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September 2, 2014

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Kenny Loggins says reinventing himself has kept his 40-year music career thriving

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Stephen Morales

Kenny Loggins.

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Over a remarkable 40-year career in music, singer-songwriter and guitarist Kenny Loggins has adapted to the always-changing music landscape. He says that he’s reinvented himself nearly every decade.

Known for beautiful soft rock in the 1970s and performing with Jim Messina, he’s now interested in country pop, and a children’s music challenge while now in his mid-60s just might provide him with an excuse to cut back on his busy touring schedule.

This weekend, though, the adult-contemporary star is back on the road for Fourth of July Weekend concerts at Orleans Showroom. (Kenny also was part of the star-studded lineup with David Foster at Mandalay Bay Events Center in November 2011.)

I talked with him at his California home as he prepared to travel here for Saturday and Sunday shows via another concert Thursday night in Thousand Oaks and before next week’s shows in Riverside and Paso Robles.

You enjoy coming to Las Vegas a couple times a year, but as a troubadour on the road most of the year, do you find the Las Vegas audience different from the rest of the country?

It can be. It depends on where you’re playing. When you’re playing for a more transient audience from different parts of the country, you’re never sure exactly what kind of audience you’re playing for. I used to do a Kenny Rogers medley, and they didn’t notice. If I’m playing a show for the city itself, like a local kind of Las Vegas show, then that’s a different audience.

You look back at this long career that you’ve had, first of all did you ever think it would last this long?

You know, I never really imagined it would be for so long. When I first went with Jim Messina back in the early days, we had been on the road for five years already. I thought, “Wow, five years, I can’t imagine being on the road for five years.” That was 40 years ago. In this business to have a 40-year career is crazy.

What do you think is the recipe for that success?

I’d like to think that it has something to do with quality. It’s also because I’ve had hits in different eras, so I think that’s probably sustained me. Loggins and Messina in the ’70s and then my own career in the ’80s and ’90s, and I think that covering that much time, reinventing myself has helped create a longevity.

Do you do that consciously or does it just happen because of the era? Changing from decade to decade, reinventing yourself?

I think as far as doing it consciously, I just refused to give up. I kept wanting to find new music and stay creative and involved. By working with producers and different writers and collaborating a lot, I reinvented myself. Also because I’ve always loved all kinds of music. I was raised by two brothers who were into two different styles of music. My oldest brother was into country and rockabilly and folk music, so when I was 7, 8, 9 years old, he was playing that stuff for me. My other brother was playing R&B and rock and roll from the other side, so I grew up with lots of cradle languages. It allows me to go anywhere I want to go musically.

In a day and age when rap and four-letter words not of family values dominate the hip-hop music scene, you obviously stand out with lyrics that rock but yet are still romantic and fun. You have a view on today’s music scene?

Yeah, I have five kids, my youngest is 16 and my oldest is 33, and they’re all very much music fans and sometimes they even play music together. They all turned me on to different kinds of music that are out there. I think there’s a lot of vitality in the music scene today. My 21-year-old, Luke, just turned me on to a genre that I wasn’t even aware of called neo soul and has been playing different neo soul artists to me, which I’ve been blown away by and love.

Kenny Loggins Conviction of the Heart

Kenny Loggins Danger Zone

A couple of years ago, I discovered Frank Ocean. Acts like that are a whole other type of R&B that I think is an amazing revolution from the stuff I was raised on. My 16-year-old daughter loves folk and its growing movement. She’s been showing me some of the artists who are successors to the stuff I did and was raised on, as well. There’s a lot of great stuff out there and a lot of vitality. It’s not all necessarily hitting the radio, but you need to know what it is and where to look.

Do you think that because of the age group that you might appeal to that there’s a bigger demand for your music than ever before because of the contrast with hip-hop?

Well hip-hop isn’t the only thing out there right now, but, yes, I think that there’s becoming more of a demand because the older audience is finally coming around to wanting good music. There was a long period of time where they were convinced by the record business that they didn’t want music, and what I mean by that is the record business didn’t make music for our audience. They avoided it because they could sell 10 million to a younger audience, so why sell 2 million to an older audience or even 1 million.

When I was dropped from Columbia Records years ago, that was their rationale. Even though my last record had sold a million, that wasn’t enough for them to make the kind of numbers they needed, which is ironic. Nowadays we can find that audience, and they are now our audience. They are now looking through the Internet to find new music, and that’s where we find each other. It’s a whole new ballgame again.

So this time around, you don’t have to reinvent yourself, you just have to do what you’ve always done well, and you’ve got a bigger audience?

I have reinvented myself in that I started a band, and I’m now a member of a trio called Blue Sky Riders with Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman out of Nashville. We are writing together in a sort of country rock way, so I’m sort of back to the kind of music that I made in the Loggins and Messina years. Mixing rock with a country flair.

How do you look at this musical journey you’ve been on all these years?

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to write, sing and record for a living my whole life. Most of my friends have had to sell cars or real estate, and I’ve managed to keep going and be on the road and sing for people. It’s been great.

Now in your mid-60s, what do you have left to achieve musically?

Surprisingly, I’ve got quite a bit left. Back about 20 years ago, I made a children’s record titled “Return to Pooh Corner.” It’s actually a parent’s record disguised as a children’s record, and it ended up doing extremely well. It’s considered the biggest-selling children’s record of all time.

There’s a follow up to that called “More Songs From Pooh Corner.” I’ve really been enjoying making music for parents and children, and I could see that as a more comfortable place to be where I wouldn’t necessarily have to tour behind it but could just make records like that.

I recently made a record with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. He’s the executive producer for his publishing company, and I did a musical reworking of “Frosty the Snowman” that accompanied a book his company put together. I love that direction, and I want to work with him more and get to know him.

He’s an amazing guy, at 75 he’s vital, brilliant, creative, he’s out in the world promoting peace as he and the group did in their heyday. A great role model for a way to age to where you could stay involved creatively and emotionally in the world.

It’s probably an improbable question to get an answer to, but is there one song from this extraordinary Kenny Loggins catalog that you love more than any and that you will thoroughly enjoy performing again at Orleans Showroom?

You’re right, it’s difficult to answer that question. It depends on the mood I’m in, but it usually comes down to the one song that really speaks to me called “Conviction of the Heart” that I wrote with Guy Thomas years ago. It always resonates for me in concert no matter how tired or worn out I am. Of course there are staples. I love “Danny’s Song” and “House at Pooh Corner” when my son Luke was newborn. They continue to be songs that I love to sing and songs that people really resonate with in their lives.

* * *

Kenny, who is known as “The King of Movie Soundtracks” for the numerous songs he’s made for films including “Caddyshack,” “Footloose” and “Top Gun,” summed up: “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve written a lot of songs that I still feel very proud of now.”

Kenny Loggins is at Orleans Showroom at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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