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The Music Biz: Loggins logging in lots of minutes exploring new ideas

April 16, 2007
By Ron Wynn, rwynn@nashvillecitypaper.com
Nashville City Paper

Kenny Loggins has amassed impressive accomplishments over a career that extends across four decades.

He’s demonstrated versatility as a singer/songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player, while also excelling at different times in rock, country, adult contemporary, even smooth jazz. At this point, Loggins could easily enjoy a comfortable existence cranking out past hits and playing high-end sites where affluent customers soak in the setting and demand little from anyone performing.

Instead, he continues accepting new challenges, trying fresh approaches and remaining committed to writing and playing original material. Prime examples of Loggins’ refusal to play things safe include the release of his new CD How About Now on a start-up label (180 Music) and his appearance Friday night at the Wildhorse Saloon (7 p.m., 120 2nd Ave. N., $65 (lounge seating), $45 (VIP), $25 (general admission), not necessarily the locale longtime fans might expect him to play in Nashville.

“The decision to join 180 Music wasn’t really that tough given the realities of today’s retail marketplace,” Loggins said. “180 Music is affiliated with Target, and the marketing people showed me the figures that have millions of people regularly coming into their stores. They offered prominent position and display status, and that assures you that when people walk into a Target, they will see How About Now as opposed to a situation where they may or may not find it buried somewhere in either the adult rock or adult contemporary or the rock section of wherever they thought it might fit in a traditional retail store, the few of those that are left.

“One of the things that was really troubling about It’s About Time (an independent disc Loggins released in 2003) was that it made the top 10 in terms of independent sales, but a lot of people told me they didn’t know about it. I’d do songs from it in concert and have people coming up and saying they really liked that number and could I put it on a CD. So that showed me the importance of being aligned with someone who could get the music into the hands of the fans.”

Though he’s now been a solo performer over 30 years, Loggins’ first major impact came as part of a duo with fellow singer/songwriter Jim Messina. Ironically, Loggins had initially planned to cut a solo release back in the ’70s, with Messina, then a staff producer at CBS, slated to work the knobs. But Messina got more involved in the project and finally the 1972 album Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin In’ was issued.

The pair continued recording together until 1977, scoring a string of Top 10 releases (which included hit singles “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Thinking of You”) and adroitly blending pop, rock and country influences. They went their separate ways until 2005, when they reunited for “The Sittin’ In Again Tour,” an experience Loggins says was mostly rewarding.

“Getting back together with Jim in some ways was like revisiting a marriage,” Loggins said. “Both parties have moved on, grown in different ways, and then you have to readjust. We found ways of handling it, of making the decisions that would work musically for us to successfully do the tour. There were no problems or anything like that, but we’re each quite different now, and there are things each of us wants to do musically that are a long way from what we used to do together.”

In past years, Kenny Loggins never had any trouble getting his songs played on radio. Whether it was “I Believe In Love,” “This Is It,” selections from hit films like Caddyshack, Footloose or Top Gun, even tunes for children’s releases, Loggins’ tunes have appeared in numerous radio formats, showcasing both his fluid, expressive singing style and relaxed accompaniment. Besides the successes he has enjoyed as a performer, he’s also enjoyed equal fame as a writer, penning anthems like “What A Fool Believes,” “Danny’s Song” and “A Love Song.” During the late ’90s, he appeared on top-selling smooth jazz dates from George Duke, Jim Brickman and Everette Harp. But he’s now so concerned about audiences hearing his new compositions that he is discussing with satellite radio executives the possibility of debuting a new show with an unusual format.

“It would be a weekly show featuring legacy artists doing nothing but new material,” Loggins said. “People think that because I’ve had past success in the adult contemporary format for instance that they would automatically add my songs, but that’s not the case. It’s getting tougher and tougher every year for everyone except a very select few people to get their music played on the radio. Yet I know from the response at concerts that there’s an audience that would respond to it. So far, there’s been some interest, but we’re still trying to work out the concept and find a way to get the show going.”

Loggins was honored earlier this year with induction into Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard Rock Walk. And overall, he has totaled 12 platinum albums and an even longer string of singles that have been hits in numerous genres (rapper Papoose even sampled part of “This is It” for the tune “Cherrades” in 2005). He’s appeared quite often at various Nashville places, but says there’s something special about his Friday night gig at the Wildhorse.

“It came down to a choice for me between the Ryman and the Wildhorse for this date, and I wanted the Wildhorse because I want this to be more of a party atmosphere,” Loggins concluded. “I love the Ryman, it’s a fantastic place, but there it’s a sit down concert setting. Plus I think the Wildhorse can turn into a great site for rock music, because I’ve seen the energy there for country shows and it’s amazing. So I hope the fans come out and are ready to have a really good time.”