Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr are a veritable who’ s who of music royalty. Loggins began his rise to stardom with musical partner Jim Messina in the early ‘70s, then broke out as a solo artist and has been making hit records for decades. Both Middleman and Burr are legendary songwriters in Nashville, as well as popular performers. Among the artists they’ve penned songs for are Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Conway Twitty and Wynona Judd. Their convergence as Blue Sky Riders was a long-time coming, but, in Loggins’ mind, inspired.
“It really started with Gary and me working together on an album for the Target stores,” Kenny explained during our Sundance interview. “During the process of making that album, I noticed that Gary was really a lead singer, and I loved the blend of our voices. And the writing process with him was so seamless—the angst was missing. So I called him a few months later and said, ‘If this was 20 years ago, we’d start a band.’ And I wasn’t kidding. For months after that, every time I’d get an idea for a song, I’d write in a column, ‘Save for Gary’.”
“It was a very flattering, thrilling idea of forming a band with Kenny,” Gary said. “The next step was that we didn’t want comparisons, because he’d been in a duo before. When he called, he said ‘I think we need a third in the band, and I think it’s a female. You’re in Nashville, and that’s where the hotbed in music is, and I think you know who that third person is.’ He just had this instinctive feeling that I knew.”
Georgia and Gary were performing together in Montgomery, Alabama when he first approached her with the idea. They were also dating at the time (and are now married). “I said, ‘Remember that crazy idea Kenny Loggins had about a band? He just sent me an email and said we need a girl. Do you have any ideas?’” Gary said, prompting Georgia to smile and give him a playful slug on the shoulder.
“I sent Kenny some stuff I had written, and he emailed Gary back and called me a ‘soulful singer’,” Georgia recalls. “Of course the idea of working with both of them was exciting for me as well, though Kenny joked with Gary that he was concerned that I would realize that he (Kenny) was so much hotter than him.”
“I was quick to assure Kenny that Georgia was not a fan of his,” Gary jokes. In fact, the ease and camaraderie these three performers feel around each other is clearly evident throughout both our interview and their onstage performance hours later. They greatly respect and like each other.
Blue Sky Riders came together over a two-plus year timeframe. With Gary and Georgia living and working in Nashville, and Kenny living in Santa Barbara and performing more than 80 times last year, the pieces came together slowly—but steadily.
“I’m a bit surprised that it took so long, too,” Gary said. “But it felt really healthy and natural, and it was always on our minds.” Now, their full-length debut, “Finally Home,” is set for a nationwide release on January 29. BSR is also performing in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry on February 1.
For Kenny Loggins, who has been a solo artist since Loggins and Messina broke up nearly 30 years ago, the idea of becoming part of a group again might seem surprising to some. But not to him.
“I kept wondering what my next record was going to be,” he said. “I just didn’t have the juice for it—didn’t have the excitement around the idea. The more I thought about working with Gary, the more excited I got about it. I knew he would push me, in so many ways…” (Gary laughs, then responds, “For Kenny, it’s like being in a band with a hyperactive 6-year-old.”)
“I wanted fresh inspiration,” Kenny continued. “I have memories of how it felt in the early years of Loggins and Messina, when new stuff came out. I remember how fun it was to have that rush.”
Fortunately, these guys have a centered partner in Georgia, who loves the banter back and forth between Gary and Kenny (“I’m kind of the ringmaster at times,” she says with a smile). Their three-part harmonies merge rock, pop and country into a wonderful collection of 15 songs. As a review of BSR in the New York Times said, “The three songwriters have found an unusually comfortable fit.”
Blue Sky Riders will be performing this coming summer at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin in March, and the Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California on April 28. Catch their music and news on their website: blueskyridersband.com. Like their name—these Blue Sky Riders are clearly going to ascend to great heights. Listen and you’ll know why.
For any parent, particularly one who blames himself for his daughter’s death when he couldn’t save her from drowning, hope of any kind springs eternal. That’s the premise behind a brilliant new independent film called “Imagine,” written, produced and directed by Jahanara Saleh and Jonathan Steven Green (Austin James Green was also co-writer and director of photography). Actor Scott Wolf plays a paramedic named John Morris, who feels numb and helpless in trying to overcome his guilt, and hoping to save his crumbling relationship with his wife Kate, played by actress Melissa Deppe Fischer. In an attempt to gain control of his life and his understanding of the universe, Morris experiments with digesting water that has been “charged” or influenced by specific thoughts, energy, emotions or concepts. As he does, he feels changes in the world around him. He hopes that continuously ingesting the water may even help him change history, and bring his daughter back to life.
The directors, who filmed the movie in just 12 days, started putting the project together in 2010, while Jahanara was finishing her work on a degree from the University of Utah. Though her career plan centers on teaching, filmmaking for both her and the Green brothers has also become a passion.
“We entered a film competition called The Doorpost Film Project,” Jonathan recalled. “Ours was one of 20 scripts chosen initially to compete for a $40,000 mentorship. Though our script wasn’t one of the final five chosen, we got great feedback and decided we’d go ahead and make the film ourselves.”
“I think there’s a good universal message in this film,” Jahanara said. “It’s a really beautiful premise—that if something like this is possible, then anything is possible. The idea of taking modern basic science and embellishing it, that because we are all made of water we might be able to change its structure with our thoughts, makes for a very unique story.”
Both Wolf and Fischer, neither of whom were familiar with Emoto’s work beforehand, were caught up instantly in the screenplay.
“I was pretty much done with acting, but a friend of mine brought me the script and wanted me to read it,” said Melissa, who has starred on several TV projects, including the series Everwood. “I got about 10 pages into it, scrambled to call my friend and asked him if they’d cast my character yet. I was very excited.”
Wolf, who was living in Utah at the time when the film was shot there (in June 2011), was equally impressed from the beginning with the screenplay.
“It’s a great piece of material,” he said. “The subject matter felt very unique. I did love the way that the metaphysical element is blended into this story. I like to believe in that kind of thing.”
Both lead actors are also parents—Wolf and his wife Kelley just had their second child in November and Fischer and her husband have two children—making the script even more powerful.
“We had actually just had our first child (before production of the film began), so the story of a parent losing a child took on a whole new level of meaning for me,” Scott said. Melissa added that “the script was so human, so all about our experience and how we feel inside.”
And they loved the freedom the screenplay gave them. “It didn’t spoon-feed things,” Scott said. “Ultimately as an actor, you want to feel there’s space for your interpretation.”
“What I loved about the script was that everything was understated,” Melissa added. “So many things were not said that you knew the character was thinking. The most amazing thing as an actor is when you can hold something back, when you can’t say the words but the audience can see you going through the emotions. This was an actor’s screenplay.”
The producers just finished the final editing, and are now submitting the film to festivals around the country. Its initial screenings should start this spring.
“Whoever sees us asks us the same question… ‘What is the possibility of water?’” Jonathan said. “Our challenge was to make this story concept entertainment, and our tool was the filmmaking.”
You can learn more about “Imagine” on the film’s website at http://www.imaginetheshortfilm.com. The producers also have a Facebook page for the film.
By Tom Haraldsen