Blue Sky Riders
By Kay West
Blue Sky Riders: Finally Home
Blue Sky Riders almost didn’t achieve lift-off. Luckily, the vocal trio of independently successful and seasoned singer-songwriters turned negative advice into positive action, and ultimately parlayed it into a soaring hook for one of the 15 songs on their first album Finally Home.
When Kenny Loggins shared with an old friend in Los Angeles his excitement about forming a band with two new friends in Nashville, the killjoy response was, “Don’t do it. You’re too old. No one starts over at your age.”
Loggins texted the other members of the fledgling band four dispirited words: “Too old to dream.” Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr were taken aback. They already knew the dynamic worked, that their voices, personalities and writing habits blended, and in fact had one song already in the can. The next day, returned to his senses, Loggins called Burr and Middleman and told them, “I’ve never done the smart thing in my career and I’m not about to start now. Screw that. We’re doing this.”
An argument could be made that Loggins has done plenty of smart things in a legendary career that spans nearly four decades but in the wake of a difficult time in his personal life, he was at a professional crossroads. Turning south to Nashville, he connected with Burr, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame. “I used to write songs with Jim Messina and I’d be out at his house thinking that any minute, Kenny Loggins would be walking in the door,” Burr remembers, laughing at himself. “It never happened, but when Kenny was coming to Nashville, Richard Marx suggested we get together.”
They found that not only did they click as writers but they sung well together, and had fun doing both. Loggins was the first to suggest partnering up to record an album, but that seemed too reminiscent of another duo he had been one-half of, so they decided to make it a trio, seeking a female voice for texture. Burr knew just the female voice and writer, his wife, respected singer/songwriter Middleman.
“Kenny and I sounded good together,” says Burr. “Georgia and I sounded good together. So it was kind of like if A=B and B=C then A=C too. And that’s how it worked. We didn’t know how much of a band we would sound like until we did the first show, but when we walked off stage we went. ‘Wow, we’re really a band!’ It could have been three songwriters on stage which happens in Nashville all the time, but it wasn’t. It’s a band. And that goes for the songs too. Everything we write becomes a fourth thing, a Blue Sky Riders song. You can’t tell which section Kenny wrote or Georgia wrote or I wrote, and we’re proud of that. When we sing, the lead just depends on the key of the song and then the other two take their places. It just works out that the songs just kind of sit patiently until we hit the right combination.”
They’ve been building their fan base as part of Loggins’ solo tour playing huge outdoor venues, and more gratifying for the band, on their own for a sold-out club tour last fall. “After the first night on the club tour as Blue Sky Riders, the standing ovations and the encores and not one Kenny Loggins song in the whole set, we ran backstage and Kenny hugged us and said, ‘This is exactly what I hoped in my head it would be!’”
Finally Home comes straight from the heart of these talented tunesmiths; 14 of the 15 songs were written by the trio, including the ‘hell no’ response to being told they were too old to start something new: “Dream.”
“We wanted this to be a little bit of a defiance album,” Burr confesses. “After we wrote ‘Dream’ we kind of wanted to hit that theme without being preachy or obvious. We want to write music and perform music that is relevant to us at our age, but also reaches people on either side of that. If that’s what’s happening in your life, these songs will touch you and have meaning. That’s our goal. But it’s not brain surgery. Let’s just get everyone tapping their toes and singing along. That’s music.”