Blue Sky Riders: Ready to ascend the charts

25 Jan

Blue Sky Riders are, from left, Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr.

Blue Sky Riders are, from left, Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr.

Blue Sky Riders 2
Kenny Loggins with ON AND BEYOND's Chalese Dalton at the ASCAP Music Cafe at Sundance.

Kenny Loggins with ON AND BEYOND’s Chalese Dalton at the ASCAP Music Cafe at Sundance.

One of the hottest performances at this year’s Sundance Film Festival wasn’t on a screen–it was on the stage of the ASCAP Music Café on Park City’s Main Street. That’s where on January 18, audiences got a taste of Blue Sky Riders, just days before they performed on January 24 on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Though the group itself might yet be unfamiliar to music lovers, its members are legends in the industry.
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: Like their name—these Blue Sky Riders are clearly going to ascend to great heights. Listen and you’ll know why.
–Tom Haraldsen

One Response to “Blue Sky Riders: Ready to ascend the charts”

  1. pamchris January 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I’ll be listening! Love the photos too!

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