Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interview with the Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit

A version of my interview with Schmit originally appeared in the North County Times in San Diego County. He plays on Thursday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood and Monday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Photo courtesy of Scoop Marketing.

Despite the benefits of modern recording technology, some musicians still prefer to take an old school approach. Case in point: “Expando,” Timothy B. Schmit’s first album in eight years.

“I wanted to keep it as organic as possible,” said the singer/bassist while en route to a Seattle gig on I-5. “I didn’t want it to be too polished. You can fix all kinds of things these days very easily [on programs like ProTools], but I did as little of that as possible.”

Schmit – who makes his San Diego area concert debut as a solo artist on Monday with longtime Eagles collaborator Jack Tempchin (“Already Gone,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling”) - initially came to prominence during the early Seventies as a member of Poco. He joined the Eagles in 1977.

The lanky, long-haired vocalist took the spotlight on “I Can’t Tell You Why,” a top 10 single from 1979’s platinum-plus selling release “The Long Run.”

After the band’s split, Schmit went solo, had a song on the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” soundtrack garner Adult Contemporary airplay (“So Much in Love”) and notched a top 40 pop hit in 1987 (“Boys Night Out”). His heavenly high tenor continued to be a hot commodity, gracing tunes by CSN, Boz Scaggs, Toto, Sheena Easton, Richard Marx and dozens more. Fun fact: as part of Jimmy Buffett’s touring band, Schmit coined the term parrotheads.

In the ‘90s, an Eagles MTV “Unplugged” special spawned the live “Hell Freezes Over” reunion album. Schmit sang lead on its No. 1 AC radio hit “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” toured with them and Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.

Schmit fans headed to the SoCal shows this week can look forward to a few tunes from both acts. Most of the set list is culled from “Expando” though.

“I really want people to hear the album,” stated Schmit, 62. “I finally started to play live with this because I think it’s a true reflection of what I do.”

The laid back “Expando” marks a return to the musician’s early folk/rock roots. Crafted sporadically over the past four years between Eagles recording sessions and tours, it was done at his rural home studio on preserved land in L.A.’s West Valley. “I live a little bit off the beaten track, so I would always feed everybody who came over.”

Schmit produced, penned the autobiographical lyrics and played various instruments - from mandolin and ukulele to electric guitar, piano and harmonica. All guest artists “came through my studio door,” he said. “I didn’t send [computer] files away or anything. Everybody was right there working with me.”

Among the contributors: Graham Nash, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Band’s Garth Hudson, Keb’ Mo’ and Van Dyke Parks. Blind Boys of Alabama elevate the inspirational “Secular Praise,” while Dwight Yoakam and Kid Rock supply backing vocals to the country-meets-cabaret jazz of “Downtime.”

Some were old friends like Nash; Schmit sought out others himself. “I kept bumping into Kid Rock [around town in L.A.] and we finally exchanged numbers.”

Both Yoakam and Rock emphasized they weren’t harmony singers. “I said, ‘I have a long history with that. Let’s work together and do it.’ They worked really hard - everybody did - to make sure I was happy.”

Hudson’s organ work on “Friday Night” was the result of a happy accident. Last year, Parks was adding accordion to the track and discovered through an acquaintance that Hudson would be in the area to receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

“He told Van Dyke, ‘Garth likes to work [when he’s in town], does he know anyone that’s interested?’ My jaw just dropped. I was like, ‘Me! I’m interested!’ A couple nights later, he came over and we put him on that track. I’m a huge fan of The Band.”

Early next year, Schmit heads to Europe to promote the new album before he has to “put on my Eagles hat again for a little spring touring run” (the band plays the Hollywood Bowl, April 16-17 and 20). So far, he is pleased with the reception to the solo album and tour.

“I’m happy with what’s going on with my musical life. The solo thing is [quite] different than the Eagles and it’s all really good. I wouldn’t trade it; I’m really fortunate.”

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