Dave Innis of Restless Heart

by Dan MacIntosh

Restless Heart had six consecutive #1 Country hits in the '80s, one of which, "I'll Still Be Loving You," crossed over to #33 on the Hot 100. In 1992, they had their biggest mainstream hits with the Rascal Flattsian "When She Cries" and the Warren Hill collaboration "Tell Me What You Dream."

The band wrote some of their own songs, but the hits came from top Nashville tunesmiths like Bob DiPiero and Randy Sharp.

The group's piano man, founding member Dave Innis, was a songwriter long before he was a Restless Heart - his song "Dare Me" peaked at #11 for the Pointer Sisters in 1980. Along with John Dittrich (drums), Greg Jennings (guitar), Paul Gregg (bass), and Larry Stewart (vocals), he's one of five members who have been with the band since 1983.

For a songwriter, performing decades old songs that you didn't write can feel like a saddle sore, but as Dave tells us, these tunes were built to last, just like the band.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Well, let's start by talking about how a band survives for 30 years.

Dave Innis: Well, we've had our adventures. We've had our ups and downs. It's been a roller coaster. But actually, the last 10 years have been the most fun for me, I can say. I think we've learned how to co-exist and we get along better now than we ever have, to be honest with you. And I think a lot of that is just maturity and appreciation for how blessed we all truly are to be able to roll down the road with the same group of guys we started with.

And we still have lunch together and if we are traveling through airports, we still hang out together. It really I guess is kind of a phenomenon. There's not a whole lot of folks that can say that they have been in the same band for 30 years. I know in country music it's somewhat of an anomaly to keep something together this long. 30 years is a long time, no doubt about it.

Songfacts: The song that I always think about when I think of your band is "Why Does it Have To Be (Wrong or Right)." Now, that song, do you remember when you were approached to record that song and what your initial thoughts were about it?

Innis: I'm trying to remember who wrote that. Is that a Randy Sharp song?

Songfacts: Yeah, Randy Sharp and Donny Lowery.

Innis: He (Sharp) lives out in California. Obviously, it was a well written song. We did some minor editing on that lyric. One of the lines originally was, "If you think this is not where you belong, there's no need to carry on." And we changed it to, "But we both know this is not where you belong, there's no need to carry on," to make it more mutually responsible.

But I remember thinking it was a little bit controversial at the time in terms of its content, but such a great feel. I mean, it was a lot of fun to play, and it's been a huge fan favorite for us. I believe it was a #1 record back whenever it was released. But yeah, people still love hearing that song and we include that in our set.

Songfacts: I would think that's one of those songs that you can't get off the stage without playing.

Innis: That's true.

Songfacts: Are there any others in your set that absolutely have to be played?

Innis: Well, "I'll Still Be Loving You" was a huge hit for us. So we always do that, and "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" is the sort of record that people want to hear us do. We medley some of these hits together now. Let's see what else. "That Rock Won't Roll" was a #1 record; it was our first #1 record, so we include that in our set. And also "When She Cries," which was a record that our drummer sings, John, our drummer. But it crossed over, was a big pop record. I don't know if they have adult contemporary charts anymore, but it was a big AC record.

Songfacts: I remember that. I don't know if they really track those. That's a good point.

Innis: I'm not sure if they even have that format anymore. Radio's changed so much. So we try to play our hits. But we also have new stuff that we're working on and new songs that we put in the set. We just finished the Christmas tour. That was a lot of fun, because we had never really headlined a Christmas tour before. We had gone out on some Christmas tours, but we had never done one that was just us. So we have a Christmas CD that's going to be commercially released in 2013. And we just printed up a few copies of it, because we had it done enough to where we printed up a limited number of copies and took it out on the road with us to sell on our merch table and we're going to release it commercially in 2013, maybe add another couple of songs and make a few tweaks here and there.

Also, in 2013 we have a project coming out called Encores, and it's a collection of songs from artists that we have loved over the years. For instance, we re-cut Glen Campbell's hit "Wichita Lineman," did an updated version of that. I don't know if you remember Herman's Hermits, the Peter Noone song, "Hush," we recut that and actually got Peter to sing with us.

Songfacts: How nice is that?

Innis: Yeah. That's going to be interesting. Also, Jim Messina played guitar and sang with us on our version of "Angry Eyes."

