Following His Creative Vision

The Performing Songwriter
Jan/Feb 1995

Lydia Hutchinson


"Artists that believe in their vision and are willing to change and take chances -- well, they have what is called a career." Few artists have been able to achieve the career, however, that Dan Fogelberg has, spanning 23 years, 14 albums (seven that went platinum and two of which were certified gold), and countless hits such as "Leader Of The Band", "Same Old Lang Syne", "Longer" and "Part Of The Plan." Even fewer artists have had the determination to follow their creative vision, change musical courses at the height of commercial success, and maintain a loyal following of fans who still buy their albums, flock to their concerts, and sing along to their songs written over two decades ago.

Fogelberg was born into a musical household in Peoria, Illinois forty-three years ago. His first band formed when he was thirteen, with their first gig being their eighth grade commencement. "We were imitating The Beatles as much as we could," he laughs. "We were writing very Beatlesque little tunes that were about as interesting as the first things they wrote."

A few years later Dan quit the bands and started concentrating on becoming a solo performer and writer. "I think as I grew older and my soul began to open and my intellect began to improve, I realized that I was a little different than most of the kids at my high school," he says. "I became very introverted. And as that happened to me, I naturally started seeking out that music that I could relate to. I found people like Gordon Lightfoot, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Paul Simon, and later Joni Mitchell."

He moved to L.A. at age 18 with his manager, Irving Azoff, and spent a year and a half there until he got a recording contract with Columbia. "Irving and I met at the University of Illinois where we were both students," he remembers. "We moved to California together and he started knocking on doors for his career and knocking on doors for mine, essentially. He got in with Geffen/Roberts who were managing Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell and those people, and got me a deal with Columbia."

Fogelberg's first album was originally to be produced by Jim Messina in California. During pre-production, though, the Loggins and Messina album, Sittin' In, became a hit, so Messina suggested Norbert Putnam of Area Code 615 fame. To work with Putnam, Fogelberg moved to Nashville and in 1972 released Home Free. "When I hit Nashville, Norbert really took me under his wing," he says. "I lived out in the country and made my living as a session player -- he gave me a lot of work when I was struggling -- as well as doing my first record. I was there about three years and wasn't really looking to move from Nashville, it was like a home of mine. But I happened to go through Colorado one time," he laughs.

In 1974, his second album, Souvenirs, was produced by Joe Walsh and presented Dan with his first in a string of hits, "Part Of The Plan." Thus began the prolific and inspiring career of an artist whose writing style has had a direct effect on many of today's artists (including Garth Brooks who cited Fogelberg as one of his main influences), and whose beautifully romantic songs of the 70s are still crooned by hopeful young men trying to woo the ladies.

These days, Fogelberg spends most of his time writing in his studio in his Colorado ranch, while taking time off three or four times a year to go to his rustic hideaway in Maine where he writes only on acoustic guitar. He has just recently signed with Giant Records, Irving Azoff's label, ending his years with Epic, and is getting ready to go back into the studio with Tim Weisberg to work on a new album.

What was it about the early 70s that made the time so fertile for performing songwriters?
I don't know. I've thought of that and don't have any answers for it. It just happened to be a good class, you know. It just happened that people were interested in it. It may have been a product of the times. The chaos of the changes that were going on, and so many people had so much to say. And people were breaking out and there was a real close-knit community of young people across the country. And I think everybody was kind of encouraged to seek the creative self in them. Everybody was doing it in one way or another, whether it was with pottery or art or politics or whatever. Everybody was involved and was trying to contribute. But that's a tough question and I don't know that anybody can answer that.

Is the singer-songwriter movement today anything like what it was then?
No, I don't think so. I haven't really heard the quality of writing. I know there's a lot of writers out there that are good. But it sounds to me like it's more of a re-hash of the earlier 60s folk music. When we were coming along it was more tied up into rock. James Taylor could write an achingly pretty ballad, and then he could do "Suite for 20G", you know. I think it was still The Beatles, because they gave us the freedom to be rock artists as well as acoustic-melodic artists. They juxtaposed "Michelle" with something like "Drive My Car". So we really grew up thinking that we could do both. An I think that's very different from The Kingston Trio and Dylan -- obviously Dylan broke out and went electric with the band. There is a lot of good music being written, but to me, it sounds more like folk music than folk rock or pop.

