Fogelberg Finds That Ties Bind

Logan Neill
Times Pop Music Critic

July 24, 1998

Though concertgoers may still see him as a beloved soft-rock balladeer, the singer has been busy with a less commercial project, a Christmas album conceived and produced by him alone. Dan Fogelberg's reputation for being tenaciously protective of his art has always been legendary in music circles. As a purveyor of slick pop classics such as "Same Old Lang Syne," "Leader Of The Band" and "Make Love Stay," his 25 years with Epic Records yielded 15 albums and more than a dozen top 10 singles. However, with that success Fogelberg often found himself battling with label executives about everything from song titles to album jacket artwork.

Which is why his current project seems to bring him so much satisfaction. In the next couple of months Fogelberg hopes to wrap up work on his first album of Christmas music.

Due out next year, the project was a watershed effort for Fogelberg, who has gone nearly four years without a new studio album. Totally conceived and produced by Fogelberg, the album explores medieval carols and instrumentals as well as originals. But most important, the project has remained unbound by anyone's influences other than his own.

"It's purely a musical adventure on my part," the singer said recently by phone from his ranch in Western Colorado. "It was something that appealed to my instincts as a musician, so I've just sort of let that take over. It's not something I probably would have had the inclination to devote myself to before now."

The labor of love actually began years ago with Fogelberg researching the ancient music, unearthing obscure English carols that were merely melodic poems accompanied by lutes and psalteries. Since Fogelberg doesn't play a lute, he found himself adapting classical guitar tunings to fit the parts. "It's pretty neat how it's fitting together," he says. " Every day, something else opens up with more to explore. It's a blast."

But most important, says Fogelberg, the album, which is set for release sometime next year, has been allowed to progress at its own pace, a luxury the singer conceded is only possible now that he is removed from the rigors of more commercial projects. In fact, the last album of Fogelberg's music came with last year's four-CD set, Portrait, an ambitious chronicle of the singer's quarter-decade recording career. The collection packaged together hits such as "Leader Of The Band," "Same Old Lang Syne" "Hard To Say," and "Run For The Roses," plus selections of Fogelberg's own choosing. It was also a farewell of sorts to his commercial viability.

"The box set allowed me to have some breathing room in my career," he said. "For the first time, I could just stop and catch my breath and say, 'What's really important to me in my career?' Sure, I have absolutely no regrets for the music I created, but I spent the 80's 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."

Fogelberg has other projects on the burner. In the works is a live acoustic album culled from recent performances that he hopes to complete next year.

"I've gained a lot of perspective on my music by going out and performing solo," he says. "As a musician, I've always enjoyed exploring the nuances and subtleties of a song. Plus, there's that one-on-one type of thing with the audience, which I've always found enjoyable."

Longevity is not something that Fogelberg expected from his music career. "I've always thought that if you get a pretty good ride out of it, then take it for what it is. For me at this point, I'm happy to have the freedom to do just what I want, and the fun comes with looking around and saying, 'Hey, I want to put together a funky blues band,' or 'I want to play bluegrass,' I can make those decisions now and not be a bit worried."