Get ready for some rock ‘n’ roll
By Naila Francis
Dan Fogelberg doesn’t like to be hurried.
The singer-songwriter who cultivated an enduring popularity with a string of ’70s and early ’80s soft-rock hits also does not like his creativity to fall victim to the musical trends of the day.
And so when Fogelberg comes to the Keswick Theatre Wednesday, don’t expect to hear any songs from his new album.
Despite hopes for the album’s release this spring, he says it probably won’t be ready for at least another year.
And so the tour that brings him to Glenside next week is a 30-year anniversary tour — celebrating three decades in the career of the prolific, occasionally retiring troubadour.
This time, he comes with his band, promising “more of a rock ‘n’ roll show,” instead of the acoustic one-man show he did when he last performed at the Keswick about two years ago.
While he prefers to keep quiet on details of the forthcoming album — its concept may change drastically from now until the time it is released, he says — Fogelberg doesn’t mind admitting he had hoped to complete it in time for this tour.
“But I have to be patient with myself,” he says. “I’ve always worked at my own pace. I release a record when I’m finished and I know it’s complete. If it’s not, then I’m not in any hurry. I’m really more of a channeling device with some of these songs.”
He does’t expect fans will be too disappointed. His loyal following for years has been happy to pack a room to listen to Fogelberg classics such as “Same Old Lang Syne,” “Leader of the Band,” “Part of the Plan” and “Longer.”
“It’s like they’ve somehow grown up with me in my own experiences,” he says, “and experienced a lot of the same things — bless their hearts. When you reach people on a deeper, emotional level, you can provide insight or comfort, something other than just a beat or background.”
Since he released his first album, “Home Free,” in 1972, Fogelberg has been known for making music that’s been painfully honest at times and socially relevant.
Two albums in the early ’90s, “The Wild Places” and “River of Souls,” communicated his love for nature while encouraging its preservation in the face of growing environmental destruction.
Their follow-up, “No Resemblance Whatsoever,” paired Fogelberg with Tim Weisberg, a flute player whom he had collaborated with in 1978 on “Twin Sons Of Different Mothers,” a lush and orchestrated album that marked a departure from his laid-back, folksy style.
“No Resemblance Whatsoever” continued that tradition of experimentation. The album also typified a musical characteristic of Fogelberg’s that has sometimes been obscured by his image as a plaintive balladeer.
He has always been a versatile musician, a singer-songwriter willing to break the mold responsible for his commercial success.
“I’ve covered a lot of ground over the last 20 years,” he says, “between romantic ballad-type music, rock, jazz, bluegrass, even world music. Whether it’s writing a pretty ballad or scorching rock or blues, I like music to excite me.
“I’ve never been a joiner of any sort. I’ve just always made my own music and put it out there. If people like it, fine. If they don’t, fine. But I guess I do play something of quality because people have stuck around.”
The Peoria, Ill., native believes abiding by artistic formula is the fastest route to a stagnant career.
“You have to create and grow and take chances,” he says. “You have to keep challenging yourself and your own audiences. That’s what art is about.”
In some ways, he is thankful his devoted following frees him from the dictates of the music industry.
“It’s a radically different thing now,” he says. “It’s totally just about the business. When I started, the people who ran music companies were just people and it was all about the music. I don’t envy young musicians these days. Today, you get your shot and if you don’t get on MTV, you’re gone, and that’s a shame, because we’ve probably missed some really good music.”
But after 30 years in the business, making music is not as important to Fogelberg as it once was.
“I think as I’ve gotten older, I really appreciate what a special gift it is to do what I do,” he says, “and as long as I’m challenged as a musician, I’ll keep at it — but it will continue to become a smaller part of my life.”
Two of his major career goals — producing a Christmas album and a boxed set — have already been accomplished.
Now, he would like to devote more time to traveling with his wife, sailing and perhaps shifting his attention to the visual arts, a hobby he had always hoped to find more time to pursue since his days as an art major in college.
Having turned 50 last year, he doesn’t expect to keep making records past 55.
“I’ve never been able to successfully do both music and painting,” he says. “I think once I quit completely and say, ‘OK, that’s the last tour, that’s the last CD, then my creative energies may come raging out.
“I may become completely fanatical about painting or I may just sit on a boat in the Caribbean.”
– The Intelligencer