Don’t even try to figure out Kenny Loggins’ music or in what direction he might take it in next. While an entire generation is well-versed in his talent as a master tunesmith and major contributor to soundtracks of some of the most memorable movies on the planet, trying to guess what Loggins will do next might be a lot like trying to rope the wind.
His four-decade and then some career has gone way beyond hit records—from at the top of the music charts to multiple Grammys, from creating music that has become part of people’s lives. He’s had smash hits on Hollywood’s most popular soundtracks, rocked stages worldwide, recorded duets with fellow icons like Stevie Nicks and Michael McDonald and found his way into children’s hearts while dabbling in a variety of genres.
While much of modern music is easily forgettable, talent is winning out and classic has become in style again. The good news is, in ever-increasing numbers, proven talent is winning out and listeners are gravitating to words and music that elicit deeper emotions than those created by bumps and grinds. And they are gravitating toward musicians they can trust with those emotions. That is why, currently, there are more creative singer-songwriters out there than record company executives.
Welcome to Kenny Loggins’ world.
Kenny Loggins is as creative in choosing genres in which to record as he is in creating the songs themselves. He has defied the recording industry, almost from the very beginning. When rock and roll had a decidedly edgy emerging voice in the ’70s, Loggins recorded a lullaby.
He’s been a guitar-slinger with a psychedelic rock band (Electric Prunes); a hot young songwriter with a publishing deal (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy album); half of a legendary country-rock duo (Loggins and Messina); a Grammy winning solo artist (Best Male Pop Vocal for “This Is It”, 1980) and Grammy winning co-songwriter (Song of the Year for “What A Fool Believes”, 1979); a pioneer in the smooth jazz genre; the reigning king of mega-hit soundtracks (Footloose, Caddyshack, Top Gun); a rocker; a seeker; and an enduring recording artist and live performer whose recent works continue to speak to both young audiences and world concerns.
If you think that paragraph was long-winded, it’s because the irons Loggins has in the fire are many.
There was a time when the record executives loved Loggins. Twelve of his albums went platinum and beyond. In a world of one-hit wonders and artists whose 15 minutes come and fizzle in a heart beat, Loggins has had hit songs in four straight decades.
Lately, Loggins hooked up with two other singer/songwriters in Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman to form a country/folk trio called Blue Sky Riders, where he finds himself reinvigorated in the creative process that was the root cause to all his success.
We caught up with Kenny Loggins via a phone interview last week. Here’s his take on…
How are things with you?
Loggins: I’m alright.
If you had a nickel for every time you said that (despite it being a signature song for the film Caddyshack)…
Loggins: It would be at least once a day. I’m glad I didn’t write a song called “I’m so f—-d up,” things would never be good. Because that would be something you’d have to live with.
What have you been up to lately?
Loggins: I’ve got so much stuff going on right now. It’s like, “slow down.” But I guess that will happen soon enough and then I’ll wish I had something going on. Well, I’ve got the children’s book Footloose, and it’s still doing really well.
I just made a record deal with BMG. I’m coming out with a new record, believe it or not. It’s a six-song EP on BMG, and it’s called Night Songs. We’re thinking it’s an adult contemporary record but I initially intended it to be a follow-up to Return to Pooh Corner, a children’s album, but then the more I listened to it, the more I realized it was a little more adult than that—it was more like a parents’ record.
Hopefully it will be a two-part series—two six-song EPs depending on how the first one does. But this is a new marketing plan, to try and keep up with the way music is distributed these days. It is romantic music that’s all ballads—this first six-song EP. I intended it to be something that parents could play with their children, but it’s really aimed at parents. Nobody’s made a record specifically for parents before. Marketing wise they don’t know what to call it, but they’re working on that. My job is to try to do something unique and original, ’cause I’m the artist. Their job is to figure out how to sell it. I don’t know that I’d want to take on their job. But it is important. How will people hear it if they don’t know about it? It’s aimed at parents and grandparents. I’m a grandfather. We’re gonna have a song on the record that is written by me and my son, Crosby, and my co-producer is my son’s age, about 36. My son just had his first child, so we wrote a song together for his daughter, and it’s called “Baby Love,” and we’ve got a remake of “Danny’s Song,” that I added where I add a new third verse from the point of view of being a grandfather. I hope my peers love it ’cause that’s my audience, and will turn their children who are having babies on to it. I’d like to find that market and keep making music for parents and children.
