from the mama, papa stores, you know, and getting a record played on the radio one city at a time. You know, the monolithic ownership of radio stations has homogenized the playlists now so getting on the radio is a completely different game, I’m not sure one that I will even bother playing. Radio is still powerful, but the point being that things have changed and there are new rules and new ways to play the game and so part of the fun of jumping back in the pool is to learn the new rules.

What would you be doing today, what would you have done with yourself, if not music?

I really don’t know. I’ve thought about that a lot, as to what I would have fallen back on, you know. I actually thought about it a lot when I was 50 and considered retiring, and I just saw that it wasn’t going to work, that I had been in music and songwriting since I graduated high school and so I’ve really learned nothing else, that I am an expert at what I do and an idiot at everything else, for better or for worse.