PR (Peter Rodman of KBCO, Colorado): Dan, you have a remarkable new album out, The Innocent Age. You've gotten tremendous fan response, but it's too soon for critical response. Do you ever anticipate that (critics reviews) with one attitude or another?
DAN: No, when it goes to number 5 in the 3rd week I couldn't really care what the critics say. PR: You're not really hurt then by things (the critics say)?
DAN: Naw, we've been doing it too long. Anytime you do a project of this scope and you take this much of a risk with a project, you know you're gonna get some bad shots. We already wrote half the reviews of this while we were making it 'cause we knew what people would say. I don't care. The personal success for me comes from making the album the way I want to and making it come out the way I want it to. After that it's like one of my children. I'm not responsible for it any longer. If someone criticizes my child it's gonna hurt me a little bit, but it's my child, you know, and I love it regardless.
PR: Every time I've spoken to you about a new record, I can see the involvement is so close to the center of the person, that you must feel open or a little naked when you put it out there.
DAN: Oh, absolutely. That's what I do. That's my job. That's my life, my means of expression, my psychotherapy. I put everything I can into a record. That's what art is for. I take a risk every time I do one with my whole being. I went through some real hard times with this record to get it out and get it down the way I wanted to. To commit to a double project this personal was pretty strange. It was a tough, tough project, but I'm very pleased with it.
PR: It kind of bucks the trend. With everyone leaning a little more on their harder edge, suddenly Dan Fogelberg reaches down in to find a softer edge.
DAN: Well, I don't really pay enough attention to what other people are doing. I mean, that record started germinating about five years ago practically, so in order to bring it to fruition you can't stop halfway through and say "Oh no, I've got to rock `n roll some more". That just doesn't concern me. I think if what I do is good enough that it keeps the level of quality up that I demand for myself from my records, then regardless of the time it comes out people should be able to accept it and get to it because it's a real good record. I knew there were some songs on it, in fact two that are getting the best response from people, which is again how I base my success, is "Same Old Lang Syne" and "Leader Of The Band". Those two songs, when I wrote them I thought they were just too sentimental to put on this record. I thought "How am I gonna get away with saying I love my Dad?", but those are the songs people are coming to me now and saying "Wow, thanks for writing that, you know. My dad just died last year, and I wish I'd been able to say that". It was cut for Phoenix but I just didn't use it because it just didn't fit the album. Phoenix was a tougher record, a little more commercially accessible record. I knew "Same Old Lang Syne" was an important song, so I saved it. I wrote it as somewhat of a joke, you know, the first four verses of that were just funny. It really happened, obviously, but I wrote it as a joke one afternoon.
PR: Did it really happen?
DAN: Oh, absolutely. You don't make stuff like that up. Give me a break! (both of them now laughing).
PR: You had some material, like "Run For The Roses", that was used just prior to the issue of this album, for specific purposes like the Kentucky Derby. How did that song come about, because it says a lot too about growing up?
DAN: Well, it wasn't supposed to. That was just a lucky coincidence. ABC Sports called me and wanted me to do the show and I was terribly impressed because I had never done TV. I think it's a foolish medium for most music, most rock 'n roll music. Nobody ever comes off well on TV I think, and there are so few places where you can do it special. And as a sports nut and a horse nut, they offered me to play at the Kentucky Derby and I said "great, man". Plus the fact I get to go to the Derby for free and sit in the press box and be treated like kings. So I said if you're gonna go to the Derby this is the way to do it. Plus the fact I said if I ever did television I would insist on doing it live. I'm not the kind of person who is gonna go out on stage and lip sync to one of my songs. I think that's foolish and fake and superficial. And so it just worked out great. It was fun and a great party. A good chance to put a super band together and play music.
PR:I'm sure all your fans would like to know where that center or feeling for a colt or a young filly comes from.
DAN: It just comes from loving, I guess. I love horses. Here was the perfect chance to write a song for horses. That's not something you think about day to day when you're working on an album. But I thought it would be special if I went down there to do the show and wrote an original piece of music for it. And the song came within about (pause) it took me about two days to write it, max. It came real fast, and the next week I was in LA and I recorded it and it was done. Like about one week start to finish. It was amazing. It was the quickest thing I've ever done. And as far as where the feeling comes from, gawd, I don't know, it's just me, it's just down there. When you go down to the well every time, you don't know what's gonna come out.
PR:Does there come an apprehension after a time, when you say I don't know how much deeper I can dig into this well, into this mind, and come up with these things?
