The title of Five Mile Road, the new solo album from America co-founder Gerry Beckley, is an appropriate one, considering the reflective tone of its music.

You can watch the exclusive premiere of “Life Lessons,” the first single and opening track from the upcoming album, below. The LP will be released on Sept. 20.

Actor and musician Bill Mumy, a longtime Beckley collaborator, helped out with the lyrics, “really helping to put some of the magic in those words,” Beckley tells UCR. “I was happy with the song. It’s a very kind of live sounding tune. It is something that the experience of years grants us -- the right to address more than when you’re younger.

Similar themes are present across the album. The title track includes a line about "five miles out, five miles back," which "reflects on how we go through the decades, yet it can still seem like just a blip on the map,” Beckley says. “There’s an undeniable reality to that in all of our lives, and so much of that is woven throughout this album.”

He notes that the "whole genre of rock 'n' roll is pretty deeply immersed in youth, rebellion, angst and all of these what I would consider somewhat coming-of-age elements. I use as an example, a Brian Wilson line: 'I’m bugged at my old man.’ It works great if you’re a teenager or in your early 20s or something, but it doesn’t really translate as you start to add the decades."

The challenge as a songwriter, Beckley says, is to figure out how to represent where you are at each stage of your life, “as opposed to just continually trying to go back to that era and rekindle it or remember it.”

The sessions for Five Mile Road found the singer-songwriter working with a wealth of song ideas. He explains there’s never a shortage of material; even if he’s not writing constantly, he’s often making notes, including an ongoing list of titles, which can provide a “springboard” of inspiration.

Occasionally, older songs from his archives came to the surface. “Some of these things go way back," he says. "There’s a lovely song called ‘Home Again’ that I actually wrote in the ‘70s and I had never finished it. To be honest, I think it was the earliest song and it was the last one that we were recording before we wrapped up and mastered this record. These songs come from decades of writing, and each time [they're] the ones that seem ripe and ready to go.”

In addition to his musical adventures, Beckley has enjoyed “quietly shooting photography” for about 30 years. He's had exhibits in New York and Los Angeles; a three-volume collection of his work is also coming out soon, as well as a proposed fourth book called Vanishing Act inspired by his move to Venice, Calif., seven years ago.

“I’m shooting a lot of what I consider Venice things that are disappearing,” he explains. “A lot of the beautiful bungalows and things are getting torn down because of the value of the properties.”

Beckley and another longtime collaborative partner, Dewey Bunnell, are about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America. They recently taped an appearance for The Big Interview With Dan Rather and also have an upcoming spot on CBS Sunday Morning. A 2018 concert from the London Palladium was filmed for an upcoming release on audio and video.

“I have to say that when we look back, it’s an immense amount of time," he notes of the golden anniversary. "That’s not my life or Dewey’s life, that’s just how long professionally we’ve been partners. I really feel, for all of the ups and downs, I think that we wear it well. We are still performing at a peak level, the shows are selling out. I really do feel that we are responsible for the successes and the failures that we’ve had. I can allow myself just a moment of satisfaction, and I think we get to live that every night.”

 

 

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