Of all the genres you’ve dabbled in was there one that fit like a glove and one that didn’t work at all?
Loggins: I was raised by two big brothers and one big brother was into folk and country and the other big brother was into rock and R&B. So as a 5- or 7-year-old, my big brothers were constantly bringing me their music. Did you see Sing Street that came out this year? It’s a great, great movie and one of my favorites from 2016. Although it didn’t get much in the way of a marketing push, so not a lot of people know about it. It’s a coming of age story but it’s very much the story of a big brother and a little brother and very much my kind of story around my big brother Dan and I and because of that I have two different cradle languages—I have the folky thing which is Loggins and Messina and Blue Sky Riders, and I have the soul thing and rock thing which is “Footloose,” and Leap of Faith, so I’m not the right person to ask whether or not they went well. I think they went well, and I’ve had fun, as you put it, dabbling in different kinds of genres and that for the longest time was the reason why I never occupied a clear place in pop culture and consciousness of music fans. I was always too much of a moving target.
Well no one could ever accuse you of repeating yourself.
Loggins: When I did “Footloose,” then the record company wanted “Footloose Part 2,” so I came out with Vox Humana which was a completely different record. I don’t know why, I’ve just never been comfortable holding still and I think over the years it becomes a sort of a patchwork quilt that you can go, “Wow, this guy’s had an interesting career.” But it took a long time to get to where we could back up far enough to go, “oh, he can do that, and he can do that and he can do that,” and it’s all okay. You don’t have to corner yourself in only one part of the room.
We’re you part of a small group of artists who had the freedom to take your music in any direction you chose?
Loggins: I think in my day, everybody had the freedom to make different kinds of music—they just didn’t. You think of someone like Tom Petty. He had that one thing that he did really, really well and there was no reason for him to make an R&B record. That would be absurd. But in my mind, I never had that just one thing that I just wanted to do—possibly to my detriment, I think. I became a very difficult act for a record company to sell because people didn’t know what kind of record I was going to come out with next. You know, if you really like “Footloose,” and you don’t like that other thing I’m doing, and then I come out with Leap of Faith, it took 10 years for that record to go platinum—in 10 years it finally sold a million copies. It’s amazing because most records would peter out after only a year. That had five singles on it and it just kept going and going.
In this day and age if an artist doesn’t sell a million copies right out of the gate, they’re done.
Loggins: And then the record company gives up on you immediately.
What do you think of this world of so many ways people find and listen to? What are advantages and disadvantages to how people listen to music now?
Loggins: The negative is that everything becomes disposable. It’s too easily replaced.
To this generation opposed to previous generations, music was a thing that defined your people. I don’t think it does that any more. It’s just a flavor now, like gum. You pop it in and chew it, and then you spit it out. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but for us—I’m a child of the ’70s—I came of age in ’68, ’69 and so music was still very much a part of our culture. Who are the last people to define this generation? I think James Taylor is Ed Sheeran—and before that it maybe it was John Mayer. Is there anyone out there now that really defines the generation? I haven’t been keeping up enough to know. Information is distributed through so many channels now. My daughter gets most of her new music from YouTube and then she’ll turn me on to really cool things. She’s got amazing taste. There are young people out there looking for good stuff. They have access to it, but it’s so disposable.
There was a vocal group competition reality TV show where two groups sang “I’m Alright,” while paying homage to the singing gopher. You are forever connected to that CGI-created critter.
Loggins: I should get people up from the audience to do the gopher dance. It’s a big part of the pop culture.
Maya Angelou once said people won’t remember what you said and they won’t remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. How do you want people to feel about you and your music?
Loggins: I’ve been lucky that my audience has adopted my music to underscore important moments of their lives. So I hear a lot that I’ve written the soundtrack to people’s lives and I like that as a way of being remembered. Because they say that I, what do they call it? It has something to do with all the movies that I’ve done—the King of the Soundtracks. I think that definition works better for me, based on your question, if the “soundtrack” is people’s lives. All of a sudden that whole thing just came to me.
The show you’re bringing to town…
Loggins: Laughlin will be a greatest hits show with my band and I’ve got some really great new players in the band and I’m excited to see how it all comes together. We haven’t really all performed together yet.
The Edgewater E Center
Saturday, March 4, 8 p.m.; doors open 6:30 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)