Kenny Loggins’ acoustic album is a little bit country, a little bit zen
If you’re not familiar with Kenny Loggins, well, how is it living in that sealed grotto at the zoo? The 59-year-old singer/songwriter is quite simply one of America’s great troubadours — a poet whose folk-based rhythms have been a soundtrack for American life since the late 1960s.
And lucky for us, he’s still performing. His latest tour brings him to Harrah’s South Shore Room on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23-24.
“Writing and performing is just something I’ve always done, and when I try to turn that off I don’t do so well,” said Loggins, who resides in Bakersfield with his wife and two children, ages 14 and 10 (he also has three children in their 20s, including 26-year-old Crosby, who has embarked on his own music career).
“I love to perform, that’s easy,” he said. “But the travel can tear you down. Being away from my kids is hard for me.”
Although his performances reach extensively toward his older work (who can forget “What a Fool Believes,” “I’m Alright” and “Easy Driver”), Loggins is creative as ever. The new album, “How About Now,” goes back to the sound and style of the California Country invented by Loggins and his former musical partner, Jim Messina.
“That came about because of the Loggins & Messina Tour,” said Loggins, referring to the 2005 Sittin’ In Tour in which he reunited with Messina (the two had broken up their legendary duo act in 1976). “It was during that tour that I kind of rediscovered the acoustic guitar,” he said. “Pretty soon I wanted to write a new album and it all came from that.”
The new disc features 12 original songs, among them a new version of the Loggins & Messina favorite “A Love Song.” Other highlights are the intelligent, contemplative “Truth Is,” and the raucous, gospel-based “That’s When I Find You.” Loggins collaborated with Nashville songwriters on much of the CD’s material.
“How About Now” is Loggins’ message to himself, he said.
“I was standing on stage trying to get through a show during the worst of my divorce and I was in a lot of pain all the time,” Loggins said. “But when I was on stage everything was right and everything was happy. I said to myself ‘I’m gonna feel this way all the time,’ and the other part of my mind went, ‘Well how about now? Let’s feel this good all the time starting now.’ “
Loggins said it took him a while longer to feel better, but it did provide the inspiration for a song.
The song has a country flavor but it hasn’t been picked up by country radio.
Loggins said the easiest path into the country realm is to record a duet with a country singer. He does just that with Rachel Proctor on “Too Much (Never Get Enough).”
Loggins wrote “That’s When I Find You,” when he was on a runner’s high after a 10-mile jaunt.
“I found myself sprinting the last mile,” Loggins said. “I was motivated by the enegy I was in. As soon as I got back to the car I grabbed a notebook and started writing it was just pouring out of me.”
Kenny Loggins has always been drawn to music, not the least of the factors being that it was a way for him to make friends as he was growing up.
“I was real shy, and music seemed to be a good way to meet girls,” said Loggins, who was born in Everett, Wash., but grew up in Alhambra, near Pasadena in Southern California. “But before long I wanted to turn the hobby into a profession, and I put a band together.”
Loggins grew up in the folk era, heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and the Beatles. “One of the first songs I learned on the guitar was “Blowin’ In the Wind,” Loggins said. “My brothers were into rock and roll, so there was always that in my life. Before long, because I was a songwriter, bands formed around me. I dropped out of college to join a touring band, and that’s how it started basically.”
He was in two 1960s psychedelic rock bands: Pasadena-based The Second Helping, which was signed to Viva Records after winning a radio station’s Battle of the Bands competition, and The Electric Prunes (1968).
Loggins has been on the road ever since.
“Performing is something important to me, and when I try to turn it off I don’t do too well,” he said. “I’ve taken breaks in phases around the birth of my children, and when I’m making a record I don’t travel. I’m usually jumping in and out of tours, doing four or five shows at a time.”
Tahoe is one of Loggins’ favorite destinations. He has only six concerts slated through May. He booked Tahoe with the hope of skiing with his family during Thankgiving weekend.
“I love to ski with friends, and I also like the summer activities,” he said. “It’s a great place, and I’ve enjoyed bringing my kids there.”
But after all the miles and all the hits, Loggins will probably be best remembered for a couple of songs he sang in the movies – one of which he didn’t even write. “Footloose,” from the film of the same name, went No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts in 1984. And “Danger Zone,” from the film “Top Gun,” was No. 2 in 1986. “I’m Alright,” which was featured in the movie “Caddyshack,” was No. 7.
“I have no bad memories about the movie stuff,” Loggins said. “It kept me eating through some rough years. People don’t realize what the disco era did to performers like me. It was tough. So that stuff kept me alive, and you know, I didn’t even write ‘Danger Zone.'”
Only one thing scares Loggins about his movie work.
“It only frightens me when I imagine those titles on my gravestone,” he said. “Otherwise I’m fine with it.”
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