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Second Acts: Once Again...Why Am I Doing This?

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Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman recently formed the new band Blue Sky Riders, and were profiled by Huff/Post50 in February. They are finishing their first album and will be chronicling their experiences as a band in this blog.

A lot of people ask me why I am taking the risky road of starting a band instead of cruising comfortably down my well-established superhighway of songwriting success. (Seriously, the Songwriting Superhighway of Success is an actual freeway that links Nashville and Branson). They visualize me, sitting in my pajamas, smoking expensive cigars and sending minions to the mailbox to collect huge checks. Sure, the 90s were nice, but it's a new world out there. Must I explain? If I am to get to 800 words I apparently must.

I had my first hits as a songwriter whilst living in Connecticut. ("Hits", for the civilians out there, does not refer to being physically hit. It means getting a song on the radio, making money and therefore becoming a "hit" with the ladies.) This meant that when I moved to Nashville I was a little ahead of the game. Doors were more readily opened, my songs listened to with respect and awe, late shows were offered at the Bluebird Cafe.

Back then it seemed like there were only about 11 writers in town. In those days (when dinosaurs ran free) when someone was recording an album they were desperate for songs. It felt like there were more records being made than songs available and producers were reaching out frantically for help. That was a time when it felt like I would write a song on Monday, it was cut on Wednesday and by Friday it was on the radio. I liked those days very much. Very much indeed.

Nothing stays the same. I woke up one morning and found that sometime during the night a million songwriters had moved to Nashville. They filled the streets, they blocked the aisles in the liquor stores, they hung from lampposts. You would have to be incredibly gifted at swinging a dead cat to perform the trick and NOT hit a songwriter. Believe me, I tried. Ask Fluffy.

My point is, one day I had lots and lots of competition. Then came the internet and it's goody bag of good and bad. (Weird, I was in a band in junior high school called "Goody Bag of Good and Bad.") Sales plummeted. Labels and publishing companies consolidated. Writers got real estate licenses. The stubborn ones like me hung on out of sheer delusion, fear and ennui.

These days, because there are fewer albums sold, the people creating the albums hire their own writers to stock the albums, much like stocking a trout pond (the industry being the pond, the writers being the fish, the songs being the worms.... this is a disgusting metaphor) to give them more access to the publishing and radio money. This means maybe only one or two "outside" slots available to folks like me. I don't blame them. Business is business.

I wanted to stay in this business so I decided that I would add a few categories to my business card. Up until then my card read..."Gary Burr, I Make Shit Up." Now I decided it would read "Gary Burr, writer, producer, guitar player, background singer, origami teacher, animal husbandry" -- whatever it took to keep the creative lights on.

So when Kenny Loggins came along and had this koo koo idea to start a band, it was perfect timing. What better way to get your songs recorded than by recording them yourself? Talk about self-contained! If I can think of some way to cut Kenny and Georgia out of the publishing it would be perfect. (Oh, I'm working on THAT one).

So let the songwriters come. Let the trout ponds fill. I will be in Kansas City playing new songs for appreciative crowds to let them know that we love making music so much that there are no roadblocks that fate can throw in our way that we will not find a way to climb over... as long as we are wearing sensible shoes and loose-fitting clothing.

I also want extra credit for using "whilst" and "ennui" in this blog. Thank you and goodnight.