Gerry Beckley's pop side might come out a little more on his solo albums — including the new Five Mile Road, due out Sept. 20. But "Calling," premiering exclusively below, is certainly of a piece with the America man's hit ballads such as "I Need You," "Daisy Jane" and others.
"It's one of the closest to what I would consider one of my strengths, which is a ballad of that sort," Beckley tells Billboard, noting that "Calling" is one of his favorites from the new set. "I'm really proud of the tune. It's a pretty simple theme, and I think I did a good job of getting it across. We spend a lot of time away from the ones we know and love. I think you'll find that elsewhere around the album, too."
Five Mile Road is Beckley's sixth solo album and the follow-up to 2016's Carousel. Beckley co-produced it with Jeff Larson and wrote all the songs save for "Life Lessons," which he co-wrote with actor/musician Billy Mumy. Poco's Rusty Young and former Chicago bassist Jason Scheff make guest appearances, but Beckley himself plays the majority of the instruments, though he maintains that "I want it to sound like a band. I'm kind of shooting for that as a target. I play a lot of instruments — not all great, like drums, but well enough to make it work and sound right. The type of thing that I'm looking for when I'm writing is somewhat simplistic. I look for the Lennon-McCartney, the Brian Wilson, the (Bee Gees). Those are not incredibly complicated structures; I'm not saying there isn't some serious craft in it, but it's not the case of a hyper chops kind of thing, either."
The solo albums, of course, give Beckley a chance to get some of his songs out now that America is not as busy as a recording concern. The group's last album, Lost & Found, came out in 2015 and was the duo's first of original material in eight years. Nevertheless, Beckley predicts that "with the right guidance there could easily be another one or two America projects in the future." Now, however, the group is focusing on the 50-year celebration it began this year, leading up to the actual golden anniversary of the band's formation, in London, next year. Beckley and partner Dewey Bunnell have a number of commemorative projects on tap — ranging from the single disc Golden Hits that's already out to a couple of planned box sets — as well as a biography that's been written Jude Warne. America was recently profiled on CBS Sunday Morning and will be featured on Dan Rather's The Big Interview on Nov. 26 — on top of a steady touring schedule that keeps the duo and its abundant hits in front of fans.
"We are in our 50th year, working up to the 50th day," Beckley explains. "The band is in great shape. The schedule's pretty full, and we thought rather than wait 'til the actual day, let's kick it off as being the 50th year — it's a semantic point, but we like doing it this way. The challenge has been to spread everything throughout the year so they don't just stack up on each other."