DAN: I don't think it's a matter of how much I can, but how much I'm willing to in this day and age because I'm not 20 years old anymore. I'm not gonna go out on quite the limb I did then. I can't do an album like this every time, see. You've got a Nether Lands, and then you've got these other projects which are lighter and easier on me, and then I'll do an The Innocent Age when I'm ready for it, but I've got to get myself mentally ready for it first, because it's real tough to go down there in that well. You've got to dig it deeper and it gets harder and harder because you keep insisting on better work as an artist. You know, you want your work to get better, so you go deeper and deeper. The deeper you go, the more chance you have of not coming out of it. Like I say, this one caused me all sorts of trouble, psychologically. For a while I just had to leave the project. Well, after I had my tonsils out in the first place, which is real tough for being 30 years old and a singer, it took a long time for me to recover physically and I was trying to keep working through the project when I probably should have stopped. Then things got worse, and because I couldn't get physically healthy my mental health started deteriorating all over the place, and the stress of working like that and being away from home for real long periods of time just finally got to me and I had to leave the project. It was either go on and work with a psychiatrist beside me or go home for a while.
PR: Is part of that because you tax your psyche in your songs?
DAN: Yeah, but for me the writing is not something that causes any trouble. The writing for me is a release, it's a real healthy process. The recording of it is a whole other story. You know, you put incredible stress on your body doing that. It's very, very bad for you. It's very boring and takes so long the way I do my records. And I'm totally in control of every facet so I never leave the project. You know, it's 24 hours a day, every minute of the day in one way or another and eventually that's gonna wear you out, wear you down. And it did on this one. It was a very uncomfortable time for a while.
PR: You must have been like a proud father when it was born, which is kind of ironic considering the title The Innocent Age?
DAN: Was I a proud father? I don't know. I'm a proud father when I write it. When I'm a writer that's the ultimate expression, the ultimate comment for me. Recording it is me as the professional musician-producer-arranger, that's a whole other person. I mean, I'm trying to get it on record to convey the sensitivity that I wrote and obviously it comes down to one person writing it and one person hearing it. And through all that it takes to get it on record and get it out, I mean, it's difficult, and you're successful if you can get one person to pick it up and put it on the turntable and go "Wow, thanks for writing that" or really feel it the way I intended it, now that's a tough process. You know, especially when you do it all yourself.
PR: Is it a risk for you to put two or three slow songs in a row on an album's side when the usual thing (in the record business) is to vary the tracks between slow and fast?
DAN: No, I think the people who like my music understand what I'm trying to do and they're going to accept it. They're not the jaded type listener who thinks something has to fall into a formula or has to be this way, they're not associated with the music business. Now you can ask that question only because you're well associated with the music business. Your home listener, I don't believe thinks that way. I really don't. At least the people who listen to my records. They expect the ballads from me, and accept them and probably prefer the ballads from me, the real hard core people who like my music. The rock 'n roll is on there because it's another mode of expression for me and because I love to rock 'n roll. But to me, my finest suit, of all the things I do, is as a songwriter. And therefore, the way I choose to express myself is the way they should approach it and accept it, you know. I don't think I have to have a rocker here because there's a ballad. I just don't think that way. I think this song has to be here because it's the logical extension of what I said before it. Especially on this project (The Innocent Age) because if you listen to it from start to finish it has a natural story line. You know, it sets up with "Nexus" which is absolutely trying to define the very moment, as close as you can come with words, trying to define the actual moment of existence. And then, the first thing after that is "The Innocent Age" (title song) looking back, now let's look back, the whole first side says "let's look back". And then the whole second and third sides do look back. And they go back to my dad and "Old Lang Syne" and to "Only The Heart" and all that stuff. And then the fourth side says "enough, let's come back to the present" with "Empty Cages" and "Ghosts" and "Times Like These". So it's actually a whole, it's meant to flow that way. It's hard for me to think of somebody listening to one side of this by itself. I think all the sides stand up by themselves musically, but in order to get the whole picture of this thing you have to listen to side one to side four.
PR: Suppose we look back with Dan Fogelberg to the beginning. Billy Joel has just put out a record called Songs From the Attic, which is a live reissue of songs before his big break with The Stranger. Well for you the break came with Souvenirs, "Part Of The Plan", but there are great songs before that. Is there one that you'd just love for people to hear that maybe they haven't?
