Tune Magazine: Two years ago when you were touring off the album, The Wild Places, you told me that that album was the best thing you'd done in ten years, since The Innocent Age. Was it easy for you to capture the same spirit and philosophy while making the River of Souls?
Dan Fogelberg: A lot of people will probably think that this is very different for me, but I don't. I think that it is a continuation of The Wild Places. I kind of group these two records together in some strange way. They just kind of flow together. I never really stopped recording from one to the next. I had the live album there that kind of threw us off for awhile, but like "Serengeti Moon", on this album was done for The Wild Places, and since it didn't fit that album, it ended up on this one. Putting that song on this album opened me up to putting other types of songs on this album that had some world influences on it. "Serengeti Moon" was written in 1984.
TM: In 1982, you released a Greatest Hits album that pretty much summed up your first ten years in the business, and then you released Greetings from the West in 1991, which was a live album of hits that pretty much summed up your work in the 80's. With The Wild Places and River of Souls, are they the beginning, or the end of another direction for Dan Fogelberg?
DF: Yes, I think so.
TM: Is it a healthy new path?
DF: Musically, and creatively, certainly it is. Unquestionably. Commercially, no, because the music has gotten highly political and environmentally sensitive. These albums haven't really dealt with the staples of the pop music industry. When you write a song like "River Of Souls", which is this bizarre mystical journey across this line into death, that's not really pop. So, as I have gotten further in my own spiritual and evolutionary path, I don't write about simple issues as much as I used to. I certainly don't write as much autobiographical music as I used to. And let's face it, that's what makes this business go round.
TM: Have you had to have these changes forced upon you, or is it just a part of growing up?
DF: Oh, it's just a part of growing up. I'm sure my record company would like nothing more than for me to be writing nothing but love songs. That's what they can sell. It is much tougher to be selling six and seven minute songs like this, which express some very deeply held convictions, than little three minute pop ballads. I'm sure Epic would love for me to return and do some of that. Whether I do it or not, I can't predict. I can only go where the music takes me, where my own personal evolution takes me.
TM: Do you really care about commercial success?
DF: Not like I used to, no. There's a trade-off. I still make a great living doing this, there's no question about that. Once you get to that certain pinnacle, the 20,000 seaters and the selling of millions and millions of records, part of you is jealous that that doesn't stay with you the rest of your life. You have to look at it as a career. I'm very fortunate to be here 22 year later. A lot of people aren't.
TM: Would you have wanted a musical career on par with the Rolling Stones, that spans the decades?
DF: No. Again, that's part of the lifestyle that I have chosen. I have really shied away from being public. The music business has gotten more into image than it has the music. It's almost like you have to have controversy to get your music noticed. That's not the sort of life I wanted to live. As a musician, I hope that I do good work and I'm respected for it. On the commercial side of it and the public side of it, I've never tried to exploit it to its fullest.
TM: The last couple of years I've been interviewing country artists, an interesting parallel has developed. Country music is going through the spectrum of change today that you, Jackson Browne, Poco, the Eagles and others of the folk rock era created in the early 70's. In fact, you've often been cited as a major influence by some of the artists I've talked to. You know, if you had put out High Country Snows in today's market, you probably would have had a smash hit album on the country charts.
DF: (Laughing) Perhaps. It has been interesting to watch country music in the past couple of years from my standpoint. It's obvious that the folk rock I was involved with is a major influence on country music. I mean, look at this Eagles tribute album that was just released. Admittedly, that was the doing of Don (Henley) and Irving (Azoff), and it's being done to help his Walden Pond Project, but yeah, everybody coming out of Nashville these days is trying to do what we did 20 years ago in L.A. and they are having enormous success with it.
TM: Have you talked about this with any of your friends?
DF: It's funny, but last summer, Don, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne and myself got together to do this video, and the four of us were singing this old song we had all worked on back in 1973-74 for one of Jackson's albums, and we were singing the song to these images of dancers up on a screen. It was a promo spot NBC had asked Jackson to do for the Barcelona Olympics. As we were lip synching to the tape, we suddenly started singing the parts and the whole video production stopped. Here was this sound that none of us had experienced in a long, long time, and we just kind of looked at each other and said, "Wow, listen to that!" We kept on singing together for the rest of the night and it was really fun. We commented to each other that these country singers are making zillions off this music we helped pioneer. We then told each other we'd get back together to sing on each other's records, but of course, it never happened.
TM: Nice thought while it lasted?
DF: Yeah. I mean, who would have ever thought that 20 years later people would be emulating that sound. And to be honest with you, it wasn't really us. We were imitating Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds. The generations keep going on, and I am glad that there is someplace for harmonic and melodic music in the business.
TM: What you and your friends created in the 70's not only survived the entire decade, but it's still as influential today as it was back then. There's quite a testimony to the music's staying power.
DF: That's true, and even though I did sell a lot of albums in the 70's, the bulk of my musical success came in the 80's. I don't like the idea of being labeled a 70's artist. I was just starting to kick in towards the end of the 70's. My biggest success was from 1980-84 when I got away from that sound of the 70's. I started finding my own sound during "Old Lang Syne', and "Make Love Stay", those types of records. There really wasn't an Eagles or West Coast sound although we all started there.
TM: Have you found that over the years, people have not wanted Dan Fogelberg to change?
DF: Oh, absolutely. It is the most frustrating thing in the music business to change and grow creatively and to take creative risks. Sometimes it can be very successful like with Twins Sons of Different Mothers, and at other times, it can throw people way off the track, like High Country Snows. People either come up to me and say, 'That's the greatest record you ever made!" or they'll go, "Why in the hell did you do that?" The media also has a tendency to want to put you in one little area. What has been the hardest for me, and that has stuck to me for the last ten years, is to break out of the sensitive, acoustic singer/songwriter label. As a guitarist, producer and writer, obviously I've done a lot more than that in my career, but once you get stuck with that label, it is really hard to shake it off. It's like Jackson trying to be a rocker. Jackson Browne is an incredible rock and roll artist, but he's still kind of trapped within the confines of his sensitive singer/songwriter label. I haven't heard his new record yet, but I've heard he's gone back a little to what people want to hear from him. It's a hard line to walk to satisfy yourself both artistically and creatively and still maintain something that the audience is going to buy and listen to.