Songfacts: So how hard was it to narrow down an album like that? There's got to be hundreds, thousands of influences. How did you narrow it down to just those songs?

Innis: You can't think about it too much or it would drive you crazy, wouldn't it? There's several criteria, and one obviously is songs that you love. And then another is songs that you love that you sound good on. I heard "Wichita Lineman" one day as I was driving down the road and it came on the radio, and of course I've always loved Glen Campbell. We played a show with him last year. In fact, I think it was probably his last two concerts in Branson, Missouri, and Restless Heart was fortunate enough to be on those shows. And he was so gracious and it got me to thinking about Glen Campbell. And we had done a show with him years ago in St. Louis under The Arch, it was a Dick Clark production, one of those big giant extravaganzas that Dick Clark was famous for.

Glen Campbell's music business success story is unique, to say the least. He began as a session musician in the '60s, where he played on recordings by everyone from Dean Martin, to The Kingston Trio to Elvis Presley.

In the mid-'60s, Campbell became a touring member of the Beach Boys, and even played some guitar on that group's pioneering Pet Sounds album.

Then at the end of the '60s, Campbell had solo country/pop success with songs like "Gentle on My Mind," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman." This led to Campbell hosting his own TV variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran from the late '60s to the early '70s, and featured both country (Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson) and pop music (the Monkees, Bread).
And we sat out on a riverboat with Glen Campbell, and he told us stories about Jimmy Webb and just what it was like to be in the business in the '60s and '70s. Of course, he was such a wonderful guitar player and session player, he'd played on tons of records besides his own stuff. Then he had the TV show and what have you.

But I just started thinking about Glen Campbell. And then I thought, man, Larry Stewart would be the perfect singer for a recut in "Wichita Lineman." And the original "Wichita Lineman" didn't have any background vocals on it, really, that I can recall. And so it was fun to do a vocal treatment to "Wichita Lineman."

Songfacts: Wow. I can't wait to hear that.

Innis: Yeah, it's going to be good. And so those are the kind of things that you think about.

Songfacts: Well, I want to talk a little bit about songwriting with you. I know that you're an accomplished songwriter, but I understand that you haven't written any of your Restless Heart hits.

Innis: I didn't. I wish I had, to be honest with you. I've written some hits for other people. But I personally did not write any of the Restless Heart hits. I've written stuff for Restless Heart. I guess you could say that our #1 priority at the time we were releasing records was to release the very best songs that we possibly could, and we wanted to release songs that would stand the test of time. So it was pretty fierce competition to get songs released.

And so in retrospect, I probably wrote some songs that could have been singles, but I didn't personally write any of them. Greg wrote "Hummingbird" and "Dancy's Dream." During that era, there were a lot of artists that were not writing their own material, because we lived in Nashville, Tennessee, in the town where the best songwriters in the world are, arguably.

Songfacts: I want to get you to talk about some of your accomplishments as a songwriter. So when you think about some of the songs that you've written for other artists that were successful, what comes to mind?

Innis: Well, I had a hit for the Pointer Sisters back when they were really hot, a song called "Dare Me" that I wrote that was a big pop record.

Songfacts: Were you surprised that it got in their hands, or was it written for them?

Innis: Actually, I wrote it for them. I was a staff writer at Warner Brothers at the time. I was a staff writer at Warner's before I was a band member of Restless Heart. And I had been doing quite a bit of session work in Nashville as a keyboard player, writing with different writers. One thing led to another, and I ended up getting signed over to Warner's as a staff writer. So typically we would look at who's cutting now and what kind of material are they looking for, and we would tailor a song for a particular artist and pitch it. And that song, "Dare Me," was picked up by the Pointer Sisters. I think it was released in 1985 and was a Top Ten pop record.

Songfacts: How do you put yourself in the frame of mind to write for the Pointer Sisters?

Innis: Well, it's interesting.

Songfacts: You don't imagine yourself as like three women?

Innis: No. But my co writer and I - Sam Lorber and I - we did try to put ourselves in the place of what a gal might be thinking. I mean, not specifically trying to be a Pointer Sister, but a song written from a female perspective, for sure.

There are certain things that are more gender specific and gender appropriate. You know, certain things that a woman can say that a guy's not going to be able to get away with saying.

Songfacts: (Laughing) You're not kidding there.

