John Ford Coley is still writing, recording, touring: ‘I do it because it’s in my blood’

John Ford Coley interview


Many remember John Ford Coley from his days with partner England Dan, a duo that achieved great success on the adult contemporary and pop charts in the 1970s with hits such as “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” “Nights Are Forever Without You,” “It’s Sad to Belong” and “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again.” But some may not know that he has continued to write and produce music, had stints as an actor, written a book and more.

Gold and platinum records, songs in major movies and television series as well as tours with legendary artists have all been part of his musical journey, and recently he released a double CD that he admits was for his own pleasure.

“The album is called Eclectic and it’s about two years old now,” said Coley, 70, who performs at the Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, Pa., on Feb. 22. “It’s 26 brand new songs; half of the CD is with a band and the other half is pretty much acoustic with some good ballads on it. I had some really good people work on it with me: T. Graham Brown, Collin Raye and Vince Gill.”

He has known Gill, he says, “for a couple of years now, and I was actually introduced to him by the co-producer of the record, Tom Wurth. I had this one song and I thought he was the guy to write this with and I waited and waited on it and Vince finally had time so we went in and got it done.

“It’s a double CD. I’ve had these songs for a long time and, ya know, radio isn’t really a viable option for me anymore, and at this stage of the game I still continue to write because it’s what you just do and I thought I’d really like to do these songs. They’re all the way from 1983 to 2017 and I thought, I’d really like to put them out and enjoy these things, and it came out infinitely better than what I’d anticipated.”

Radio is no longer a “viable option”? Fortunately the key word in that statement is option, and with all of the irons Cole has in his fire and today’s technology, combined with our culture’s love of nostalgia, he remains quite viable and has done so by dedicating himself to his craft.

“I love to play; I had written a song for a film called ‘Major League: Back to the Minors’ and they had a guy singing my song and I was asked by one of the other guys if I was still in music and I thought that was just about one of the dumbest questions that I’d ever been asked. I’ve been writing songs all these years. I don’t know if they’ll ever sell; maybe they will, I don’t know, but I just do it because it’s in my blood. I may not always be in the public eye but I still do it, that’s how it goes.

“I’m not one of these guys who plays their guitar only when they go onstage. My guitar never goes in the case. I’m constantly playing my guitar or my piano and I keep my guitars on a rack. I walk by and I have to play them. I’ll sit down for 45 or 50 minutes and play some songs and then I’ll walk away and eventually find my way back and play some more.”

Coley has also had his hands in production, working with artists like Eddie Money and Lynn Bryant, among others. So does his busy schedule ever affect his ability to tour? He says no.

“These days, instead of staying out for six weeks at a time, we pretty much just play on the weekends, and the rest of the week I stay close to home. Now and then we do a Wednesday or a Thursday; if you’re doing a radio tour or you’re out there trying to make a whole bunch of money, then sure, it makes sense to go on a lengthy tour. But other than that we stick to weekends.”

The Sellersville show will have a New Jersey connection as Central Jersey recording artists The Cryers will back Coley after presenting an opening act on their own. Joe Orlando and his bandmates have achieved commercial success and have had a great working relationship with Coley, among many others in the industry — in particular, members of Wings.

“I played with them a few weeks ago in California and they had Steve Holley from Paul McCartney & Wings on drums and then Laurence Juber came out. They’re always fun to play with and they’re such nice people and they do such a great job, but there’s always a spot in the show where I do two or three songs by myself, just because I enjoy playing solo and the vast majority of time when I play, I play solo. So to have a band with me will be somewhat of an unusual event and running into Steve Holley and Laurence Juber out there and having worked with Denny Laine as well … you’d think one of them would introduce me to Paul McCartney and let me open for him. It seems a natural progression, don’t ya think? (laughs)”

When one goes to a John Ford Coley show they get treated to an evening of his past and present successes as well as personal touches. He says this show will be no different.

“By and large, people expect me to play a lot of the songs that Dan and I had done, kind of take a walk down memory lane, and I’ve no problem with that at all. I enjoy playing all of those. So we’ll be playing a bunch of those but I like to go a little bit deeper into the records as much as possible and play some of the songs that might have been a little more obscure. And I’ll play one or two songs from my (new) CD just to try and introduce that.

“We also laugh and joke a lot and I tell stories. I just try to get people to forget the nonsense that goes on outside their doors every day. We don’t talk politics or anything that’s going to be controversial. It’s just an enjoyable evening.”

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