How did you keep such control over your career from the beginning?
I owe a lot of my career and the freedom I've had in my career to Irving Azoff. He believed in what I was and said, "You do the music, I'll take care of the business." And luckily he was somebody I could trust. Irving worked it out with the record company by saying, "Look, if you want his best work, leave him alone. I know this kid, and if you try to pressure him, it's not going to work. He'll just run away to the mountains and you'll never hear from him again," (laughs). But he also structured it in such a way that we had a production company called Full Moon Productions, which he set up, so I wasn't signed directly to Epic. I was signed to Full Moon and Epic was signed as a distributor, which meant that they really didn't have any say in what I did -- which allowed me the freedom to do whatever I pleased. And then they got the product to sell. Which in the earlier and mid years of my career was fine. In recent years, when radio changed so drastically, I don't have the Top-40 support I used to. They were starting to get a little more, you know, "do this, do that." And I just said, "well, if I didn't do it then , why in the hell would I do it now."

It doesn't sound like it's something that could be pulled off today for singer-songwriters.
Yeah. The difference now is that the record companies have so much power and there's so much money involved that they are actually dictating the rules. Whereas twenty years ago they were desperate for product, they weren't flooded. You know, not every kid in his garage could make a record. There was a huge amount of young people out there and this was their music, and somebody was going to make a lot of money off of it. After the Monterey Pop Festival, Clive Davis started signing up everybody in San Francisco and L.A., and then other labels started looking to New York and Chicago or wherever, you know. All of a sudden they were out really looking for product. And they were willing to do whatever the artist wanted because they wanted the music. Now they can pick and choose as they please, and they don't have that need for the product. I mean, I'm sure they're inundated with product. I think the market is inundated with product. And I think that changed the rules.

And it seems that a lot of the people running the labels aren't really musicians?
Well they're not, but they think they are.

Were they ever?
Well I think there were more musical guys at one point. That was my experience at Epic. In the last few years I had a lot of problems with the fact that these guys were basically accountants and lawyers. But once they get a position of responsibility, they suddenly think they're artists and they know what the public wants and they can start dictating to the artists -- and they really don't. I don't see that these guys have any kind of catalog of songs that they've written or gone through the motions and struggled and done everything else that writers do. I would take criticism and direction from someone I respect, like Irving, because I think he knows music. But from a guy who just got a job in New York City in a tie who was an attorney -- well, I'm not about to listen to that.

It's really frustrating to watch so many talented writers on major labels being dropped when it has nothing to do with the quality of their music.
You get your shot, boy. It's Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame. But then there's exceptions like Vince Gill. That guy's been around forever. And I've known Vince a long time and worked with him and there was this really talented guy and he was going nowhere and then all of a sudden, bingo, you know, he's the hottest thing around. And the same with Bonnie Raitt. There's always exceptions. The guys in the suits always think they know, but they never really do. And the guys you want to trust are the guys that know they don't know (laughs).

Were you at one point approached to be a member of The Eagles?
Yeah. That was in about 1975. I was considered. We had done an enormous amount of touring together. I opened for them for about three or four years during their early days. It was great fun and a wonderful time. And Don (Henley) just kind of took me outside and said, "look, we're thinking about changing the band, we're considering you, let's talk about it." And during the course of that conversation I think we both realized that I wasn't the one. I had just had "Part Of The Plan" out and was just starting to take off on my own. And I was terribly flattered because I love that band to this day. It's probably the only band I would have joined, so it was an honor to be considered.

They were starting to change their sound at that time, weren't they?
Yeah. They wanted to go to a more electric place and I was starting to write "Nether Lands" and stuff like that. And it didn't look like I'd be able to do a solo career as well as The Eagles. I was thinking that I was just getting started, things were rolling, and I didn't think I could be happy writing three songs every four years. Because I was really prolific in those days, I was cranking stuff out. And those guys were really meticulous. And if you're lucky in a band with four or five great writers, you might get two songs on there. And as slow as they recorded, I just couldn't see doing one or the other and I really wanted to be solo. And I don't think my electric chops at that point were good enough for that band. Then they signed Joe Walsh which made a lot more sense. Walsh and Felder really toughened up their sound, and whereas I was going to a quieter and more classical thing which would have had no place with them.

Is it harder to find that passion to write now?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean obviously when you're 20 or 25 years old and running through the bars and on the road and you've got no responsibilities, you've got no bank account (laughs), there's nothing distracting and you're young and you're so caught up in it...yeah, absolutely. I mean if I write four songs a year now I'm doing good. Whereas in those days I could write four songs a week, easily. When you think about it, though, I've done fourteen albums of original songs, and one of them is double, so that comes out as 150 recorded songs. How much can one person do? At some point you say "God, how much is left, what else can I talk about here?" (laughs).

