has everything his own way
by James Henke
Rolling Stone Magazine
August 25, 1977
The success of Dan's Fogelberg's latest album, Nether Lands, doesn't really surprise him. In fact, it's part of the plan.
"I knew it was big when I finished it," Fogelberg says, relaxing in his Sherry-Netherland suite the night after his sold-out Central Park performance. But the album didn't come easy: "It was the first time I didn't have an entire album two years ahead ready to go. I really had to see if when you're up there you can write it again." Apparently his fans things he can; the album has been near the top of the charts since it was released.
Fogelberg has been plotting his way "up there" since the late Sixties and early Seventies, when, as an art student at the University of Illinois, he gathered a big following playing coffeehouses on campus. "I was waiting for my writing to develop to a point where I could make a living at it - I wasn't about to struggle in a garret as a painter," he recalls. "At the point where the music became, I felt, good enough for me to get a record deal, I happened to meet Irving [Azoff, who has been his manager ever since] and we discussed the whole thing."
Azoff, who now also manages the Eagles and Boz Scaggs, among others, was then booking bands in Illinois. In 1971, Fogelberg and Azoff went to Los Angeles - after they had studied the music business and the careers of other artists and then mapped out their own careers accordingly. Fogelberg signed with Columbia Records, and his first album, Home Free, recorded in Nashville, was released in 1972. Although the album was well received critically, its lackluster sales caused Columbia to drop Fogelberg. Epic signed him, and it was then, Fogelberg recalls, that he realized he would have to come up with a strong second album if he was going to succeed.
"I saw how Neil Young did it on his second album: Joni Mitchell too," Fogelberg says. " So Souvenirs was no accident."
Souvenirs, released in 1974, was recorded in Los Angeles and featured backing up by Glenn Frey, Graham Nash, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Joe Walsh (who also produced the album). It went gold and yielded Fogelberg's only hit single, appropriately titled, "Part of the Plan." Captured Angel followed in 1975. It also went gold, and Fogelberg's career was right where he wanted it.
"I planned every step of this," says Fogelberg, dressed in the standard L.A. cowboy outfit of jeans, silver Indian belt and plaid western-style shirt. "I mean, this pop music isn't going to last forever. You gotta realize that there's a five-year period or so when your peak popularity is - you're lucky if it lasts that long. And then what? So, I'm preparing now to be doing as much music when I'm 60 as what I'm doing now."
If Fogelberg is still making music when he's 60, there's a good chance it will be classical, not the folkish country rock he's known for. He's already making sure but slow progress on a concerto and a ballet. "You can't take classical music lightly," he says. "You're in much harder competition; it's a little hard to compete against Tchaikovsky and Grieg."
Fogelberg traces his interest in classical music back to his childhood: his father was a band leader and his mother studied opera in college. "I was constantly surrounded by good music, whether I liked it or not," he says. His favorite composers are Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Debussy and Dvorak. "The people that I think synthesize their native folk music into classical are the people I'm most fond of," Fogelberg explains. "I don't like Mozart. He's too technical, too refined and not enough soul in him."
Nether Lands shows Fogelberg's classical influences, especially the title cut and "Sketches" with their orchestral backing and solo piano. Yet "Give Me Some Time" has a Brazilian feel to it, caused, Fogelberg says, by his renewed interest in Sergio Mendes albums from the Sixties. And "Scarecrow's Dream" and other cuts remain true to his folk-rock background. Fogelberg's albums also testify to his desire to keep things planned and under control. He played most of the instruments (except bass and drums) on Captured Angel and Nether Lands and also produced both albums. (Nether Lands was co-produced by Norbert Putnam). "I control everything that goes on pretty much in my life. I don't let anything happen unless I say okay," he says.
Fogelberg's tour with his band, Fools Gold (which just releases its second album), will take up most of the summer - a long time for someone who cherishes privacy. Although he admits he'd rather be home, Fogelberg does derive some nonmusical benefits from touring. "I like to go out. You see, where I live [near Boulder, Colorado] you have to create good times for yourself," he says. "So when I'm on the road I really enjoy doing things in cities - museums, good restaurants."
After the tour, Fogelberg will return to Colorado to begin work on his next album (he says he's already started about four songs). He also plans to co-produce an album with flautist Tim Weisberg in the fall. And then what? "Who knows?" Fogelberg shrugs. But even though he's not ready to commit himself to yet another project, you can bet he's already making plans.