America to play with SymphonyWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“A Horse With No Name” rides again — this time as the soundtrack for a Kohl’s department store commercial.
“I’d like to say it was our doing, but the ad department made that selection, and we’re very happy,” said Gerry Beckley, the blond half of the America duo. “It’s a national ad and it’s very cool, very well done. The song is well-known regardless, but for all the fans it’s a nice way to see it.”
The commercial is part of a resurgence for Beckley and music partner Dewey Bunnell. The singer-songwriter guitarists released “Here and Now” in 2007. The two-disc set features new songs, as well as a CD of live recordings of the group’s hits.
Beckley, Bunnell and Dan Peek started America in 1970. Two years later, the trio’s first single, “A Horse With No Name,” and their debut album hit the top of the charts. And the hits kept coming: “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Daisy Jane,” “Lonely People.”
Peek left the band in 1977. Beckley and Bunnell continued on as America, scoring with “You Can Do Magic” and “The Border” in the early 1980s. The two continue to record and tour.
America will take the stage with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. April 10, at Stranahan Theater. Tickets are $55, $50, $40, $38 and $25.
Beckley recently answered questions for Toledo Free Press from his Los Angeles home.
Toledo Free Press: For “Here and Now,” you worked with Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins. How did that come about?
Beckley: Dewey and I were Fountains fans, and I had a mutual friend who said you ought to meet Adam because he produces that stuff. And although Chris [Collingwood] is the singer in the group, they co-write the material and Adam is more the producer and the hands-on guy. So I started to write him; we developed kind of an e-mail relationship and it turns out he was also a fan, so that went back and forth for over a year, swapping songs.
TFP: Did you like the infusion of new creative partners?
Beckley: I know for a fact that once [Schlesinger and Iha] had lent their names to this, a lot of people who would have been — I don’t mean reluctant but just not aware that this was going on — people who live in the New York area — Ben Kweller had moved to Brooklyn and James is a good friend of Ryan Adams — these people just said, heck, I’d love to be a part of this. So it was their involvement that brought in the next circle of people and it just got better and better.
TFP: America is in its fourth decade. What do you think has given your music such longevity?
Beckley: Memorable melodies and interesting lyrics contribute to making certain songs stick around longer. I think there’s a formative time in everybody’s life when music makes the deepest impression. If you grew up listening to Led Zeppelin or if you grew up with ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ it’s going to mean the most to you whether it was America’s first two or three albums or something completely different. But in our case, we happen to be a very successful singles band — we were one of Warner’s biggest sellers, definitely in the ‘70s, so we were on the radio, and I think that becomes accumulative.
TFP: The group worked with Sir George Martin, who produced most of The Beatles’ records. What was that like?
Beckley: He started on the fourth album and stayed for seven albums. I group the George years as one of the ultimate highlights for me and I’m sure for Dewey as well. It was a turning point for us — it put us back on the charts. The third album hadn’t done so well. And with the fourth album where he started, we were right back with ‘Tin Man’ and ‘Lonely People,’ two huge hits, which we followed on the fifth album with ‘Sister Golden Hair,’ which was a No. 1 record for us.
TFP: Reunion tours have been big with The Police, Genesis, etc. Any chance you and Dewey might have Dan come back for a tour or record?
Beckley: … I don’t think so. We’ve done this now for 30 years as a duo, and I just don’t think — although we do Dan’s songs every night, two or three of them — I don’t think the world is waiting for this to occur, nor are we.