Tropic
September 25, 1994

by Jerry Lazar


Dan Fogelberg struck gold with his first album, Home Free, in 1972. In the decade that followed, he produced seven successive platinum albums, featuring such soft rock staples as "Longer", "Leader of the Band", and "Same Old Lang Syne". Though he has been edged off the pop charts in recent years, Fogelberg's romantic ballads still draw loyal fans to his concerts. His latest album, River Of Souls, displays a surprisingly eclectic array of African and South American influences.

Q: Do you ever feel imprisoned by your musical image?
A: I spent the 80s trying to crawl out of that pigeonhole of being the soft-rock balladeer. There's a lot more music in me than that, and I've tried to prove it. I'm putting a lot more blues and slide guitar into my shows.

Q: You've performed with everyone from Don Henley to Graham Nash. Why have you never collaborated as a songwriter?
A: I don't know how to do that! I've never even tried to collaborate with someone. What I do is so deeply and intensely personal; two people would water down the effect. Certain people work better alone. When I was doing a video with Jackson Browne, I said to him, "We ought to just sit down and see if we could write a song together." And Jackson looked at me in horror. Like: "What? Write a song with someone else!?" Bruce Cockburn's the same way. He's a brilliant songwriter, a great hero of mine, and I suggested that we try [collaborating], and he looked at me like he couldn't believe it.

Q: To quote your own lyric: "The audience is heavenly, but the traveling is hell." Still hate touring?
A: I don't hate it; it's how I make my living. I've learned to be good at it over the years. But it's hard to use your time creatively on the road. That's the biggest frustration. At home, I'm always working on something. Touring is physically and emotionally taxing, but I've come to accept it. When I was younger I hated it more. As Robbie Robertson said in "The Last Waltz", "It's a goddamned impossible way of life."

Q: How will you know when it's time to hang up the guitar?
A: I've still got another 10 to 15 years in this business. I'm not finished with what I have to say. I don't plan to tour past 50; I really doubt I'm going to want to live on a bus and in hotels, you know? If I'm thought of as a has-been from the 70's or a nostalgia act, I would stop. I'd be gone in a second. I'd much rather be painting and using my time creatively.

Q: What do you paint?
A: I've been a portraitist; I was given a gift of painting people's faces. I'm a realist and a good draftsman. It's frustrating to me, cause as I get older, I'm saying, "Well, I'm not gonna want to paint portraits; that's gonna be boring." I'm really looking for new subject matter, but I'm not sure where. My wife, Anastasia, paints all sorts of bizarre and wonderful things from Indian cultures: birds and landscapes. Eventually she's going to influence me to get out of being just a portraitist. She's gonna help me break free of that narrow vision.

Q: How did you meet Anastasia?
A: We met on a tour I was doing back in 1981, and we were both engaged to other people. Eventually we found our way back to each other. When you finally find your true life partner, it just gets stronger everyday. It's amazing. It frees you to really get to work for things larger than yourself. She's taught me so much about myself and about the world.

Q: Such as?

A: She returned my spirituality to me, which was dying in a bad marriage. She's a wonderfully deep, intelligent lady, and very funny. She returned my sense of humor to me. She returned my sense of God, and my love of the Southwest. She's just been an angel sent to me.

Q: Do you want kids?
A: No, we raise horses and lots of animals. We feel there are far too many children in the world as it is, and we don't feel any great urge to have them. We're happy as creative artists doing our work. We're better at being aunts and uncles. My brother's kids come to Colorado, and we take them skiing and camping and on horseback.

Q: Tell us about your ranch.
A: It's 25 miles from a little town you wouldn't even know. We're literally at the end of a 12 mile dirt road. I have a guest house, and a ranch house, and a riding stable for my horses. And 600 acres of some of the prettiest land you'll ever see. And I've got really good neighbors, for the most part. It's a good community.

Q: Plus you've got a summer home off the coast of Maine.
A: It's really nothing special. It's a little 1847 Cape Cod farmhouse on an island. It's pretty funky. It was almost falling down when I found it. No telephone. Wood heat. It's basically a cottage. We get to spend at least one month a year there. Running the ranch is a full time job, but in Maine I get in my boat and I'm gone. Nobody can reach me, nobody can find me; that's when I recharge my batteries. My circle becomes complete. There's one day a year when I'm on the boat by myself, and I somehow start laughing and crying simultaneously. It's so magnificent; time just kind of stops, and I try to hold onto it for as long as I can. That's when I know that my circle has ended. I look forward to whatever the next year's gonna bring, and start formatting plans. I feel strong enough to go back into the world and start fighting again.

Q: Like your song says, your father was the leader of the band. As a kid, did you get to watch him work?
A: Oh, always! He used to put me in front of a band when I was 5 or 6 years old, and let me wave my arms and act like I was conducting. This was an incredible feeling of power, to feel this music coming back in your face. It was great. I grew up with music around me all the time. We were always going to his concerts or the football games where he led the marching bands. It was pretty cool.

Q: Did either of your brothers inherit his musical gift?
A: No. My older brother has been learning to play "Moonlight Sonata" for about 40 years. He gets a little better every year, you know? It's not an easy piece.

Q: We thought Springsteen and Mellencamp were tough names to overcome. Did you ever think of changing yours?
A: When I first was signing with Columbia [Records], I was gonna cut my name in half, cause my middle name is Grayling. I thought Daniel Gray would be easy for people to remember. But something said no, if I'm not good enough to make it with my own name...Fogelberg is Swedish, and I'm proud of my roots. I thought it would be more of a challenge to make it with a name which is not typical show biz.

Q: "Same Old Lang Syne" is about a girlfriend you met in a supermarket. Have you been in touch since it was recorded?
A: No, I have not. Not a word. I heard she got a divorce after hearing that song! There's more to that story, which I'm not about to tell you...or anyone else! [Laughs] But there's not a sequel there.

Q: How have you changed in your forties?
A: The biggest difference is I've become more active in the world. I was pretty hermetical during my 20's. I've become much more of an extrovert. I'm happy in my marriage and my life, and therefore at some point when you grow up, it's time to give back. So a lot of my time is taken up with environmental and social issues, and my music is reflecting that more. I'll still write a love song or two; nothing wrong with that!

Q: Ever suffer writer's block?
A: Only one time in my life: before the Nether Lands album. And that was a big creative step for me when it did break. So I've learned to be very patient about song writing. You don't try to force it; it's not something you do every day. I usually have a big song writing burst after I've been on the road.

Q: Which aspect of your job do you enjoy more: composing or performing?
A: Probably composing. Because that's the purity. That's creating something that wasn't there before. It's a mystical process. It's that incredible moment when something comes to you from nowhere, and you go into a trance for days or weeks to bring this thing out. It's like giving birth almost. It's the most painful part of what I do; it's certainly not the most fun. But it still fascinates me.

Copyright 1995, Lazar Productions.