DAN: Yeah. "Be On Your Way". It's one of the favorite songs I've ever written. What a terribly sad song, but what a beautiful melody. I love that song. My mom likes that song a lot. And a lot of people do. And it just kind of got buried on Home Free because at that point in time, you know when you're a new artist they're looking for something up-tempo to catch people's ears. And I produced "Be On Your Way" very uncommercially and I wanted to make it very remorse and melancholy. And I thought about recutting that this year. That's a possibility.
PR: There hasn't yet been a "best of" Dan Fogelberg.
DAN: CBS wants one of those next year. That's what I'm saying, I may recut "Be On Your Way" and something else for that.
PR: The funny thing about there not being a "best of" is ... (he pauses and Dan starts talking.)
DAN: Well, greatest hits, 'cause if it did a "best of", (pause) Actually this year I was gonna do a triple record "best of" where I picked the "best of", not CBS or the radio or anything. Where I took the best tracks I felt, after ten years I still like best, right, and I would give each album one side, you know, but that just didn't happen. This thing came along and kind of took over..
PR: As I started to say, it's as though this is the "best of" because each album you put out seems to push you a little more. Has it ever vexed you that those of us who have tuned in to Dan Fogelberg are more impressed with each project?
DAN: I would hope so.
PR: But, then there are those who haven't tuned in, and maybe never will, for one reason or another. Do you ever want to reach out and get them too?
DAN: No, no I've succeeded beyond what I ever thought I could (Dan's voice gets very quiet.) No, the people who come to me are the people who are meant to come to me. And, ah, people have different tastes. This isn't supposed to be the most commercially accessible product in the world. None of my projects have ever been. I think I do what I believe in, I think I do good work, and the people who appreciate it, fine, and those who don't, fine, that's good. There's a place in the world for Devo. You know, there's a place for everybody in this business. That's the thing. I may not like a lot of that stuff but that doesn't mean it isn't as valid as what I'm doing. There's a place for it. If people are willing to buy it and listen to it and they like it and enjoy it, then it's viable. If they like mine, fine, if they like something else, great.
PR: It seems as though the lyrics have told a story that even would include albums before The Innocent Age.
DAN: Oh there are so many back references on this thing, it's ridiculous, and intentionally. That's what the whole project is about. That's originally why I consented to do interviews this time around, which I don't normally do, because I wanted to explain the intent of this record. I wanted to make it clear what I intended. I don't want people coming up and saying "Fogelberg ripped off so-and-so or so-and-so on this record. He didn't do anything original." That was the whole point. I wanted to pay tribute to my musical influences. It's obvious on a few tracks. Obviously the Buffalo Springfield track, "The Innocent Age" (title song). " The Sand And The Foam" is directly for Lightfoot (Gordon Lightfoot). I even put a few of his little warbles in my voice on that one just for fun. There's a lot of those. There's the Beatles, the Hollies, there's all sorts of little (pause). We went back and actually used the guitars they used. There's some Hoffner basses on this and Rickenbachers, you know, and all that stuff. We had a real good time trying to go back and capture those old sounds in order to pay tribute to those artists.
PR:" The Innocent Age", that's the one dedicated specifically to Buffalo Springfield (a west coast band in the 1960s whose members included Richie Furay and Stephen Stills). It seems that right from the time of "Someone's Been Telling You Stories" that you had that sound nailed whenever you wanted to.
DAN: That's my main influence, really. It's my favorite band. I LOVE (big emphasis) the Springfield.
PR: Did it put you in an awkward position when Richie Furay sang on that song for you, and you know Stills now, and you've finally gotten to meet, and here's the odd part, even surpass a lot of your heroes from the beginning.
DAN: It's weird.
PR: Do you still have any heroes left that you're shootin' for?
DAN: Yeah, oh absolutely. You gotta have heroes. Sure, but my heroes are different now. I'm more mature, you know. I know those people and they're still heroes, but they're friends too, and you can't idolize friends. You can love friends, but you can't idolize friends. My heroes now are probably not even associated with the music business. Well, Aaron Copeland (a classical music composer) is the only musician I really look up to.
PR: Who are your other heroes?
DAN: I respect Bob Redford (actor Robert Redford) a whole lot as a man. I have some of his films on tape. I've seen a few of his things. I don't go out of my way to watch his films, but I respect him as a man, for what he's done, for the way he lives. I've met him a few times and was very impressed. That's a tough one cause I'd really have to start thinking, you know. Well, my heroes are from the 19th century. That's where they are (Dan's voice rising with enthusiasm). The impressionist painters, and Grieg (classical composer Edvard Grieg), Chopin (a classical pianist) and those people. Those are my heroes.
