“All those artists out there who can turn bad personal shit into songs, right now, I hate 'em.”
Kenny Loggins and I are having a heart to heart. It's only a 15-minute phone interview, but like much of the music he made in the mid-1970s with producer-collaborator Jim Messina, it's a densely packed 15 minutes.
If the label had been invented back then, Loggins & Messina would have certainly been described as “emo” during the long-haired, free-spirited, folksy-jazz-pop '70s. The then-nascent Kenny & Jimmy (as they are still affectionately known, at least to their inner circle) certainly weren't afraid of what one local artist recently called “faggy” harmonic and progressive musical arrangements.
Nor were they afraid to include their personal lives in the music, which is partly what inspired their reunion tour.
“I'm about a year and a half [out of] my divorce,” Loggins tells me, via cell phone en route to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. “And Jim was the first one to call me and say, ‘Hey, here's an idea: let's get you playing. Let's do a reunion tour.' It was exactly what I needed.
“It's like a prescription from a cosmic doctor: Don't think. Do a Loggins & Messina reunion tour. Just play.”
Messina, who went on to be a principle in Buffalo Springfield and Poco, says they've got other things to worry about now.
“Now we're not so much worried about what we're going to sound like, but who's gonna remember all the words,” he says.
Loggins says it's great, though, making mistakes with 30 years of solo success under their belts.
“Just like the other night,” he laughs when he hears of Messina's comment. “Jimmy completely blanked on the opening to a song. And instead of it being a bad thing, we just vamped. I ran over and sang the first few lines to him and he was off. I've toured with [ex-Doobie Brother] Michael McDonald before and had to do the same thing.
“But I love it, we can truly come together and support each other now-whereas, back in the day, you'd be worried more about, “Am I good enough? Am I going to suffer because of this?'
“Or even more ridiculous, if he has a great solo, will it detract from me somehow?”
Messina recalls the exact moment he stopped worrying about how audiences would react. It was at the first show of the tour in Boise, Idaho. “They gave us a two-minute standing ovation-before we even played a note!” he says. “That was really something.”
Does the duo worry about how relevant they are now, 30 years after their heyday, or that their aging Boomer demographic may not show up in the numbers needed to make the tour financially viable?
“Not really,” says Messina, “because-and this happened last night-it's the kids, as young as 12 and 14, who are the ones bringing their parents and even grandparents to the show.”
Makes sense, I tell Loggins. When I was young, the duo's records were some of the first I ever put on a turntable.
“Exactly,” he laughs. “So, now, it's very much like it was back then: Our music appeals to kids, their parents and their parents and their grandparents. It's just that the original fans are sometimes grandparents with their kids and their parents.”
Loggins & Messina play at the Embarcadero Marina Park South, 8 p.m. on July 7. $45-$90. 619-659-2522.