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.
On May 5, 2009, a fire broke out in my home town of Santa Barbara, California; a fire eventually referred to as the Jesusita Fire, named for a hiking trail in the Los Padres National Forest. Over that month it burned over 8,000 acres of beautiful Santa Barbara land and many homes. This was the third in a series of devastating fires to sweep SB over the past few years, totaling thousands of acres and hundreds of homes. But I think that Jesusita really was the one that knocked the wind out of many of my neighbors, and did some serious damage to their dreams of utopia in California.
My home, since 2005, has been right on the fire line at the base of the foothills, and each time it's happened, I've been evacuated, and the flames have come within a block or two of my home. I am thankful that none of those fires took my home, though a few of my dear friends were not so lucky, including my ex-wife, Eva.
Back in August 2010, the sight of the destruction was more than I could bear, and it felt like I was riding through a foreign, war-torn, bombed-out landscape, that all was lost and would never be the same. I couldn't help but cry as I rode through the charred remains. It felt like my life.
In Spring 2011, I took a bicycle ride up through the hills above my house, the same ride I'd taken so many times before those infamous fires had burned down much of my beloved "back yard." As I rode, I was amazed to see a few small sprigs of green reaching out from the trunks of the seemingly devastated, blackened oak trees along the way. The odor of new sage and a few wild grasses was just beginning to return, and for some reason, the hopeful glint of wildflowers irrepressibly, naively forcing themselves back up through the ashes took me completely by surprise. I'd honestly thought, from the scope of devastation the fires had left behind, that recovery wouldn't begin for years to come.
As I turned a corner towards a small grove of oaks, each with a dozen new shoots of green set off dramatically against their charred black trunks, I whispered to myself, "I guess it's only gonna take another spring," recognizing not only how long it's taken them to even begin to come back from such destruction, but also, paradoxically, how quickly and tenaciously life wants to rebuild, to send out it's shoots of rebirth, of the promise of a coming spring. And I was immediately struck by an inner promise, of the awareness that my own personal spring was only one more season away. A message of hope for a heart still in repair, even after all these seasons.
All I can say is that over these past seven years, I couldn't help but wonder if I could ever love again the way I'd loved Julia. This is "normal," they tell me; to wonder if Love can come again, or if it's all about "settling" now, of moving into the era of companionship. Or will Love somehow take on a new form, one I once again could only slightly imagine, somehow still the hopeful dreamer. I have to say, if it shows up again, it will have to be a "color I've never seen before."
To compare every small opening of my heart to the one I experienced 20-some years ago is a kind of inner emotional blackmail, and escaping that homemade tyranny requires me to believe, to know that I will love again in a way I have never experienced before. All I know is that there's a lot about Love I don't know; a position dramatically different from the one I held 20 years ago, I must say. Perhaps this is "the wisdom of getting older?" (The one I keep hearing about, but rarely see any proof of.)
All this is to lead up to telling you about a song that Gary, Georgia and I wrote for The Blue Sky Riders right after that bike ride. It's so fun, challenging and amazing to co-create with such gifted writers. All I had to do was tell them about that bicycle experience in the hills of SB and that thought about "...another Spring," and they were off and running. (Click below to hear a sample.)
Sometimes it's all I can do to keep up, and I'm not used to that feeling yet. For my entire career I've been like, "Insta-melody-guy" with other writers. I've written with some pretty damn talented collaborators, but this team is like some kind of game show on speed. "Lead or get out of the way," I'm constantly saying to myself. In a loving way, ya know, babe. And I mean that. Really. But that inner, self-deprecating "voice" is just wrong. There's gotta be at least a third option.
To tell the truth, Gary and I have had a couple of "good talks" about that "run-away train" feeling already. In Nashville, Gary Burr is "Mr. Tin Pan" when it comes to collaborating. He's the "go-to guy" when the local writers need a push-start, a solid idea to build a hit on. He's used to, as he put it, "taking the wheel of the bus and driving." Nashville counts on him to be that guy, the bus driver.
"Gary..." I said, one night in a long-distance telephone soul session, "This time, even though you're a third owner, and it may look like it's more your bus than ever, it's not your bus! The goal here is actually to bring out the best in each other. My job is to make you and Georgia look brilliant, and your goal is to do the same for us. It is a trap to think this will in some way become your vehicle to show the world what a genius you are. That's a trick of the ego/mind. It's a paradox! As we help each other grow and glow, we help each of our own individual strengths become apparent. Being unselfish is the best road to being appreciated as the brilliant artist you are. The goal of a real trio is to become much more together than any one of us can be alone." (See? Some experience in this "band thing" has proved useful, eh? Hopefully.)
Truth be told, at the time his "bus driving" came into question, Gary was recovering from knee surgery, and the combination of pain and Percoset was playing a toll on his patience, but amazingly NOT on his creativity. Even in intense pain and under the influence of what should have been a "depressant," he is still one of the most fertile, brilliant writers I've ever met. Kinda intimidating, honestly.
And my pattern, in the face of a raging bus driver, HAS been, in the past, to back away, to go play alone in my own sand box. Thus my 30-year solo career. That's some sand box. And I must say, it's been exhilarating to be my own boss, make or break it on the whims of my own muse.
So why the sudden change in direction? (To quote my manager, "Kenny, most people leave bands to go solo!") Well, I don't honestly know, but I'd guess it has something to do with my last seven years and the oppressive "alone-ness."
Perhaps it's just the desire for creative collaboration again, to hear the kind of harmonies sung that can only come from finely-tuned "instruments," the camaraderie of a team caught up in the frenzy of a game well played, and of course the ultimate goal of having someone else to blame for whatever goes wrong. ☺
But this time I don't get to run away. As the song says, "I'm Finally Home," and my goal here is to come to terms, at long last, with my dread of head-on "confrontation." To speak up when something doesn't feel right. To no longer just tuck it inside till it eats me alive, or run as far away as quickly as humanly possible, blaming everyone but myself for what isn't being said.
Some part of me chose a trio to finally work out the kinks that probably get in the way of all relationships I'm in. I must be ready, or I wouldn't have dreamed it into being. Stay tuned... We'll see how that goes, eh?