PR: Joni Mitchell appears on "Nexus". Tell me, that must have been a real kick for you to work together. What was that session like?
DAN: She's wonderful. But, oh gawd, I don't know if I can get into that (Dan laughs). Well, Joan came in and she was a little rough from the night before, as we all were, you know, took a while to wake up, as things do, but somewhere around when the sun went down everybody kind of came back to life and she really did what I wanted her to do. It's amazing. It's tough for me to go to her and say "I don't want you to do this; I want you to do THIS".'Cause I have such respect for her. And she really took the thing to a more jazzy place than I wanted it to go. I was looking to pay tribute to her from her folkie days, her Blue days, that's when she really affected me deeply. "For The Roses" is one of my favorite records of all time. Good Lord. So for me to say "No, don't do that, do it this way", ah, she responded real well. She kind of did it half and half. She did it half for me and then we let her blow a little bit over the African parts, which we ended up not using. I didn't use them because they just didn't fit as well as I wanted them to.
PR: But still it adds such a nice touch.
DAN:Oh, she's the only one who could do it, see. That's the whole thing about this record. I wrote parts for people. I wrote "Only The Heart May Know" for EmmyLou Harris and there was nobody else that was going to sing that. If she didn't do it, then I was going to do it myself. But nobody else could have done that one. Same with the part for Joni, that little descant vocal in "Nexus". She's the only one who could have done that. I tried it myself one night and it sounded awful. But when Joan did it, it made sense.
PR: Your life now, it has to have changed, I think you'll grant me that. You could never have expected that things would turn as they have, and you've written a lot about that. What kind of constant is there in the chaos?
DAN: Ah, wonderful. Maggie is my constant. My fiancee. We've been living together for five years. I guess we're legally married in this state and most of the other ones, which is fine. We are married really, we just haven't put the rings on yet. Then the dogs, and home, home is my constant. Privacy is my constant. I go to great lengths to preserve my anonymity in this business. I'm really not interested in being in Random Notes in Rolling Stone or on the Merv Griffin Show. That has nothing to do with me. My life is as an artist, not an entertainer. I don't consider myself an entertainer, but I can do that thing when I want to. I've learned over the years how to be that when I have to. But I don't enjoy much of that. I keep myself very close to home, and I have to, to write this kind of stuff. I need long periods of very quiet. I need privacy. I need home. I need friends. I have a constant now. I'm not worried about losing it anymore, thank God. There was a time ten years ago when I didn't have a constant, and I was running through singles bars in Nashville. There's enough pain as a creative artist that you don't need to add any to it, you know.
PR: Like many phrases that are in this album, it's almost like a puzzle to pick apart. And I guess you like that because I see a little smile on your face. Talking about a constant, was this album constantly chaotic?
DAN:Oh, no. I have a very sedate life. How often do you see me at a bar in Boulder, Peter? You tell me. I like Boulder. We just don't live that way. When I'm home, I love home and the time I get at home, I'm there. Maggie even said that I should leave a little more. She'll go out and do her horses and I'll stay up there for days on end, I won't even go down the driveway to look for the mail, you know.
PR: Is writing songs ... (pause) that's what you really are, a songwriter?
DAN: I think in essence, yes.
PR: Is writing songs a completely solitary thing, a lonely profession?
DAN:Yeah, absolutely. It's a lonely profession. But it's the best. It's the best place I know. There's nothing higher than that. That's why I always do it, but no one else can be there, or even close.
PR: No one?
DAN: No one.
PR:And then when you figure "Hey, this one's finished", what happens? Do you take the guitar out for someone to hear (the new song)?
DAN:Naw, I usually have a few beers, a splash of whisky and go to bed (Dan's laughing).
PR: What about the first time you play it for anyone else?
DAN: That differs. I think it's special. I always try to give my songs as gifts. A lot of `em go to Maggie. She hears more than anyone certainly first. But I'll save some for Danny Murakami, who is one of my roadies, or Charlie Fernandez, my road manager, or Irving (Azoff, his manager). I think people think it's special when they are the first one to hear a song. Sometimes actually it's special to give it to an audience the first time. Like "Run for the Roses" and "Old Lang Syne" I played before I recorded. Some of the nights I did those were benefits for Senator Gary Hart. Then you can say that to an audience, "You're the first people ever to hear this", and you're taking a big risk there, they may hate it, but I think that makes people feel a little special.