Innis: And then, let's see, I remember writing a song for George Benson called "While the City Sleeps." And that was an honor, and he was really hot back then, too. It went on a record by the same title, While the City Sleeps. And I think as a result of that, I ended up meeting Ahmet Ertegün in the studio and hearing him tell war stories about the music business. And that was a treat.

Do you remember Peter Cetera from the group Chicago?

Songfacts: Absolutely.

Innis: I wrote a song with a friend of mine for him called "Holding Out." Actually, I wrote it with a guy named Bill LaBounty, who's a great singer/songwriter and has quite a following himself as an artist, especially overseas; I know a lot in France and I think he's pretty big in Japan, as well. But we wrote the song for Peter and he ended up recording it.

And then I wrote tons of stuff for Restless Heart. I just didn't get any of the singles. I wish I had. But I've got to say this: I love playing in this band every single night, I enjoy the musicianship, and I enjoy the songs. In fact, I was recently with my son in California, he was at our very last Christmas show in I think it was in Fresno. And he said, "Dad, your songs, they sound like you're still contemporary. They don't sound dated." These were songs that were released in the '80s and they still sound relevant. So that's a testament to good songwriting. So I'm very grateful to all of the Nashville songwriters that contributed to our success over the years. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Songfacts: Of the songs that you've written for the group, are there any that stick out that you really think, man, that should have been a hit. I'm really proud of that song?

Innis: Yeah. There's a couple of them. And they are more recent songs. I wrote a song with our bass player called "Home" that is something we wrote as a result of doing several USO tours and traveling all over the world, playing for the military families and just touring air bases. We were in Iraq and Kuwait and Qatar and Okinawa and Japan and Korea and all over UK and in Germany, touring and meeting men and women in our armed forces and their families. As a result of that we wrote "Home." And I think that could have had a commercial release. With the kind of promotion and marketing from a major label, it probably would have done something. Because we do it at our show, and I'd say 99% of the time it gets a standing ovation. And then we had another song called "The Torch of Freedom" that we did a video on, and it didn't get a commercial release, either. But I think that song could have done well.

And then I guess if I look back on Restless Heart records through the years, there are lots of songs, whether I wrote them or not, that I think could have been good singles. And I think they were songs that were written by other band members that could have been big records that, for one reason or another, were passed over for other songs. But, you know, if the songs were successful, you can't really argue with that, and we were really blessed and fortunate to have a great record label behind us. RCA Records. They had a great team of record promoters and they did a great job for us. I have no regrets. We had a string of #1 hits and a lot of chart success through the '80s and early '90s. I mean, we're still touring 30 years later.

Songfacts: If you were to look back, of all the songs that you've recorded and the songs that you play, do you have personal favorites?

Innis: I love playing "I'll Still Be Loving You." That is such a timeless song. Instrumentally, it's something.

Let me put it this way: we don't play anything that I don't enjoy playing that doesn't stand up and stand the test of time. And I think that's a fortunate place to be. I think there are a lot of artists out there that have done material that was maybe a novelty record or a song that got released that they don't really enjoy playing. But they have to do it because people want to hear it, and that's their bread and butter. But with Restless Heart, honest to goodness, I love all of our material, and I'm proud of it, and I enjoy performing it each and every night.

Songfacts: When you were saying that I was thinking that you must be glad you never recorded any novelty songs, because some of those can become hits and then they can come back to bite you.

Innis: Absolutely. And we were really careful not to do that at the time. And I think we probably had the opportunity to record some material that might have been in that category. So I'm glad, in retrospect, that we didn't.

February 28, 2013. Get more at restlessheartband.com.
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Comments: 3

  • Kat from Pueblo, Co.Love the way David dances on the keyboards!
  • Gary from North Carolina, UsaHe talks as though the band has been together for all of 30 years and that is simply not so. Larry Stewart went solo in the early 1990s and had a couple of hits on his own. The reason drummer John Dittrich sang "When She Cries" is because Stewart was not in the band at that time. I'm glad they're all back together. I was a big fan early in their career.
  • Gerry Donald from United StatesI have loved this band since the late 80's when I picked up a copy of "Fast Movin' Train" just out of curiosity - not having heard any of their stuff on the radio. I just had the opportunity to see them for the very first time - April 3, 2015 - and I was quite happy about that. I love that all five original band members are on board. I am still quite hooked on the vocal harmonies, the song lyrics, and it seems only in country music are you still able to get some wonderful acoustic guitar. I just love this band.
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