With a legendary career spanning decades, Kenny Loggins continues to capture hearts with his honest lyrics and classic melodies. From his beginnings in the hit ’70s duo Loggins & Messina, to his breakout solo career in the ’80s and his best-selling children’s album in the ’90s, Loggins is a versatile artist who’s not afraid to take chances.
But despite a slew of best-selling albums and two Grammy Awards, Loggins is still a grounded family man. And with a new family album set for a July 21st release and an upcoming tour with Jim Messina, he’s as busy as ever. Loggins took some time out to talk to Contest Corner about his past, present, and future.
Loggins’ new album, All Join In, takes its cue from his previous children’s songs and delivers something entirely unique. “I’m excited about it,” he says. “It’s always a tricky line to walk to try to use the production values and songs that parents would love, and make them playful enough and lighthearted enough for the children. And I think it works.”
Becoming a father inspired Loggins to start recording children’s music in the early 1990s. “It was because of singing bedtime songs my children that I slowly developed a catalog of songs that I would sing to them at night,” he says. After the birth of his fourth child, Luke, Loggins found himself writing a new third verse to his earlier hit, “House At Pooh Corner”. From this sprang his first children’s record, Return To Pooh Corner, a best-selling album that went on to receive a Grammy nod.
Since his first children’s album was a collection of lullabies, Loggins was inspired to start writing music aimed at older children as well as babies and tots. “It’s like an up tempo version of Return To Pooh Corner,” he says of All Join In. “My goal was to make a record that would be enjoyed as much by the children as it would by the parents.”
But he wasn’t about to do Kidz Bop – Loggins wanted to create an album that would be loved by children and adults alike. “The thing that is hard to convey to parents is that they’re actually going to like this record,” he says. “Being a parent of five children myself, I’ve listened to Barney for many years. I love Barney as much as the next guy, but after a few thousand listens…I’m done. This kind of record will hold up for the parents, and they won’t mind having to listen to it a thousand times.”
All Join In is a delightful mix of cover versions, with re-workings of everything from Mika to The Beatles. Loggins says that working with such a range of material was a fun experience. “The biggest challenge was that in some cases, like the Feist ’1234′ cover, I had to change some of the words,” he notes. The original lyrics to “1234″ were “Sleepless long nights, that was what my youth was for”, which Loggins changed to “Sleep tight all night, that is what my youth is for.” “It just didn’t seem appropriate for an 11-year-old to sing,” he explains.
And recording the album was certainly a family affair – all five of Loggin’s children contributed vocals to the record. “I had my daughter Hana, who is 11, and her friends singing on the record, and you can feel their enthusiasm for being in a recording studio. They’re all drama students, and they’re just so excited to be in a real live recording studio, and it translates on the record.”
Hana is featured on “First There Is A Mountain”, a standout cover of the Donovan classic which Loggins re-invented with his own creative touches. “Probably of all the tunes on the album, I took the most liberty with that one. I really allowed myself to put in new chords, because it’s such a neutral piece – Donovan never really changes the chord in the original version. He played mostly in A, with an occasional five-chord – so I went to town with substitutions.”
And Hana isn’t the only musical progeny. Daughter Bella, 21, is a music major in college; eldest son Crosby won MTV’s Rock The Cradle competition in 2008 and will release his second album, Time To Move on July 14th. So Loggins must have a very musical household?
“Actually, no – it’s not the Von Trapps at all,” he laughs. “I didn’t even hear Bella sing until last year. She showed me some of her tunes – she was afraid to show them to me. It’s kind of odd, because I’ve always loved to sing with them, and encouraged it; and I think that’s why they’re in music. But the one who loves to sing with me is Hana. She’s my most willing student – not only to sing with me, but to listen to me! She loves it, and that’s what Daddy and Hana do now; we sing.” Since Hana is a drama student, Loggins has taught her everything from vocal warm up exercises to how to enunciate for theater. (“She was the lead in Hairspray – she’s the skinniest Tracy ever!”)
But All Join In wasn’t just about connecting with his children. It also marked a reunion with Jim Messina, who joined Loggins on the song “2 of Us”, their first recording together in decades. Loggins and Messina came together for a reunion tour in 2005, and have another one planned this summer. Loggins says he enjoyed a chance to come full circle and re-visit some of his earliest material.
“It’s fun to get it together, and hear that music re-interpreted again in a fresh way by young players. It’s pretty mellow, really, because it’s all material that I wrote when I was a kid, so it’s more about connecting with the audience – re-connecting to old friends,” he says. So can we expect a new Loggins & Messina album anytime soon?
“I’m trying to talk Jimmy into putting ’2 of Us’ into the show. We’ll see how that goes over. If it there’s a feeling that the audience would want more material from us, then we’ll consider it.”
After achieving fame in Loggins & Messina, penning some of the most memorable songs of the ’80s, and now writing best-selling family albums, Loggins has an enviable career spanning 40+ years. Musing on the industry today, he shares how his approach to writing and recording has changed over time.
“When I first started out, the most obvious difference was that Jimmy and I rehearsed Sittin’ In for at least six months before we recorded a note. Nowadays, I get a rough idea or write a song, and I’ll take it right in to the studio and build it with (co-producer) Jesse Siebenberg, one instrument at a time. And in that way we can sort of craft it like the way you’d paint a painting. And it’s not so much about the performance as it would be for the band – it’s the layering of performances that creates a painting.” And there’s no doubt that Loggins’ fans will be eager to see his next work of art.