PR: If you're a little different than the songs, is that where "Tell Me To My Face" comes from? When someone has seen you and read things into you before they met you, and that comes back around to you through other people? Like saying "tell me to my face that I'm not what you thought I'd be?"
DAN: I've never thought of that. You've read that into that. I've never considered it. I picked it because it was a good song by the Hollies and a good vehicle for me and Tim (Weisberg). I've never considered it close to me at all, that song. I don't even know what it says. I sing the lyrics, but I don't know what they say, really (Dan laughs).
PR: Okay, then take "Someone's Been Telling You Stories"?
DAN: "Stories?", yeah. I've never blatant come out and said to someone "I'm not the person you think I am", but it is true. You can't project what a person is from music. When people start doing that with me, and they have a tendency to do that a lot, I really don't like that. I won't accept that responsibility of being that person they want me to be. I'm not that. Who I am is who I am, and I'm comfortable with. I'm probably a lot more callous and hard sounding to people when they meet me, but that's also because I'm a music business person. You know, I know how to do this business very well at this stage. I've always taken responsibility for myself to do it, and over the years you learn. And it's gonna change you. I'm not the quiet sensitive little guy I was ten years ago. There's no way... I can't be. There's just too much after me.
PR: Can you understand though ... (pause).
DAN: Oh, absolutely, and I can empathize with it, but I can't sympathize with it, okay? (Dan laughs) Ultimately people who do meet me face-to-face are probably disappointed. No disappointed, that's not the right word, disillusioned, I think. They want to come with me and be my friend, right? But they have never met me before in my life. All they know is my music. That's fine. They get so much of me in that music. I don't feel I owe them anything else. I really don't. That's my privacy.
PR: Karla Bonoff said a similar thing, like "the nature of my songs is so personal, that when people walk up, they feel they know me already".
DAN: That's not true. That's just not true. You know, I know Karla too and I think you'd be disillusioned too if you met her, having those preconceptions about her. She's the same way. You can't do this business and be Mr. Nice Guy all the time. You can't be out there and say "Please come in, and let's form a circle and all talk after the show". You know, I've done a three-hour show and I'm exhausted. I want to get to bed, or we gotta get to the next city. It's hard to give 100 percent all the time to people. You just can't do it. And for the road, I hate the road so much anyway that I almost go into a cocoon with my own people out there.
PR: Who do you meet from the millions of people who buy these records?
DAN: People who do it are wonderful people. I wish I had more time to sit down and be a little bit more normal human being with them. But they're getting me in a bad situation. The people I meet are all wonderful. They're nice folks. They're mature, they're not crazy, they respect what we do, they're sensitive and they just want to get a little closer and that's something I don't want to happen too much, you know? I wish I could. I wish I was a little more gregarious and more outgoing in that way.
PR: When you have to have a hard shell at times, there are songs on your albums that reflect "hey, I'm not such a weeping willow. I've got a spine here." Is there a song of that nature you'd like to get out there and that shows that?
DAN: You brought up "Stories". I don't know, it's hard for me to think of my own music because I hardly ever listen to it anymore, I mean, when I finish The Innocent Age I may listen to it for the mastering, right, to see how good or bad it sounds, but I don't really listen to my own music much. Gosh. "Stories" is pretty tough in its stance. Phoenix says "no more of this" (Dan's voice rising in power), you know, "I'm not that anymore. I can stand up and take it on the chin, too." Life isn't all that sad. I'm a happy person.
PR: You sound sad on a lot of the songs.
DAN: That's where I put that. See? If you knew me real well, nobody thinks of me as morose or sad. I'm not that type of person. I love to laugh, it's my main thing. I love to abuse the English language (the PR laughs). I love being with friends, having a good time. It's what I do most of the time, but the outlet for my sorrow, that I do feel deeply, and the pain, is the songs. That's where it goes. Maybe I do that too much, I dunno, sometimes I think I do. I know Henley (Don Henley of the Eagles) has a real hang-up now of getting a sense of humor across in a record. And I think of that too sometimes. I think there are some very funny things in my records but no one gets them. You know, there's some wonderful puns and stuff on the records, but they're so in- bred that no one would get `em.
PR: It's obvious that you don't take what you say lightly. And there have been a lot lesser lyric philosophers in the pop world, in fact, an annoying amount. There's a lot of dime store philosophy coming out, so it strikes me as particularly risky to try to really say something large. But when you're coming up with stuff like "The future's never coming and the past has never been", it (pause) ...
