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.
Great moments are rare.
Here it was, another one of those 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.
Enter Gary Burr.
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.
Start a new band?? Am I crazy or what?
Well, some 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. 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. 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.”
One more piece to the puzzle…Hello Georgia.
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.” It should be added here that Gary is no slouch himself, Gary was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, having penned 13 #1 songs to date! He went on to say “Georgia just wrote Keith Urban’s #2 record in the country right now.” That felt like one hell of a start, so I agreed to fly out to Nashville for “a meeting.”
Why fight something that feels this good?
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!
Have you had any magic moments like this? Have you started a new group late in your career. Please share in the comments below.