Has it been frustrating for you as an artist when people say that what you're doing today isn't good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course it is. But I think every artist goes through that. Artists that believe in their vision and are willing to change and take chances -- well it's called a career. John Lennon went through the same thing when he left The Beatles. Paul McCartney went through the same thing and continues to. I think it's frustrating for any songwriter. I'm sure there's a lot of people that don't like Robbie Robertson's songs today compared to The Band.

So commercial success isn't priority to you.
No, I always kind of believed -- and I think Irving believed -- if you're really true to yourself and do your best work, it will come. I think if you try too hard, you defeat your purpose. Because I think you will have a tendency to write for what other people want rather then what you want.

Does reading, writing, or listening to other people's music help you to get inspired?
Yeah, all of that. I think everything that comes in is potentially usable. Whether it's a news story or a certain line in a book. For instance, "Make Love Stay" was written around a Tom Robbins chapter of his book Still Life With Woodpecker. And he wrote this whole chapter about the most difficult thing we have to do today, is to figure out how to make love stay. Any damn fool can fall in love, as we all know, but getting it to stay there is a very difficult undertaking for human beings. So that wasn't really my idea, I just paraphrased him and put it in a musical context.

What's the hardest part of writing for you?
Lyrics, no question about it. I can write music a lot, I have a pretty good gift for melody. And I can bash out the musical part of things all day long. But lyrics I think get harder and harder because I think I'm demanding more of myself. These days I'm trying to say things simpler but deeper. And that's really challenging.

As a lyricist, what do this is your strong point?
I think my strongest suit as a lyricist is to marry the physical sound of words to the note structure, perhaps. The way that the word is pronounced on top of a musical note. And perhaps framing full thought, stories, inside of the narrow framework of the rhyme scheme. I really wish I had the gift where I could just write free verse, and it's frustrating to me. I think Cockburn's brilliant at it. And Joni Mitchell is better than anybody at internal rhyme. She doesn't depend on rhyming the ends of phrases. She'll put something in there at the end of a phrase, wait two lines, and then put something that rhymes with that in the middle of a phrase, and go somewhere else with it. I have enormous respect for her command of language. I don't seem to have that.

Have you ever co-written anything?
The only song I've ever co-written was with Jimmy Buffett. And it's just a ridiculously absurd song that we put on his box set called "Domino College." We chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean one year and we were both between marriages and we were drinking and going mad, and we just wrote this stupid song about this Domino College. We found this place where they actually had a college that taught dominos, the game. It was just a one night wonder, just drinking Heinekens on deck, throwing this thing out (laughs). And only Buffett would use something like that. And he actually made a pretty cool track out of it, which I was surprised about. Because I couldn't even remember the song until he sent me this thing and I put in on and went "Oh my God, he actually recorded this thing?!" So that's the extent of my collaborative efforts (laughs).

High Country Snows was a real departure for you. Was it a really fulfilling album for you to make?
It's the most fun I ever had in the studio, and I think that comes across on the record. It was just a joy, a pure joy from day one to the finish.

How long had you toyed with the idea of making a bluegrass album?
It happened really pretty quickly. I had been listening to a lot of bluegrass because I was building my ranch in southern Colorado and I was driving a lot between my old house near Boulder and this place. And I was listening to bluegrass because it seemed like great music to be driving through the mountains listening to (laughs). And so I renewed my interest just kind of on my own. And then I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1984, I think, just to hang out. I showed up and Chris Hillman and Al Perkins were there, and Herb Peterson had missed his flight. They were supposed to do a trio, so Hillman asked if I wanted to be in the band -- actually he didn't ask, he said "you're in the band" (laughs), and I hadn't done any of that kind of stuff in a long time. So we worked up some chestnuts backstage and went out and did a show. And I started thinking about how I really enjoyed this music when I was younger. It's really complex, it's really challenging, and it's a whole genre of singing and playing. So I just came back and said this is my wish list of musicians and it turned out that all went for it. So I didn't have a choice, all of the sudden everybody was saying, yeah, let's do it. And all of the sudden I had this phenomenal band ready to go, so I thought I'd be an idiot not to do this. I had a hard time convincing the record company, though.

