On My Reinvention, and Life After Sony/Columbia Records

Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman recently formed the new band Blue Sky Riders, and were profiled by Huff/Post50 in February. They are finishing their first album, "Some Experience Required," and will be chronicling their experiences as a band in this blog.

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, it teases you on, leads you somewhere you can barely see in the distance, toward an ancient city shrouded in fog, just waiting for you to come discover it.

Joseph Campbell, America's late/great mythologist, once famously said, "Follow your bliss." Others translate it as "follow your heart." I call it, "follow the juice," meaning follow the rush that leads you to something that turns you on, that feels like it might be fun, that gets the juice flowing. And that credo, quite simply, led me to the creation of Blue Sky Riders.

The Riders was my "mythical city in the distance, waiting to be discovered." But the path here can be traced all the way back to 1998, to a version of myself I was very unwilling to let go of, but of course, fate had other plans. I didn't know that devastating news was a veiled message of rebirth. But do we ever?

Eventually I would be inspired to "reinvent myself," a decision half driven by creative inspiration, and half by survival. And isn't it always?

Actually, I recommend it, this "reinventing yourself" thing. Truth be told, I'm having more fun these days than I've had in years, and the results (music, mostly) have been turning out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

But why, after so many years of "pop success," would a semi-sane man decide to start it all over again? Why risk it?

I'd been on Sony/Columbia Records since I was 21 years old, and the habit of being their recording artist was deeply ingrained. I'd seen about six different company presidents come and go, so I began to actually believe I would slip by like Johnny Mathis did, and just hang out there forever, "10 feet tall and bullet proof." After all, my last CD, "Leap Of Faith," had just passed a million units in sales. Surely things were still at full sail, or damn near cruising speed?

It wasn't until I got a call from my manager, who heard it from a secretary to an under-assistant, who was told in passing by the janitor, that my services would no longer be needed at Sony. An unceremonious sacking, to say the least. Not even a gold watch and party hats for selling 30 million records over almost as many years.

Suddenly my Daddy Warbucks was no more. That unseen "father figure," the record company I'd grown so very accustomed to counting on, had moved on to younger, cooler things. Overnight, the record I was in the process of recording sputtered to a stop, and without the aid of the company recording budget, my cracker-jack production team disbanded. I was simply going to have to figure out what to do next. Or not so simply.

So let's see ... Retire? Teach? Learn to paint? Yoga? Learn a new skill? At 50?! Look out below ... here comes the dumps.

I crashed hard. Since my first paying job was touring in a band called the "Electric Prunes" as an 18 year old, I was "unhireable" now, trained in nothing (or so I thought).

I spun head over heals into a dark depression. After all, "Who am I if I'm not 'the famous Kenny Loggins?'" It felt as if not only Sony, but the world was done with me! I'd hit the "Too young to die and too old to rock 'n roll" phase. (For some reason it never occurred to me to just ride on the success I'd garnered over the years. Curious.)

What I ever-so-slowly began to realize was that my emotional well-being was a product of my being a creative ... being. I just needed to stay active, creative, in order to feel good. To her credit, at the urging of my then-wife, Julia, I invested in myself and kept writing and recording. Honestly, I spent a lot of our savings, too much, but it gradually pulled me out of the dumps, so for me it was money well spent. I'd love to say that that CD, "It's About Time," went on to become a huge success, and wouldn't that have made a tidy ending to my little morality play, but that was not to be.

But through that process I'd discovered the problem with my head wasn't what I was doing, it was why I was doing it. I had to see that "writing" for me is simply who I am, and that's not really Mr. Rock Star. I had to learn to stop judging my success, indeed my self-worth, by my sales. "Control the controllables," my friend Bill Leopold used to say, and whether or not folks flock to your door with fists full of cash does not fall under the category of "controllables."

So I kept writing, kept recording, and gradually I got heard by folks who thought it would be cool to have me write/sing for their project or their brand, and while working on a CD for Target, I met Gary Burr, and the rest ... will be history.

My meeting Gary Burr and later Georgia Middleman will have to wait for another blog, but for now I will leave you with thee words of advice, should fate be delivering you a similar message: Follow the juice, even if it takes a few years to materialize.

Headshot Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

Check out part two of a series of videos in which the Blue Sky Riders answer Huff/Post50's big life questions. Here, they discuss the best advice they ever received.