Even at the age of 61, singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins proves tough to pin down. With a career marked by folk classics, film soundtracks, children’s albums, and adult contemporary hits, he’s the ultimate fluid subject, always willing to try something once, if not twice. Most recently, Loggins refocused his attention on the kids, penning and releasing All Join In, an up-tempo follow-up of sorts to 1994’s lullaby record, Return to Pooh Corner.
This Saturday, Loggins returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl stage with longtime songwriting partner Jim Messina for a night of classic folk first made popular during the duo’s 1970s heyday. The setup is a return to 2005’s Sitting In Again, a tour that found the pair playing together for the first time in more than 30 years. I recently caught up with Santa Barbara resident Loggins to discuss the history and future of the band.
Why the decision to go out on the road with Jim, rather than touring the new album? I’m not really touring All Join In yet-except for the [Beatles] song “Two of Us,” which Jimmy and I did on the new record. We’re doing that duet live, just to give the hardcore fans something new to chew on. As far as Loggins & Messina, I think we kind of rekindled our friendship back in ’05 when we did that Unity Benefit together. : In singing those harmonies again and getting back to where we started back in ’71-I’ve never sung with anyone else and had that sibling harmony. Hearing that again, we started talking about taking it on the road just to see if there was an audience there. It turned out in ’05 there was a big audience for it, so we’re just extending that tour now.
For these shows, you two are very much sharing the duties of frontman. As a performer, how does that differ from playing solo? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love being my own boss. [Laughs.] I love singing more contemporary material and stuff that’s more emotionally present. Loggins & Messina’s material I wrote when I was 18-25, so it reflects the emotional awareness of a young man. I don’t feel like I really came into my own as a songwriter ’til [1977’s] Celebrate Me Home. In my opinion, Loggins & Messina was much more of Jimmy’s vehicle. That was probably the peak of his writing era. We do “Angry Eyes” and stuff like that, songs that are his best work. And I’m happy to do it and proud to be a part of Loggins & Messina-especially after you see the audience’s response. It’s nostalgia. It’s stuck in time.
So, is there a new Loggins & Messina album on the horizon? Nothing yet, but we haven’t closed the door to it. We’re kicking it around, and maybe we’ll do a track or two as we go along. It’s been a long time, but I think this tour is helping heal the division between us. We’ve certainly become friends again, and that’s a great place to start, so anything is possible.
Do you think that sense of nostalgia creates a roadblock for working on new music together? It would in some ways because you’re stuck singing material you made as many as 30 years ago. On the other hand, we have a dozen things we started before we broke up. It’s fascinating to me to think in terms of sitting down and finishing those songs now, in the light of what I know as a musician and how much I’ve grown. I’ve got a verse and a bridge but no chorus that I started in ’73. It would be fascinating to sit down and see where we go with it, where it evolves to, where I would take it now. Musically, for the Loggins & Messina fan, it would still sound like us from those days, but it would have the sophistication of today.
You have found success all over the musical map. If you had to choose, how would you like to be remembered as an artist? Well, that’s going to be a tricky one. I have two big brothers. My oldest brother was very much a rockabilly-folk-country guy. And my second brother would wake me up in the middle of the night to play R&B-Little Richard, The Coasters, Aretha Franklin-so I really have two cradle languages. In that way, I’ve been a moving target for my whole career. : Ironically, I’ll probably be remembered for “Footloose” and “Danger Zone,” even though I didn’t write them, because your hits are what they write about. To me, I think some of my best work was Sittin’ In for Loggins & Messina, Celebrate Me Home, and Leap of Faith because I was propelled emotionally. For Celebrate I was propelled into creating a solo career, and again with Leap of Faith, I hit a moment where everything mattered and I knew exactly what I was doing. I also think in a way that the Return to Pooh Corner album will stand as part of that legacy.
Loggins & Messina play the Santa Barbara Bowl with opener the Gabe Dixon Band this Saturday, October 3, at 7 p.m. For tickets and info, call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.