How well did that go over?
Well, it didn't. I mean, it did very well for a bluegrass record. But compared to my pop records it didn't. That was the first really risky project that I saw immediate results that I'd alienated some folks (laughs). This is not what they expect from me. But that's fine, I had a great time, I still love the record, I'm very proud of it. And as I said, for a bluegrass record it did phenomenally well. Every five or ten years I feel the need just to do something just for musical reasons, and I kind of take myself out of the equation. Like I did with Tim Weisberg on Twin Sons Of Different Mothers.

Tell me about that project.
That again was a real quickie. I had called Tim in to work on Nether Lands on a track. We just hit it off and I really liked his stuff, and thought it would be interesting to see what we could come up with. So I just started thinking about writing without lyrics, which is something I love to do. I started composing all of these pieces and asked Tim if he was interested. And he listened and said, "let's do it." So it was about six months, start finish.

That album did really well, didn't it?
Yeah, that just blew the top off the whole thing. And I was embarrassed to even put it out, you know. I mean, I liked it but I just thought it would be torn to shreds and ignored. And so I said, "Irving, you hold it for a week, I'm going to Europe," (laughs). "I don't want to be around when it comes out." And then I got these calls in Amsterdam saying I had a hit record with it.

What is your perception of your first album, Home Free, now?
It just strikes me as a very young man. Very innocent. It was my first record in Nashville and I was having a wonderful time. I still like the songs on that album, I just wish I could have sung better when I was younger. I mean it was just always this high falsetto. And nobody knew what they were doing (laughs). We were all just kids, you know, doing a lot of drugs and having a lot of fun. And that's the truth. When people come to me and say Home Free's their favorite, I just wince. But there's something about that innocent quality that still translates to people. It's like my first born, you know. I'm always going to love it, but I don't hear from it often (laughs).

Do you remember writing "To The Morning?"
Yes I do, very vividly. It was the first real piano song that I ever wrote. And I had come back from college my freshman year in the summer and I sat down at my mother's piano at her house, I was home for the summer, and I remember being up in the morning and looking out through the venetian blinds, and it was a lovely summer sunny day, and I just wrote this song. It was very heavily influenced by Joni Mitchell. And it was all done in one morning. And it's still one of my favorites, I still play it in concert and it still holds up. I think it's a very good song for what it is.

What about "Wysteria?"
I don't know where that came from. I think that was just a college drug haze, because it doesn't make much sense. You know, it's like this really weird thing about a vampire. It's about a dead woman. I used to ask the audience what they thought this song was about and nobody knew. (Laughs) Wysteria is dead, it's a ghost. And this guy's still hung up on this ghost. Listen to in that context (laughs). It's a weird song. I think I remember laying in a hallway of some dumpy house I lived in in college and this thing came out. And I didn't even know what the name "Wysteria" meant. I was at a head shop and I saw a candle or some incense called Wysteria, and I thought it was great word -- I didn't know what it meant (laughs) -- but it turned out to be this ghost's name.

You must have really just been cranking out some songs at that time.
That's what we did, you know. We lived and ate music 24 hours a day -- it was wonderful.

What does your second album, Souvenirs, represent to you?
That was my L.A. days, running with The Eagles. They were all over that record, we were buddies and we were touring. The thing that I'm most proud of with that record is that it opened the door to the people that I wanted to work with. And Joe Walsh got me Russ Kunkel. I always looked up to Russell immensely from his James Taylor and Carole King work. And I was just drooling to work with this guy. And Walsh just called him and he came down, and here I had him and Al Perkins from Manassas and Graham Nash came in. So I got to work with a lot of my heroes on that record. And it opened the door for me in L.A. as far as not just being the kid anymore, but being one of the guys. So I remember that one as a real good time...probably way too good a time. It's a miracle we survived that record.

What about your album, Captured Angel?
If I only had one record to take back and redo it would be Captured Angel. I can't even listen to that one. That was done as demos, I played everything, I did everything. My dad was in the hospital having open heart surgery and he was really sick, and I was living with my mom in Peoria. And while I was there I had nothing to do so I booked this little funky studio, and I would just go in and work. I would go see my dad and hang with him until they kicked us out of the hospital, and then I'd go to this studio and work till dawn. And I made all these demos that I was going to take to L.A. and redo, and I played them for everybody, and everybody said, "why bother, they're good enough. We'll have Russell play some drums on it and add another bass player, but we think the tracks are there." So it came out of that way. And in retrospect it was a mistake, because it could have been a much better record. Again, I like the songs on the record, I still perform "Old Tennessee" and "The Last Nail" and "Next Time." I think there was some good writing, but I just think that the production was miserable. Because, again, I didn't know what I was doing. I thought I did (laughs).

