Kenny Loggins

Thursday, April 1, 2004

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“Speaking Freely” show recorded April 1, 2004, in Nashville, Tenn.

Kenny Loggins: [Plays and sings, accompanied by Shem von Schroeck] “/ Christopher Robin and I walked along / under branches lit up by the moon, / posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore / as our days disappeared all too soon. / But I’ve wandered much further today than I should, / and I can’t seem to find my way back to the wood. / Help me if you can. / I’ve got to get back to the house at Pooh Corner by one. / You’d be surprised, there’s so much to be done: / Count all the bees in the hive. / Chase all the clouds from the sky. / Chase the clouds away. / Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh. / It’s hard to explain how a few precious things / seem to follow throughout all our lives. / After all’s said and done, / I was watching my son / sleeping there with my bear by his side. / So, I tucked him in, kissed him, / and as I was going, I swear that old bear whispered, / ‘Boy, welcome home.’ / Believe me if you can. / I’ve finally come back to the house at Pooh Corner by one. / What do you know? / There’s so much to be done: / Count all the bees in the hive. / Chase all the clouds from the sky. / Chase the clouds away. / Back to the days of Christopher Robin, / back to the ways of Christopher Robin, / back to the days of Pooh. / Oo-oo-ooh. / Ooh-oo-ooh. /”

Ken Paulson: Welcome to “Speaking Freely,” a weekly conversation about free expression in America. I’m Ken Paulson. Our guest today is a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Kenny Loggins. Welcome. Great to have you here. This is actually the second time we’ve had a chance to visit. You’d never remember the original, but the day is memorable for me because I was a very young music journalist. You had just released your first record. This was, like, 28 years ago.

Loggins: Oh, my goodness.

Paulson: And I was used to getting chewed on by people I was interviewing, like Frank Zappa would bark at you, and Todd Rundgren was sarcastic. And you were probably the biggest name I’d had a chance to interview at the University of Illinois. I pulled out my tape recorder. I’m kind of sweating profusely, and I’m prepared for the big interview. And we press Go, and the tape just starts unspooling from the cassette. And I’ve got,—

Loggins: [Laughs]

Paulson: — like, eight feet of tape there and no way to record this interview. And I will never forget, you said, “That’s not a problem.” You took the tape, you hopped up, you came back with a fresh cassette, you fixed the tape recorder, and we had the conversation. So—

Loggins: I’ve always been a hard ass.

Paulson: So, I had the courage to continue with this career and continue interviewing. I’m also confident if anything happens with the lights or the cameras, you’ll be—

Loggins: I’ll jump up and fix it.

Paulson: — working on that, yeah. So, thank you for that good moment many years ago. Well, I want to talk about your career and particularly want to talk about your new CD. Your putting— your most recent CD is on your own label. There’s a new independence to your work, and we’re excited about that. But, you began the show with “House at Pooh Corner,” which, I guess, began everything for you, professionally.

Loggins: It, uh, yeah, it goes back to when I was a senior in high school.

Paulson: And how does —

Loggins: That was about ten years ago.

Paulson: [Laughs] That’s right, shortly before we met. How did a young man of 18 years old develop that songwriting skill at that early age?

Loggins: Well, it, uh, I—I didn’t perceive it that way then. To me, it was, you know, just what came out naturally. I wrote—I wrote that song, and I wrote “Danny’s Song” both, you know, when I was a senior in high school. And I’m just lucky that that kind of music was okay then, you know? I think it would be a much harder breakthrough nowadays with that kind of a song.

Paulson: And, uh, and your work came to the attention of the Dirt Band, and they recorded some of your stuff.

Loggins: Right.

Paulson: And, I mean, you had—

Loggins: Well, that was— in those days, we used to go to parties, and, you know, everybody would bring a guitar to a party, like in Nashville now. But L.A. doesn’t do that anymore, but then—but everybody was a writer back then, and you would go to a party, and we’d all sit in a circle and trade tunes, and a couple of guys from the Dirt Band were at the party, and when I—I sang “Pooh” and a couple other things, and they went, “We got to do that.”

Paulson: And your whole career has been sort of about connections and friends and, uh, sometimes right place at the right time. And the story of Loggins and Messina is pretty remarkable when—when you look at it in that it wasn’t intended to be a duo at all.

Loggins: No, that—that just fell into place, you know, like so many things. I mean, I could give you half a dozen stories of being at the right place at the right time. With Jimmy, Jimmy had just left Poco. He—he was the bass player and producer for Buffalo Springfield. Then he formed Poco with Richie Furay. And then he left Poco and met with Clive Davis and made a production deal for Columbia Records, and I was the first person to walk through his door to audition for—for a record deal, and so we started working on a Kenny Loggins record, and then he started showing me some of the material that he didn’t do in Poco.