DAN:Yeah, I like that line. That's a chilling one, boy.
PR: Where does that come from? Come on, people want to know!
DAN: I dunno. Somewhere (pause), I can't explain it. I was blessed with a gift. It's a gift and a curse, you know? It never ends, it never stops. You're always digging and digging. Someplace down there, and I feel it right down in my stomach when I really get there, I'm in touch with something. I don't know what it is. I believe in God, but not in any rational or theological scope. I can't do that. I can't find that. That's just too easy. But there is something in there that is overriding all of this. There's an energy that, like everything else, comes into being, becomes and decays. And that's almost like the way I approach songwriting, you know? It's that moment of ultimate creation. You know it's not really me. I'm a voice, but I'm also in control of the voice, so it's (pause), I dunno, I've thought about that a lot and I still don't know (Dan laughs).
PR: When you say something that has meaning, perhaps that's why we miss the humor sometimes. You could look at that line about "The future's never coming and the past has never been", and see it as (pause) ...
DAN: You could look at it very fatalistically, sure. But it's not meant to be that way. All it's saying is "now is the only thing that exists". It's tough to accept and it's hard to live like that. But there are a lot of things you could take many ways on the records. "Nether Lands", the song, especially. That one I'm still kind of wrestling with what I meant. There's things in that I don't even understand. And those sometimes are the best things you write. You may write `em and ten years later it may become clear what you said. You know a lot of people really missed the intent of the last verse of "Nether Lands" where it talks about the forked road and existence and denial. It says that one road is, I don't remember how I said it, is simple acceptance of life, the other road offers sweet peace. Well a lot of people misinterpreted that as acceptance of life, now how did that go? I've had a lot of people (pause). Acceptance of life was just taking it as it comes, right?, and sweet peace means to go into a higher spiritual level in living. That isn't at all what I meant. Ultimately there's only two choices in life: life and death. You wake up everyday and think "are you gonna go again today or slit your wrists today? Is this the one or not the one?" Ultimately that's the only choice you have. Every other choice you make in your life stems from that basic choice, whether you accept or deny life. That I don't even think I understood when I wrote it `cause that was a very visionary thing.
PR:Aren't artists notoriously, through history, (pause)...
DAN: They're all wacko! (Dan laughs)
PR: They experience the kinds of elation and depression you just don't see (pause)...
DAN: Yeah that's what Nether Lands was about too, black and white. I mean the cover is all yin-yang with that photograph, I mean that's the whole concept of that record. There's an old Buddhist thing that said when you're just about to the edge of enlightenment you see things in exact opposites. That's what the yin-yang philosophy is. And that's what that whole record is about. When I was coming through this horrible writer's drought in `75, it's the only one I've ever had, and things got pretty tense up there on the mountain, folks, (Dan and the PR laugh), but the night it all broke was "Loose Ends". Then all of a sudden there was all these opposites forming. That's the whole way to look at it. Promises made, promises broken, right? Immediately opposites. The whole thing. I love that record. I really do. I think it's conceptually and philosophically the best thing I've ever done, without a doubt. Lyrically I think The Innocent Age is better, 'cause it's crafted better, but as far as really saying something way down in there, Nether Lands is the one that says it.
PR:Back with Dan Fogelberg. That's "Nether Lands". Yin-yang might very well fit.
DAN: Somebody just pointed out recently to me that the cover was like that. I hadn't thought about it. It must have been unconscious, but it's true. You've got one half the face totally dark, one half the face totally light. Then the back cover, again, is dawn and dark. So there's a lot of that in there.
PR: I still get the feeling, listening to your records alone, and I guess anybody who does radio knows this, that when you're speaking into this microphone or in a recording studio or writing a song, that you're not really speaking to a plurality but to one imaginary person.
DAN: Yeah. Always. As a communicator. Eric Anderson said this to me once, and Eric has a wonderful mind. And this is back in about '72 or something when I was working on his album down in Nashville doing sessions and stuff. And Eric one night, we were pretty loaded, he said something to me that I've NEVER (big emphasis) forgotten. He said, "man, ultimately you write the song and one other person is going to hear it and that's all". And, I've said this before in interviews, if you can get it from the way you wrote it to one person hearing it and feeling it, then you've succeeded. That's the ultimate success for an artist. It is. With painting, with anything.