How was "Old Tennessee" inspired?
That was a funny song. See, people don't know anything about any of these songs. This is interesting because I never told this stuff. I wrote "Old Tennessee" as really a "cop", as a joke. James Taylor was real popular at this point, and I was hearing this kind of stuff. In James' writing there was a lot of similarity. There was this east coast folky type of thing. And I said, "Well, hell, anybody can write something like that," (laughs). So I wrote that and it's just really a send up of early James Taylor work. And I just wrote about whatever was happening at the time, you know, about this girl I was with at the farmhouse who left, and all this sort of thing. So it wasn't anything I did seriously, I just thought it was a send up of a particular style. (Laughing) Now I'll probably get an insulting letter from James.

What about your album Nether Lands?
That was a real seminal record. I think that was the first mature record I ever made. To me when I listen to the first three, that's a kid. I think Nether Lands was the man growing up. And I think it was musically mature more than anything, but I think also the lyrics finally had some real depth and some philosophical strength to them that I'd never had before.

The song "Nether Lands" was a pretty grand musical undertaking.
You have no idea (laughs). I cut the track solo and then I hired Dominic Frontiere, the arranger, and I worked with him for a couple of days. And then we went in and they had a 69-piece orchestra, and we played the chart, and I freaked out and I ran out and re-wrote the whole thing (laughs) at the session. This thing went like eight hours with 69 pieces. Now you wouldn't be able to do that today, it's cost prohibitive. I mean we were just nuts (laughs). My friend Norbert Putnam who produced it, he and I were having a great time. He bought a whole cooler of Dom Perignon and we were saying, "boy, this is gonna be great, isn't it," and here are all of these people and we're out at the Burbank Sound Stage where they do the movies. And so we're drinking champagne before the thing even started, thinking we were just going to sit there and listen. And I heard the first chart and just went, "oh my God!" It sounded like a train wreck. So I was half lit to begin with, and then I had to go out and try and tell these guys what I wanted them to play. It was a long night (laughs)! It was a great night in retrospect.

You were really cranking out albums at that time -- one in '77, '78, '79 and then in '81 a double album.
I was on a roll then. That was all like a big blur. I was just recording constantly. In those days I would just write until I had 10 good songs that I thought were done and give them to the record company and just keep working. I'd be working on one album while the other one would be in the can waiting to come out. And that went on right through High Country Snows. It was an incredibly creative time in my life. And I doubt that I will ever see that again, and I don't know if I ever want to because it about killed me. That was a wonderful time...creatively. The rest of my life was a shambles. And like I said, I wouldn't want to go back to that. I'm much happier now.

"Same Old Lang Syne" seems to be one of the more popular songs for you. What was the writing of that like?
That was really a joke. It was just an exercise in songwriting. It took a long time to write that thing. And what I had done was I took Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, that riff, and I wrote it in C major and I played it with a Floyd Cramer feel, which I thought was funny to begin with. And then I threw this 6 minor chord in, which to musicians I thought would be a very funny thing to do. So I was just going to throw this at my friends in the studio as a joke. And then I thought, "okay, I'm just going to exercise my craft here, and let's see if I can do a song about nothing. About something so inconsequential." So I was thinking about what that could be, and I thought, "okay, you just came back from your mom's, you ran into your high school girlfriend, see if you can write a song about that." And so I started writing it and just laughing about it, that it was actually fitting into this song (laughs). And then I came up with the title, which I thought was a good pun. And suddenly I realized that there was a great poignancy developing in the song that I never intended. And it started taking on a life of its own. And it kept drawing me back over a year. And I'd work on it and write a verse or two lines or something. And finally after the whole time I had this big piece, and I went "my God, this is actually good," (laughs). And I never intended it to see the light of day, I never intended it to be a serious piece of writing. You just never know what people are going to take a liking to (laughs). I thought it would just help me write other, better songs. But I don't know that I'll ever write a better song than that. It's a darn good one, it's still a powerful performance piece, and I never get tired of it.