Paulson: What was different for you when you began a solo career? Was that —was that a liberating moment?

Loggins: Oh, absolutely. I was totally ready. You have to remember, I—I auditioned for Jimmy Messina, emotionally prepared to start a solo career, and suddenly, I found myself in a duo, which I didn’t resent. We got along great, and I felt excited to—to have this new musical territory to mine. But by the time “Celebrate Me Home” came around, I was like an arrow pulled back in the bow, and I was writing all this stuff that was completely different. I had no idea where the chord changes— sometimes I would write things a cappella because I heard the chords in my head, and I had no idea what they were on the guitar, so that was a big musical leap for me. And then that’s when I started collaborating with keyboard players so that— like Bob James co-wrote “Celebrate Me Home” with me so that those chords could emerge.

Paulson: And that’s actually quite a risk when you’ve had a commercial sound, and you’re gonna retool it.

Loggins: Oh, it was a huge risk. Luckily, I didn’t know it. [Laughs] I was, you know, flush from success. You know, Loggins and Messina hit within weeks of releasing the record, so for me, it was like, “Well, of course.—”

Paulson: That’s right. [Laughs]

Loggins: —“We’ll just go from this to this,” you know? I was a blissful puppy. And “Celebrate Me Home” ironically received no good reviews. Everybody was pissed off that it didn’t sound like Loggins and Messina. Except me.

Paulson: Right.

Loggins: I was excited,—

Paulson: Right.

Loggins: — you know? And it took me— and then so I had to go back out as an opening act, and I toured two years as an opening act with Fleetwood Mac to try to convince the audience that I was still doing something they might want to hear.

Paulson: You also carved out an unintentional career writing songs for movies,—

Loggins: Yeah.

Paulson: — which I guess had both a positive and negative impact on your career. I think it changed the public’s perception of you to some extent.

Loggins: Yeah, I think so. I think the negative part was that I became a singles-oriented act or a movie act, and up to that point in my career, I had been more of an album act, you know, where people— you buy the album for that collection of songs. All of a sudden, I was, like, this guy that had hit singles, and then the trap of that is that when radio doesn’t play your next single, you’re considered over,—

Paulson: Hmm.

Loggins: — so, it’s like you’re running for office every time.

Paulson: Right. And you had songs in Top Gun, a major hit there, and of course, a song that still, people hear all the time is “Footloose.”

Loggins: “Footloose” and Caddyshack, “I’m All Right.”

Paulson: That’s right. Let’s talk a little bit about “Footloose” because that—that’s a song and a show that’s had an amazing lifespan. It was— obviously, you wrote the theme to the movie. The show is largely about free expression, so that’s a movie we like a lot: young kids —

Loggins: Right.

Paulson: — fighting for the chance to dance in this town —

Loggins: Yeah.

Paulson: — and express themselves.

Loggins: Yeah, I remember years ago, when the Iron Curtain was still a hot issue, and Senator Cranston and I knew each other back when, and I said, “If you want to bring down communism, send rock and roll, ’cause nothing expresses free speech and—and stirs that element in each of us to—to want to be free better than rock and roll.”

Paulson: And Footloose is actually still obviously seen on video and all that but has—had become a Broadway show and now tours the country, and most recently, it’s in high schools all over the country.

Loggins: Oh, right, yeah. I talked to Dean. You know, I just fell, I fell into that piece. That was a favor I did for a friend of mine. Dean Pitchford had written the screenplay. Dean and I had collaborated on some tunes. He was a lyricist. And he called me one day and said, “I’ve written this screenplay, and, you know, would you help me write some songs for it?” Now, you have to remember, this is the— what, early ’80s in L.A.? Everybody had written a screenplay. [Laughs] This wasn’t an unusual thing. And, so, as a favor to my friend, I read his screenplay, and it wasn’t Gone With the Wind,

Paulson: What— uh, it’s been fascinating, the shows that are in high schools, and obviously, they’re hearing your music there and a whole new generation of Kenny Loggins fans, but, uh, surprisingly, that has become the most controversial play in high schools today because there’s some four-letter words in the script, and there was in the Broadway show,—

Loggins: Huh.

Paulson: — and schools are increasingly telling kids they have to cut those words out or not perform the play.

Loggins: That’s interesting.

Paulson: So, the great irony is, you got a play about free expression that’s being censored all over America.