PR:Twin Sons of Different Mothers. What prompted that project with Tim Weisberg?
DAN:That was just a real comfortable project because I met Tim while working on Nether Lands. He worked on Be On (pause), or what was that song?, ah, that bossa nova song, I can't remember what it was. But he came in and did the flutes on that and we hit it off real well. He had my records, I had his, and we had mutual respect for one another as artists, and probably the biggest respect for melody. So we wanted to do an instrumental record that was really melodic because most of the stuff that is jazz-oriented or anything along those lines are two sides of improvisation, and we put enough of that on there, because we both like to do that, but also I was at the point that I wanted to establish myself, it says very clearly on the record, as a composer and instrumentalist because actually before I did these records I was playing sessions in Nashville and was really a guitarist before I was known as a singer-songwriter. So I wanted to do that and get out of being known as just the sensitive singer-songwriter and have people accept me as a good guitarist and instrumentalist, and it was the perfect place to do it, with Tim.
PR: One thing that strikes me about these records is that you're always walking around in the hospital lobby with the cigars before these things come out, like you're nervous about this stuff. You're never sure it's gonna be a success.
DAN: No, never. I'm always dubious about the outcome of these projects. Twin Sons especially. I mean, even people in the business were saying "Oh yeah, you're gonna do that?" (Dan laughs) "Okay, fine, sure." And I myself thought that, well believe it or not consciously after Nether Lands I thought I had gotten a little too successful, I'd reached a little too much. I didn't want to quite be that visible, right? So I wanted to do a project that kinda threw the spotlight away from me for a little while. And ironically it turned out to be the biggest record of my career to that point, you know? It caught us all off guard.
PR: The song I thought no one would ever resurrect, but I'm glad they did, was "Since You've Asked".
DAN: Spare me. What a song! I love that song.
PR: She's a great writer.
DAN: She doesn't write often, but boy when she writes, she writes beautiful. You know that "Private Gardens of the Heart" song of hers? And "My Father". Oh.
PR: When you really like someone, be it Dan Fogelberg or Judy Collins, we think "you can't redo that", so you must have had a little ambivalence about even trying it.
DAN: Yeah but I knew it felt like a song that was close to me. I wouldn't do that with many songs. I loved the song always and I used to sing it in college. I dunno. I talked to Judy about it and I changed lyrics in it too because I took it away from the kind of dated idea of hour of flowers, kind of sixtyish, and I also wanted to make it more male, so I changed the whole second verse. And she was real nice about it. She said she liked the changes, and sure go ahead. I haven't talked to her since the record came out. I don't know how she liked it.
PR: You spoke about back in college, so maybe now is a good time to find out when it began to happen for you that you knew your life was gonna take this turn.
DAN: Well, it happened on, I think it was March 14, 1970 (they both laugh), was the night. No, actually I was doing a lot of things even since high school. I was playing in bands before high school even. My first band I was in at 14. And we were playing just Beatles. It was great, you know? Four little children out there playin' Beatles songs at the Matamora VFW hall and stuff, it was great. And then the second band I got in was much heavier than that. We started doing Springfield and West Coast stuff. I know I'm talking to the couch or something over here, there must be some reason for that, but we're not gonna get into it. Once I got through the bands, somewhere around my junior year in high school, I was actually painting. I was more serious about being a painter, about being a visual artist, than I was about being a musician. And I went to college as a theater major actually 'cause I'd done a lot of theater in high school and loved it dearly. But after about three weeks of that I said "No, I should be painting", so I changed to the school of fine arts as a painter. And for those two years in college I was constantly singing and writing and playing in coffee houses and stuff. There was a wonderful, wonderful scene in Champaign, Illinois then which is just starting to have people become aware of what was going on down there. With REO happening so big this year, and Mike MacDonald who was down there has happened huge, and my thing's happened, and this band Champaign just had a hit record. Those are all bands from Champaign in the old days. Those are all Irving's (Azoff) acts. It's amazing to finally see all that stuff surface ten years later.
PR: But back in 1969-70 it was not uncommon to see singer-songwriters emulating the Sweet Baby James. The whole thing that was happening then encouraged lots of us to pick up our first guitar.
