If only the late singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg and flautist Tim Weisberg hadn’t gotten to the name first, Twin Sons of Different Mothers could have worked just fine to describe the musical pairing of songwriters Kenny Loggins and Gary Burr, who formed Blue Sky Riders along with fellow songwriter Georgia Middleman.
“We got incredibly lucky, if you believe in luck. I was writing with Gary, and we were recording demos, and there’s this sibling vocal blend. There were times I couldn’t tell when which one of us was singing,” said Loggins, who was half of the early-1970s soft rock duo Loggins & Messina. Loggins would go on to have solo hits with Whenever I Call You ‘Frie nd’ (with Stevie Nicks), This Is It and Celebrate Me Home, and he became an ’80s movie music fixture with hits for the Footloose, Top Gun and Caddyshack soundtracks.
Blue Sky Riders recently released a debut album, Finally Home.
“The inspiration was to bring in a female singer-songwriter. This group had to be built on the writing,” Loggins, 65, said on the phone from San Diego. “Luckily, she’s a star as a singer, and we have this vocal blend.”
That sort of male-female harmony singing on melodic tunes, which is enjoying a resurgence on country radio thanks to Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum, was part of the appeal of slipping back into a group situation for Burr, who in the early ’80s was a member of Pure Prairie League before he notched success as a songwriter. ( Juice Newton’s Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me, Patty Loveless’ I Try to Think About Elvis, Randy Travis’ Out of My Bones, Kelly Clarkson’s Before Your Love and the Ricky Martin/Christina Aguilera duet Nobody Wants to Be Lonely are among his hits.)
“What’s fun about this is while writing the songs we’ll all sort of evolve,” Burr said from Nashville in a joint interview with Loggins. On one pass Loggins might take a lead with Burr on utility or the high notes. On another, Middleman might take the melody line. By the time a song made it to the finished product, the vocal roles might have switched half a dozen times.
“When we sang, it was Kenny’s idea to have all the mikes facing each other,” Burr recalls. “We want to record like Peter, Paul & Mary right there in the room together. As a trio, that’s exciting and nerve-wracking.”
The men met when mutual friend Richard Marx suggested to Loggins that he write with Burr. “I don’t think anyone was not aware of Kenny. I’m not sure I was a name to him but for my first marriage I got married to Danny’s Song and used most of his repertoire to get chicks in college when I was 19, 20 years old. I was thanking God for him,” Burr said, laughing.
Loggins plans to take newlyweds Burr and Middleman on the road for his solo tour in April where the three will serve as the opening act.
And though Loggins’ first major hit, with former musical partner Jim Messina, hit the Top 5 more than 40 years ago ( Your Mama Don’t Dance) don’t think he’s not as savvy as Bieber, Gaga and Rihanna about promotion via social media.
“We are utilizing the Internet and social media where we talk to our audience during a show,” Loggins said. “We’ll say, ‘Who has Facebook on their phones? Pick up your phone and Like us right now and go online and take pictures, please.’ When you used to hear, ‘No photos,’ well, forget about that. Post them! This is the only way to get out there.”
— HOWARD COHEN
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.