Loggins: Yeah, well, that’s classic.

Paulson: It is. It is. And, did you have any role in the Broadway show? Did they— any participation at all?

Loggins: No, no, I didn’t, although I hear they’re gonna remake the movie.

Paulson: They are.

Loggins: And that should be— I heard, or read, that Britney Spears was already cast as the female lead, which, by the time they get around to making the movie, may be her comeback.

Paulson: [Laughs] I wonder if that means new music, or will they—

Loggins: That’s what I’m wondering. And if it does, will they call me?

Paulson: Let’s hope so. Beyond the film soundtracks, you grew ever more adventurous in your career, and you’ve— you know, I think a casual fan would look and say, you know, even the late ’80s, early ’90s, you were doing things that pleased you more than looking for the next big hit.

Loggins: Mm—hmm.

Paulson: Is there a point in your career where you go, “You know, I’ve had 20 gold records, and this is about my art now. I’m not gonna be driven as commercially as I once was?”

Loggins: You know, the truth is, Leap of Faith was that jumping-off point for me, but it wasn’t about, “Oh, gee, I’ve been successful, and now I can take a gamble.” Leap of Faith was a moment in my life of what I would call midlife clarity, where I got to see that there were things that weren’t working, and there were things that might work if I made some changes, and one of them was why I do what I do, and, um, I decided to make a record that was totally for me. I don’t know what got into me, but I wanted to make a record that was cohesive from the top to the bottom emotionally and— and took the listener on a journey, the same journey I was on at that moment. My marriage was coming apart. My life was totally groundless. I didn’t know what was gonna happen, and I wanted the music to express that. That’s why it’s called Leap of Faith.

Paulson: And— and did that turn out to be one of your most satisfying?

Loggins: That, for me, was— that, and writing Unimaginable Life, the book, were the two most satisfying moments as an artist for me, that, musically, Leap of Faith was just the right album at the right point in my life where— you know, you— you wait all your career to have a clear vision of something to say, and this came in so clearly and so strongly that, I— you know, I knew exactly what color I was gonna put on the brush.

Paulson: You know, you talked about the power of rock and roll to— to open minds, and you participated in a couple of remarkable ventures, uh, that were designed to raise awareness and raise money. You were at both the “We Are the World” recording,—

Loggins: Mmm.

Paulson: — and you performed at Live Aid.

Loggins: Mm-hmm.

Paulson: I think we’re slowly trying to get everyone who played “We Are the World,” on that record, in this studio. Kim Carnes was here not long ago and described a remarkable day. For somebody who had as much success as you had, walking into that room, was it still pretty impressive to look around that room?

Loggins: Oh, yeah, and we were all basically insecure, so we’re all looking around, going, “Oh, my God. That’s Paul Simon.” You know, “That’s— that’s Bob Dylan in there.”

Paulson: Well— but if you were in the room, you knew your career was going very well. I mean, you don’t get in that room unless you were one of the top 30 people.

Loggins: Yeah, yeah, one would think. It was interesting, you know: Huey Lewis was in there by proxy. Somebody didn’t show. I think it was Prince? And so they pulled Huey out, and he stepped in and had his moment in the sun, and it was— it was an interesting time, and I think a lot of good came from it.

Paulson: I think it did, too. Do you remember your part, what your line was in that?

Loggins: Oh, yeah.

Paulson: We’re not asking you to replicate it.

Loggins: No, really? Thank you.

Paulson: You have greatest hits, and then you have greatest single lines,—

Loggins: Yeah.

Paulson: — and that was a memorable one. I think you— my sense is that you pick your causes carefully, and of course, those were highly visible, but you’ve been a very strong voice on behalf of the environment —

Loggins: Mm-hmm.

Paulson: — and viewed as a leader and, uh, an inspirer. And if—

Loggins: I think actually, I would say, more an inspirer than a leader, to be honest with you, because, for me, my job is to express it. To— I’m a communicator, and what I try to do is move people’s hearts. And— and if we make the connection that what we do with our lives creates an example for our children, that they can create change, then— then we have to take on the responsibility to do something just to teach that possibility to our children. And, so, that— my job has been just to step out there and go, you know, “Let’s— let’s go.” I’m a cheerleader.

Paulson: Well, there are not a great many environmental anthems. Tom Paxton wrote one great one, and “Conviction of the Heart” is certainly that. Where did that song come from?

