Years ago I wrote a song called Your Heart Will Lead You Home, (how prophetic!) for The Tigger Movie with the famous Sherman Brothers; the songwriting team that brought us everything from “Davey Crockett” to the music for “Mary Poppins,” and well beyond. At that time both brothers were in their mid 80′s, and after we finished the song, I turned to Robert Sherman and asked, “Have you guys ever considered retiring?”
“Are you kidding?” he replied, “Where else can you get a rush like this?!”
Ok… So, to recap, I went to Nashville in October to hang with Gary Burr and meet his talented singer/songwriter/girl-friend, Georgia Middleman. We have a terrific time, writing and singing for the first time together, and it felt so exciting, so fresh, we suddenly found ourselves seriously considering being a band! A frickin’ band!! I DO know what I’m getting into, but why the hell not? And it’s exactly the kind of rush Robert Sherman was talking about, one I’ve all-too-rarely experienced, and what I love.
That night, after our first writing session together, we decided to meet for drinks at the Palm Restaurant in Nashville, an informal celebration and an unofficial, spontaneous sort-of-christening. At one point, still in the glow of the rush, I propose a toast, “To fun,” I say, and that feels like the essence of who we are. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!” We’ve all come too far to do anything but music for the love of Music. Of course we all know there’ll be plenty of work ahead, and sometimes work is simply that: work. It’s not always fun, really. But we’re all pros, and we know how to do that. Still, this time, it’s for the FUN of creating and making music together. “Follow the Fun and trust the Heat.”
From Nashville, I go on to NYC to be with my 23 yr old daughter, Bella, for her birthday and to attend the T.J. Martell Awards, where I am proud to say I receive my first “Lifetime Achievement Award,” a moment made even sweeter by the presence of Bella, her mom and step-dad. I’ve already shared much of that experience in an earlier blog, but I couldn’t help but notice that much of what I addressed in that blog, the stuff about following your heart, the creative spark, was immediately tested by a phone call 2 days later from a major record executive, who also happens to be a great, highly trusted old friend.
Let me say first that I respect the hell out of this guy. He’s really smart and incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to understanding not only the music business in general, having been the wise, creative counsel to many great and famous pop musicians, but is especially involved with the Country Music biz, having guided the careers of a number of huge country stars. Who would know better the dangers and stark realities of starting a new “band” in this delicate record-biz climate and economy?
After a half an hour on the phone with him, I no longer felt like an exuberant boy on his first date, but more like a kid who’d just been told Christmas has been cancelled this year, oh, and Santa is dead!
“I know you want to feel the rush of a fresh start,” said my friend and close advisor, “but the hard truth is, you’re just too old to start over. It’s a long, hard road you’re embarking on, and even the young guns in Country have a tough time with the grueling schedule that the business demands, let alone need I mention, you’ll be taking a significant drop in pay. The odds against you breaking thru are a million to one!”
Then he added, sagely, “I suggest you concentrate on what you do best: Be Kenny Loggins. Stick with that franchise. Just write great songs with your Nashville friends for other recording artists and prepare for the inevitable ‘gearing down’. You’ve earned it”
Wow! Talk about “the rude awakening!” And the hardest part of that “news” is that I know he truly cares about my wellbeing. He really wants me to think twice before I embark upon a journey fraught with very possible disappointment and heartbreak. I can’t fault him really. He deals with this business of music daily. He knows what it takes.
Now, that would make a lot of sense if I weren’t an idiot/artist, habituated to following “the juice.” For me, it’s always been about that spark, that almost indefinable sense of fun on the horizon that’s kept me looking for new ways to express myself. How do I turn that off and just become what I feel is just an imitation of Kenny Loggins for the rest of my life?
Of course, I don’t want to turn my back on my own career, on the music I’ve written and performed that’s allowed me a lifetime of singing for a living, the privilege of being a musician raising 5 beautiful kids, (2.5 per wife), and the friendship of a large body of fans that have adopted my music as the soundtrack to their lives. But to ignore what my heart is telling me now would be to go against everything I’ve told myself, and my fans, I believe in.
Never the less, his words put an arrow right into my “Achilles’ heel”: I’m NOT 25 anymore, and the music business is a damned demanding mistress. So what’s it gonna be? Once again, here I am at that same old crossroads, “the head vs. the heart!” Shockingly, I was completely deflated.
So what is it gonna be?
I know a lot of folks won’t relate to this inner conflict, but to me it felt like a test. Hadn’t I just written, only a few days earlier: “‘Follow your heart.’ What a deceptively simple-sounding concept that is actually incredibly difficult to learn and practice. For one thing, you first have to learn how to actually be in touch with your heart, or to put it another way, how to hear it. Then you have to be willing to trust those subtle messages, even though they may seem, (almost always seem), crazy.” Then you have to be courageous enough to actually take action on those messages.