DAN: Yes. But I kind of got away from what I was talking about. My junior year in high school, my real introverted self started coming out and really started taking over. I gave up my electric guitars and sat on this bluff by the Illinois River playing Gordon Lightfoot songs for two years. So I was really an old folkie, believe it or not, before the Sweet Baby Jameses and that stuff came out, Crosby Stills and Nash. But when I got there I decided after two years that I was becoming so successful musically at the university and in the state that I had to make a decision at some point. I couldn't just do all these things and keep doing `em. I had to concentrate on one and take it as far as I could, and music was, at that point, uppermost in my consciousness and it also seemed like the best way to make a living. Coming out of college with a degree in fine arts and painting, hmmm, isn't worth much anymore.
PR: To go back to the guy on the banks of the river (pause) ...
DAN: Oh yeah, that little kid. (Dan laughs)
PR: Did that guy ever imagine that people would be going to music stores, buying sheet music of your lyrics, going home and practicing the chords. I mean, this is a big thing. Is there a strangeness to having sheet music out there on Dan Fogelberg?
DAN: No, that's very satisfying for me because, see, the way I grew up was my dad was a musician, so I learned from sheet music. And to me, before records were the big thing, sheet music was the big thing, right? So for me, to have sheet music out is legitimate. It still feels legitimate (Dan laughs). The records don't.
PR: Why don't the records?
DAN: I don't know. It's just the transitoriness of this business, I guess. I just don't think people take it seriously enough. It's just my thing. They definitely are better statements than the real thing, but again, my upbringing made me think that real legitimate music is written, not heard.
PR: If records aren't really it, then what kind of legacy so you want to leave? I mean a record does warp after a while, even this one maybe.
DAN: It's pretty warped already (Dan laughs). I'd like to leave some pieces of instrumental music that people will play a hundred years from now. And I haven't started doing that yet. And "Longer".
PR: "Longer" is still the fave, isn't it?
DAN: Yeah. It's not my best song either, it's just a classic love song, and every songwriter always dreams of writing a classic love song that will be up there with the Cole Porter songs and "Yesterday" and that stuff, you know? That's the stuff that's gonna last. People are gonna sing them at weddings and really mean it, for a long time, and that's wonderful.
PR: Okay, so you're looking forward to this tour, nursing The Innocent Age up the charts, with a lot of strong material on it. Now you've said yourself that with Nether Lands and this one there's that rare moment when an artist digs down and comes up with something, that's the important thing. What now? Will the next one be lightweight Dan Fogelberg?
DAN: Probably. I'm looking at a lot of options for the next album. I've been writing a lot of country music again. Like what was on Souvenirs but even more country than that. I've written a song for EmmyLou Harris that I'd love her to sing. I've written some bluegrass material again which I haven't written in years! I'm having a good time doing that. I'm listening to like EmmyLou's records and Don Williams records. I love Don Williams records. And old Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe. So that may come out, I dunno. The other option I'm lookin' at is to take this band in the studio and make a kick-ass rock `n roll album, which I haven't done before. And really take that side of me this time around, you know?
PR: Would you do an album of covers?
DAN: Yeah, I've thought about that too. I'd love to do that too sometime but I just don't think people are gonna sit still for that. They expect me to write. They expect to get something expressionful, meaningful, from each one of my records. I'd love to go back and do some of the old Gordon Lightfoot songs and the songs that I love, and rework some of those. I don't I know if that will ever happen. I've got another massive undertaking already underway.
PR: Meaning The Innocent Age?
DAN: Weirder than that! Naw, The Innocent Age isn't weird.
PR: You've got another one right now underway?
DAN: I've always got about four albums in my head. I mean actually The Innocent Age wasn't suppose to happen for another two albums. I was gonna do two other things before it, but it just took over my consciousness. I couldn't not do it.
PR: Does it get to where you can't sleep or something?
DAN: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. (Dan laughs) Oh yeah.
PR: What's that period like where the album is finished but it's nowhere near out yet?
DAN: That's a weird period. That's limbo, boy. You've got it all done and it's in the can and you can't touch it again, and you're so insecure 'cause you listen to it at home and say "Oh god, did I do that right? I could have done that better. I'll call Marty and we'll go back in the studio and we'll remix it one more time." And you can't. At some point you just have to stop and put it out. Yeah, that's weird. It's such a relief the first day it's released `cause then I can't touch it (Dan laughs). It's like when your kid's on stage. You can't do anything for him. They're on their own!
PR: I thank you for talking to us, Dan Fogelberg. I wish you luck with the tour and you obviously won't need it. You've got it all in the bag. I hope we hear a lot more soon, but this one is going to take a while to absorb.
DAN: It's gonna take me a while to rest too.
PR: Well, good luck Dan. And thanks.