Over the years, Jim Messina has had his hands in creations by Buffalo Springfield, Poco and, of course, Loggins and Messina. With the latter two, he was a founding member. With Poco, he helped launch country rock. With Springfield, he produced, engineered and played bass.
For the most part, Messina has been flying solo since since the late 1970s with a great band of musicians to support his tours. The current tour stops in Millville April 16 for a night at the Levoy Theatre.
“For years, I had different musicians for each coast,” says Messina, who moved to Nashville and put together a new band. “It’s a tough decision but I needed people closer to me.”
Messina, 75, does a 90-minute show covering his time with Poco, Loggins and Messina and his solo career. “I give audiences a little bit of my works written and recorded over the years.”
He says his shows often start off with an acoustic set, leading into the country part: “Watching the River Run,” “House on Pooh Corner,” “Danny’s Song,” and “Whispering Waters.” He hits the solo works. “I play “Mexican Minutes” which Brooks and Dunn recorded. And Poco’s “You Better Think Twice,” “Listen to a Country Song,” ‘Holiday Hotel” “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “Angry Eyes.”
“It’s a really good group of musicians who reproduce it. The key is to pick musicians aware of the current arrangements,” says Messina, who was born in Maywood, California.
The last album he released, In The Groove, was recorded live in 2015 with former Poco steel guitarist, the late Rusty Young, joining in. It includes selected hits from all three of Messina’s previous bands, as well as several of his solo works.
He may record something new once the studio he recently completed in Tennessee is up and running, the one he recently completed in Tennessee. But he knows what recording means for the classic rock generation. Messina’s been around so long, he is familiar with every format since 45s.
Performers like Messina don’t expect their material to be streamed or purchased like the young kids do.
“Most music you hear they go ‘Alexa, play Jim Messina. Or Taylor Swift. Or whoever.’ The album is my greeting card that I’m out here performing. I do my very best to deliver the best performance …. That’s my goal.”
Still, his heart lies behind the scenes, fiddling knobs as an engineer, putting together the package as a producer. In fact, that was how Loggins and Messina known as the accidental duo, was born.
Messina got a job as an independent producer with Columbia Records and was asked in 1970 to work with a novice named Kenny Loggins. At Messina’s insistence, he worked with Loggins on the vocals, eventually doing the songs as duets. The two worked well as a team and Messina agreed to sit in on Loggin’s first album. Sittin’ In was released in November of 1971 and the duo was formed.
Over the next seven years, Loggins & Messina released eight hit albums, selling over 16 million copies, and produced scores of hit songs. They had become one of rock’s most successful recording duos.
Last September, Messina performed with Loggins at the Hollywood Bowl for a couple of shows. He last played with Richie Furay, his Poco (and Springfield) bandmate, in 2014.
As for additional shows, it’s a different Poco, he says. “It’s hard sometime to make it work. Rusty Young is gone. Paul Cotton is gone. I don’t see Poco happening. But maybe Ken and I.”
Meantime, Messina has another avocation besides music. Like Graham Nash, Ron Wood and Ringo Starr, he paints. “I am an artist not just a rock ’n’ roll star.”
He isn’t kidding. He now has an exhibit in Nashville. He got into painting after he took workshops with artist Nancy Johnson.
“She’s very inspiring to me; a very kind and gentle soul at a very important time for me,” Messina says. “We both like painting old buildings.”
Original Messina paintings can now be found at the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Nashville. But he doesn’t see painting replacing music as his chosen profession.
Touring the country and playing sold-out shows, Messina says that he enjoys discovering who he is, where he’s been and, most significantly, where he’s going.