There’s a magic that comes with being aware you’re “onto something” while you’re onto it. It fills you with a strange sense of purpose that seems to invigorate the project and deepen the vision, even when you feel like all you’ve got is fireflies to follow, just the hint of heat and light out ahead, teasing you on, leading you somewhere you can barely see in the distance, as if towards an ancient city shrouded in fog, just waiting for you to come discover it.
And here it was, another one of those rare moments that we, as artists, long for, wait years for, usually very impatiently, and hope to capture at least once in our lives. I can honestly say, looking back, I believe I’ve been incredibly lucky to have experienced this rush 3 or 4 times in my career, but few times as consciously as this moment.
Loggins and Messina was one of those moments, certainly, but I was young and not really as aware of what was happening or what was in store.
Making “Celebrate Me Home” was one, big time. A big leap from the Country inspired sound of L&M.
Speaking of “leaps,” writing and recording “Leap of Faith” years later was another major “magic moment,” possibly my biggest one ever, as it was accompanied with a major spiritual awakening and an amazing love affair.
Right after “Leap…” came my venture into the “Children’s/Parent’s Music” genre with “Return to Pooh Corner” back in 1992, against all the conventional wisdom of the times. I could tell I was hitting a rich vein while I was doing it, and ironically, to date it has sold over two million units, and is still going strong, thanks to the “word of mouth” of one mother to another.
Back when I was making the CD, “How about Now,” (2007) I met a very talented Nashville singer/songwriter named Gary Burr, and we set about writing some songs together, most of them based on my journal entries from the first few years of my recent divorce. In many ways that was a painful process, I might add, yet Gary and I spent as much time laughing as we did writing. And the songs were good, some of them damn good. But the best part was that when we sang together, we sounded like brothers. A rare occurrence, especially for me. The last time I experienced that kind of blend was with Jimmy Messina in 1971.
As a matter of fact, the last time Gary and I got together to write was a spec project to write a theme song for The Today Show. We wrote this song called, “Welcome to Today,” and even though it didn’t work out for their show, Gary and I loved doing it, and I think the mini-song came out pretty darn good, if I say so myself. Check it out.
But my favorite part of writing it was singing it with Gary. It was in the blend of our voices, almost like sibling harmonies, that really germinated the idea of a band in my mind. And that idea cooked there for about a year.
Well, time passes and I found myself thinkin’ to myself, “Self…Ya know if this was 20 years ago, that kind of mixture of fun, great songs and natural vocal blend would have spawned a band!” Of course, that’s crazy talk at my age. I mean, I’ve made my own “brand,” my career is doing fine, thank you God, and why mess with a good thing?
But something pushes you when you make art for a living, something beyond logic. Julia (my ex) used to call it “the bread crumbs we follow to get to ourselves.” You look for the diamonds hidden in the grass (no pun intended), and you try like hell to stay aware of what might be down there, because that’s where the fun is, that’s what making music is all about. Something to excite you, something to make you want to keep doing what you do, some new musical landscape to explore, to turn you on again, to get you excited enough to get the creative juices flowing. It’s what keeps you young.
So, just like that, I called Gary and asked him if he’d like to form a band. He, of course, thought I’d lost my mind, but agreed with something like, “Why Kenny, that’s a dandy idea…” We shot the shit for a few minutes, and then we hung up the phone. I suspect he never expected to hear from me again.
But I’m funny that way, and the feeling, the inspiration to do something NEW wouldn’t let me go. So even while I was recording my “Best of Pooh Corner” idea that year, I would check in with Gary every couple of months, just to let him know I was the proverbial dog with a bone, and was still thinking about this imaginary “band.”
Then one day, while on a 15 mile bike ride, after the endorphins kicked in, I suddenly “realized” we needed a third member! 3 part harmony. Never done that! And it should be a female voice. A singer/songwriter of some high credibility, but preferably, as yet an undiscovered talent. I called Gary. “You know any great chick-singer/songwriters?”
“Hell yeah,” he replied, “My girlfriend, Georgia Middleman. She’s the best I’ve ever worked with. Sings on all my demos.” (It should be added here that Gary is no slouch himself, (“Don’t sell yourself short Judge, you’re a tremendous slouch.” ) Gary was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, having penned 13 #1 songs to date!) “Georgia just wrote Keith Urban’s new hit, “I’m In,” he added.
That felt like one hell of a start, so I agreed to fly out to Nashville for a meeting.
And what a meeting! Within our first three hours together, the three of us wrote our first song, called “I Get It,” and were singing with a 3-part blend that comes once in a lifetime. I was as high as a 21 yr old (who shall remain nameless) having discovered rock-n-roll for the very first time, like a kid I knew who once hitch-hiked his way to Monterey in the summer of 1966, only to have the course of his life changed forever.
So we wrote this really cool song and started seriously considering the “band thing,” which as I said before, at this stage of my life feels a lot like Mickey Rooney saying to Judy Garland, “Hey kids…Let’s put on a show!!” It’s crazy talk. It’s a million-to-one long shot. But it sure is fun!