What about "The Leader Of The Band," was that something you had been wanting to write for a while?
That was totally spontaneous, it was a one-day wonder, I just happened to sit down with the guitar and bingo, that thing was done. I mean I never consciously wanted to write a song to my father. If I had consciously thought about it, I never would have done it. Because I thought it was too obscure and certainly uncommercial. That for me was a real great moment, because whether or not that song was ever hit, it meant a great deal to my father. He got to hear it, and it said things that neither one of us could say to each other. We weren't real communicative males, you know, we're Midwestern (laughs). So that song was so timely because he only lasted about another year after that. That'll always be real special song to me.

What about "Bones In The Sky" from your album The Wild Places that you wrote for Georgia O'Keeffe?
That's another of my favorites. I love that song. That's still a deeply personal statement, and I think a very mature piece of work. I'm very proud of that one. My wife, Anastasia, for almost six months was Georgia O'Keeffe's nurse in Santa Fe. I mean, she spent a lot of time with Grandma O'Keeffe. And so she would be relating all of these experiences about O'Keeffe to me, and I couldn't get in to see her -- she was guarded like a museum piece. She'd call up in tears, you know, telling me these great stories of what had happened during the day with O'Keeffe. And so she directly touched our lives. Not only had she done it to me as an artist -- I was such a great fan of hers -- but I personally became involved with her. That's what compelled me to write that.

I read you came up with "Faces of America" from River Of Souls, in a dream. Has that happened often for you?
Only twice. The song "Wishing on the Moon" that was on Phoenix was a dream song. And with "Faces" I was in that place between waking and sleeping and I heard this song and I saw this video running in front of my eyes, and I said "yeah, this is cool. Whose is that?" And I realized it was mine. So I just gut up at dawn and grabbed a guitar and wrote it out. That's very rare. I was reading an interview with Billy Joel recently, and it's happened to him a few times. I think songwriting is a subconscious exercise anyway, so I think you're probably better in tune with your subconscious at that point in time, but it doesn't happen often for me. It's truly a gift.

What about the writing of "Holy Road"?
Actually, I was inspired to write that after seeing Bruce Cockburn. It was up in Maine and I had driven down to Portland, and Bruce was playing in this park, and I went and met him for the first time. He's just a wonderful man. And he just inspired me to be wordy (laughs). So I went back to the house in Maine and that was my birthday, and this thing just flew out. I really owe that one to him because I was just really inspired by his energy.

Do synthesizers and programming help you write?
Somewhat, but I'm starting to get away from it. I think I went through that phase with The Wild Places and River Of Souls. I built the studio and suddenly I had all the gear here and I was like a kid in a candy shop. I would just go down there endlessly and experiment. But my writing today, in the last two years, since River Of Souls and during the making of that, has done the exact opposite. I'm writing real simple acoustic songs. Very romantic songs to my wife, some philosophical pieces, but most of it sounds like stuff that I haven't done in a long time. A lot of people have heard it and thought it sounds like my old stuff. It's not a conscious thing, it's just that I happened to be in Maine and all I had was a guitar. I got inspired and all of the sudden, bingo, I write all these love songs. So that's what the next one will be.

What other things are in your future?
Well, at the moment I'm going into the studio with Tim Weisberg. We're going to do another duet album. I think one of the more exciting things that we've talked about are doing some symphony shows. This is something that I've always wanted to do and I've never done. But it's something I think that the fans would enjoy, I know I'd love it -- I mean gosh, what a trip that would be to have a big orchestra to play your music behind you, you know (laughs). And I'm excited about getting into the studio to do another solo album whenever I get to that. I think in a lot of ways it's kind of a full circle that's happened here. Not only am I back with Irving Azoff after all these years, but the material I'm starting to write feels more like that time, which is interesting. I'm kind of really enjoying the simplicity of folk music and the purity of that medium. I think I just burned myself out on production and technology. And there's a certain emotional purity to just one man or one woman and a guitar that I haven't felt in a long time.

Do you have any parting words for songwriters who are feeling frustrated with the business?
I think at some point you have to decide how much the art means and how much making a living means. I think all of us have to struggle with that. The purest response, in my own experience, has been to follow your own heart and do what you really believe. Because even if you're not successful, you're going to come out of it feeling good about yourself, and feeling like you've been true to this gift. I think anyone who ever picks up an instrument and is capable of uttering a lyric or a melody has been given a gift. And it's a very special gift. And I think it tends to become trivialized by the commercial aspect of it. I don't think anyone should ever forget the magic involved in writing a song -- one day there's nothing, and the next day there is something there. And it may change the world for all you know.