Loggins: That came from the Leap of Faith time, co-written with Guy Thomas. It’s a song where we started off the song acknowledging the fact that we were walking ghosts. And what I saw —as my heart was getting blasted open by my life, um, I began to see my connection to myself and to the ability to tell myself the truth about my life, and that connected me to everything, and I— I just had this moment of inspiration when we were writing the tune, this song about this guy who’s going, “Jeez, I’ve never given love with any conviction of the heart. You know, what’s happening here? I see that I’ve been living somebody else’s life.” And then this chorus came in, which seemed to be disconnected to the tune, which was “One with the earth, one with the sky, one with everything in life,” and it becomes this anthem of “I get it,” you know? I’ll do it.

Paulson: Please.

Loggins: [Plays and sings, accompanied by SvS] “/ Where are the dreams that we once had? / This is the time to bring them back. / What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues? / Do we forget or forgive? / There’s a whole other life waiting to be lived when one day, / we’re brave enough to talk with conviction of the heart. / And down your streets I’ve walked alone, / as if my feet were not my own. / Such is the path I chose, / doors I have opened and closed. / I’m tired of living this life, / fooling myself, / believing we’re right. / I’ve never given love with any conviction of the heart. / One with the earth, with the sky, one with everything in life. / I believe we’ll survive if we only try. / How long must we all wait to change the world / bound in chains that we live in, to know / what it is to forgive and be forgiven? / Too many years of taking now. / Isn’t it time to stop somehow? / Air that’s too angry to breathe, / water our children can’t drink. / You’ve heard it hundreds of times. / You say you’re aware, believe, and you care. / But do you care enough? / Where’s your conviction of the heart? / One with the earth, with the sky, one with everything in life. / I believe it will start with conviction of the— / One earth, one sky, and only one world. / Only one chance for one life. / When will we live with conviction of the heart? /”

Paulson: Very powerful.

Loggins: Thank you.

Paulson: You know, there are very few pop songs that people would describe as anthems. Is that a tougher song to write?

Loggins: I didn’t set out to write an anthem.

Paulson: Right.

Loggins: You know, it just came out that way, so, no. The harder songs to write are the ones that sneak up from behind, that are songs that are trying to tell me something that I’m maybe not yet ready to listen to,—

Paulson: Hmm.

Loggins: — and that happens to me all the time because I’m trying to write from— from the place that matters, and so it’s always catching me by surprise, which is cool. That’s —that’s kind of the good news and the bad news of this job.

Paulson: The— um, “Conviction of the Heart” is a song that a lot of people have applauded and embraced and been moved by, and although being in favor of— of clean air and clean water is not a deeply controversial position to take,—

Loggins: [Laughs]

Paulson: — have you faced any kind of a backlash because of your visibility on that issue?

Loggins: Not that I’m aware of. Um, the primary backlash I feel is the disappointment within myself that this country was not capable of making a commitment to alternative energy at a time where we could have. And now I believe this war has everything to do with that lack of commitment and a continued lack of vision. That pisses me off because we could have shifted this dependency on oil a long time ago.

Paulson: Do you have any hope that this will change in the future?

Loggins: Yes. Yeah, I think that that’s my nature.

Paulson: We’re just about out of time, but I— but I don’t want to leave without hearing a song from the new record.

Loggins: This is a song called “I Miss Us,” and it’s from the new record. [Plays and sings, accompanied by SvS] “/ Look at us and the life that we made. / Oh, darlin’, I wouldn’t trade a single day. / Still in love, / but I can’t help dreamin’ about yesterday. / Oh, yesterday. / I miss Sunday mornings free and easy, / lazy days and endless evenings. / I really thought somehow / that I’d be over it by now. / But I miss lying in your arms till morning / with nothing on our minds but making love. / And, baby, most of all, I miss us. / Like a child, I know it’s selfish to say, / but sometimes I want you all to myself / for a while. / Couldn’t we go back and play in yesterday? / Oh, yesterday. / Walking on the beach alone together, / sunsets that would last forever. / Nowhere else to be but side-by-side, / just you and me. / And I miss lying in your arms till morning / with nothing on our minds but making love. / And baby, most of all, I miss us. / And all we’ve given up has all come back as love. / I know that’s what family is about. / But I miss Sunday mornings free and easy, / lazy days and endless evenings. / I know we’ll survive, / but it’s eating me alive. / And I miss lying in your arms till morning / with nothing on our minds but making love. / And whoa-oh-oh. / I can’t hold it back another minute. / I’m embarrassed to admit it, / but I still want to be your everything. / I know all that life has given us / is way more than enough, / but darlin’, I can’t help myself. / I just love you too much. / And baby, most of all, I miss us. / Oh-oh-oh. / Oh, oh, oh. / Oh, oh, oh, oh. /”