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.
Kenny, Gary and I just got back from a meeting in L.A. about starting our own record company. We are singer/songwriters and we know how to do that -- but starting a record label? Holy smoke. In this do-it-yourself world, it's not enough to just know how to sing and write, one must know how to promote, market and distribute the work as well.
So there we sat around a table with managers and marketing professionals in a conference room in Santa Monica figuring out how to do just that. And I am overwhelmed, let me tell you. But not discouraged.
When I had a major record deal back in 1998, it seemed like it would be easy ... they had a whole staff of people who did this and that and 'don't you worry your pretty little head, we've got it covered.' I knew I was supposed to trust them, but the hardest part was that I had been doing everything myself all these years and now I had to hand over my career to strangers. Before I got signed, I wrote the music, found a way to make my own records, booked my own gigs, manufactured and sold my own merchandise. Of course I had an extremely limited reach, but never the less, I was in control to some degree.
In 1998 when I got signed, I was told to show up when asked and they would do the rest. Except that it didn't work. Except for a lucky few, most record deals don't work, but artists learn from them and keep moving forward. Okay. So just because what you're passionate about doesn't take off commercially, do you just stop doing it? No. If it can't be a career, you find a way to do it as a part-time career. Or as a hobby. Anything ... just keep it alive.
I once met a man who said he wanted desperately to be a songwriter but "unfortunately, I have a family in Oklahoma to support so it is NEVER going to happen." He said it with such bitterness that I felt so sad for that family. Don't people know that if there's something you want to do with your life, there's no reason you can't find a way to do it on some level? If you want to be a songwriter, be a songwriter. I'm a big believer in living your life, and though your dreams may change as you get older, it's important to find a way to follow your bliss anyway. Even if it's for one hour a week and even if you live in some small town in Idaho. (No offense to Idahoans.) You may not get rich and famous doing it, but if you're following your passion, my belief is that everything in your life gets better.
I came to Nashville in 1992 to try to make it as a singer/songwriter. It's been a road paved with many, many obstacles -- but so has everyone's path in life, so mine's not so special.
It's 20 years later and I'm not rich and famous, but in my opinion, I've made it. I'm doing my music and more importantly, I love my life. I thought my "commercial" artist life was over and next thing I know, I'm 44 years old and singing in a new start-up band with Hall of Fame songwriter, Gary Burr and Pooh Man himself, Kenny Loggins.
Between the three of us, we've got 110 years of experience. We've all been signed to record deals and though only one of us made it through to that elusive place called stardom, we all have wisdom we can draw on from our years of being in this business. That's not a bad thing.
We are willing to start over again and build a business from the ground up. For a guy like Kenny, that can't be easy. He's already made it as a singer/songwriter. Why bother? If you asked him, he'd probably say because he's following his passion and to him, just like Gary and me, it's worth the trouble.
Nobody knows who Blue Sky Riders is. But if we do our job well, they will. We've been in the music business for a long time and this time, we're at least taking the bull by the horns and trying to figure out how to do it differently. So we're starting our own record label and hiring people we trust to do the jobs we have no idea how to do. Like I said, if we could make a living just singing and writing, that would be great. But it's not that simple. We have to promote, market and distribute that music and in a world where social media rules, we have to teach ourselves things our kids know how to do instinctively. We have to reinvent and educate ourselves. Let me rephrase: we don't HAVE to do this. But if we want to have a chance in hell at having our music heard by the masses, we do.
In the words of one of our Blue Sky Riders' songs, "Feelin' Brave":
"If I said playing it safe was ever enough, then I was a liar
'cause at the end of the day, don't we all want a love that sets the whole world on fire
call me crazy, you're probably right
but I'm feelin' brave tonight"
Follow Georgia Middleman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@gmiddleman