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Mike Dow Mike Dow
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edge staff writer


Blue Sky Riders a songwriters' supergroup'

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Credit: Joshua Black. L-to-R:  Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman, Gary Burr Credit: Joshua Black. L-to-R: Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman, Gary Burr

Hit maker Kenny Loggins recalls the startling moment, a few years ago, when he first heard his voice blend with those of Nashville singer songwriters Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman. 'I fell out of my chair the first time we sang. The vocal blend made us sound like siblings. That's when I knew we were a band.'

The band is Blue Sky Riders, and they are currently on a tour to support 'Finally Home,' their melody and harmony-rich debut album released in 2013. The record shines with elements of pop, country, folk, blues, Americana and even Celtic and Cajun-style grooves.

Loggins, a pop music icon since the 1970s, says he wasn't planning on being part of a band at this stage of his career.

'A few years ago, I'd gone to Nashville to make a solo record when I met and started writing songs with Gary Burr,' Loggins told me. 'The writing was effortless and I said, This is great! Let's start a band!''

Burr's credentials are stunning: former lead vocalist in Pure Prairie League, guitarist and bassist for Carole King and several years with Ringo Starr, with whom he wrote and recorded four albums. But his biggest success has been as a songwriter.

To date, Gary Burr has composed 33 top 40 hits, including 14 number one songs by some of the biggest names in country and pop. 'Every writer has a wish list of [artists] who they'd love to have sing one of their songs,' Burr told me. 'I've been lucky enough to have most of my list fulfilled, including George Jones and Conway Twitty.'

After a few months spent writing songs together, Loggins loved what he and Burr had created but felt they were missing a vital element. 'I called Gary and said, Let's bring a girl into it and make it a trio.' I suspected that he knew a great female singer-songwriter, and he brought in Georgia Middleman.'

Middleman, another Nashville veteran, has written hits for Radney Foster, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney. 'It's always an honor anytime a big name records one of your songs,' she told me.

The trio spent the better part of a year writing and recording 'Finally Home,' an album that racked up glowing reviews in Billboard, The New York Times and USA Today.

Several songs into writing the follow-up record, Blue Sky Riders in true indie style - launched an online campaign through Kickstarter in mid-July to fund the recording and production. The initial goal of $85,000 was met two weeks later.

When the campaign ended last Thursday, nearly $122,000 had been pledged from fans who will receive a variety of premiums ranging from the donor receiving name credit on the band's website and via social media, having the trio compose a song for the donor and, for one fan, a private "house party" concert with Blue Sky Riders..

Erik Sanchez of Washington, D.C. pledged $30K and met that goal after appearing on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live.' 'He started his own Kickstarter campaign to have us come perform at his home,' Loggins marveled. 'This campaign is allowing us to reach an audience and build and connect with a community like I've never been able to do in my career.' Loggins was so impressed with Sanchez's drive, he contributed $500.

The band says they will use the funds donated beyond their initial goal for promotion, marketing, distribution and videos.

Blue Sky Riders have been touring this summer as openers for Kenny Loggins during his concerts. In other words, Kenny has been pulling double duty, opening for his own shows with his new band. They performed two well-received Maine concerts in Rangeley and Ogunquit in late July.

'Our Maine shows were both great experiences,' Loggins told me as Burr and Middleman agreed. 'I had forgotten how great Maine audiences are. They were open to everything we were doing. We were especially surprised at the audience at Jonathan's [in Ogunquit]. The audience knew everything we did and sang along with every song. We're a baby band and it's exciting to see the new music catching on.'

Following the tour, Blue Sky Riders plan to hit the studio to record the follow up to 'Finally Home' due in 2015. Gary Burr says the group looks forward to the process. 'We're a few songs into writing it. This is a very exciting time for the band.'

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 14:39


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