Eagles guitarist interview

Don Felder On The Legacy Of The Eagles, Touring With Styx & REO Speedwagon, And His Hobbies

In early 1974, Don Felder was called in for a studio session to add slide guitar to a few songs by the Eagles. As legend would have it, Felder was asked to join the Eagles the following day. Felder remained part of — and an equal partner in — the Eagles through the band’s breakup in 1980, also part of its reunion tours from 1994 through 2001. That run included co-writing the band’s signature song, “Hotel California,” and singing lead on the song “Visions” from the One of These Nights album.

Don Felder has always kept busy when not working with the Eagles. He worked as a session guitarist on a variety of albums, including the Bee Gees’ 1981 release Living Eyes, Stevie Nicks’ first two solo albums, and recordings by Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand. As a solo artist, he had music in a variety of films, including Heavy Metal, The Slugger’s Wife, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High; his most recent solo effort was 2012’s Road To Forever. He is also the author of 2008’s Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001).

Consistent touring has also been a part of Don Felder’s solo career, and currently, he is on the road with Styx and REO Speedwagon, playing amphitheaters across North America. On behalf of the Inquisitr, I spoke to Felder by phone about his past, present, and future. More on the legendary guitarist can be found at www.donfelder.com.

For someone who hasn’t seen you live before, what should they expect? Eagles classics? Solo favorites? Covers?

Don Felder: It is all of the above. A large part of my show is songs co-wrote, recorded, or performed live with the Eagles for the 27 years I was in the band. I do a couple solo tracks, “Heavy Metal” is one of them. Every now and then, I do a salute to Stevie Ray Vaughn with one of his songs called “Pride and Joy,” which just gives me the opportunity to just play blues and not have to play such structured songs… I just get to cut loose and have some fun, but it’s a really fun upbeat tempo rock & roll show… Amazing players in my band that all have just spectacular pedigrees having played and toured and recorded with some of the biggest people in the industry. It is an honor to be onstage with these players and… all of that music sounds just spectacular.

Prior to this tour, had you collaborated with any of your tourmates before?

Don Felder: Yeah, Styx and I and a couple of guys from Foreigner I actually redid a version of “Hotel California,” I think it was about three years ago for a tour we did together. We were just talking two days ago with JY [Young of Styx], Tommy [Shaw of Styx] and Kevin [Cronin of REO Speedwagon] about writing a song together. JY has a guitar part he wants to show me so we can start working on that. It’s fun, we’ve got a lot of time hanging out backstage together and it’s a very kind of family-oriented feeling, I mean, we’ve all been doing this a long time so there’s no egos… There’s no drama, we play golf together, we go to dinners together, we’re going to be writing songs together backstage in somebody’s dressing room…

Sometimes we go get a bowling alley and everybody, all the bands and crews and bus drivers and everybody, we have a bowling contest… Everybody puts in 20 bucks and whichever team scores the highest score wins the pot, so it’s just fun and just a good healthy way to spend time with people that live with and work with… All these guys are very happy doing this tour.

There was a great promo video put together for the tour, which I first saw on Facebook. Were you involved with writing it?

Don Felder: You know it was funny… I think we hired a company to help put together something that was just kind of a trailer for the tour… Tommy had an idea that he will call Kevin and then they decide they’re going to call me and we all kind of conference together. He said, “Yeah, let’s go do it.” It was a nice little concept of how to do it video-wise and I think it’s less than a minute long, if I am not mistaken. It’s like a trailer for the tour so we were excited to do it, it was fun to do.

I had the pleasure of reading your memoir, Heaven and Hell, a few years ago. Did you have a lot of stories and leftover content that you did not publish?

Don Felder: I didn’t have a lot of leftover content. I had a lot of content that I thought should not be published. I didn’t want it to be bitter or telling stories out of school. You know, there’s a great deal of respect I have for all the guys that are in the Eagles, a great deal of respect I have for the music we made, the legend we created together and I just didn’t want to damage that. I didn’t want to write a bunch of dark stuff, so there was a lot of dark stuff that I took out and I’m glad I did.

Did the book help reconnect you with people? Or help forge new relationships?

Don Felder: No, I think if anything there were a couple of guys that really didn’t like the fact that I was writing a book. I think they even tried to file a lawsuit against me to stop me from writing a book, but there’s a thing in America called Freedom of Speech. As long as you’re not slandering someone or defaming their character, then you know you can do it. So I think a couple of guys were upset that I was publishing a book, and they didn’t like some of the things that were in the book, but it was the truth. So what are they going to do?

Do you have any hobbies outside of music and family? Or are music and family pretty much everything for you?

Don Felder: I would really like to have some hobbies instead of music and family, but there’s really not any time. I mean, my days on the road are filled pretty much with either traveling, soundchecks, writing lyrics, reviewing things that are going out to be mixed, doing e-mails, text messages, you know, being on top of the business aspect of what I do. When I am home, you would think you would be off, but all of that still continues and I’m in the studio at the same time and trying to take time to see my family when I’m in town. So there’s not a lot of time for hobbies, to tell you the truth.

When I interviewed your former bandmate Timothy [B. Schmit], he mentioned that he collected a lot of Native American instruments. Are you a big guitar collector?

Don Felder: I have about 300 guitars that I’ve been collecting since I was in high school. I think I have the first guitar I ever owned, up to the ones that I continue to buy and use for a while. Every one of them has some story or some use, how I got it or what record I played it on, something sentimental about it for being my career. So I keep them, I can’t get rid of my children!

Since you have over 300 guitars, I would assume that you have a storage facility…

Don Felder: Plural — storage facilities.

So does that mean you also keep good records of your recording sessions and have a lot of unreleased music in your archives?

Don Felder: Yeah, I have hard drives and I have a storage locker that’s full of analog 24-track analog tapes from gosh, back to rehearsals in my guesthouse with the Eagles where we were rehearsing songs for Hotel California… We rehearsed at my guesthouse and we’d always roll tape, so we would capture what happened and somebody played something. “Oh that was cool, what was that?” Or somebody sang a melody into a microphone it was like the beginning of the first melody… It was just a way of capturing all that stuff. I have got tons of stuff and I hope one day it will be sorted through and archived.

Have you ever thought of putting together an exhibit or touring museum the way that the Rolling Stones recently did?

Don Felder: I honestly have never thought about that. It is an interesting idea. I would think if the Eagles wanted to do that, I would obviously offer them some instruments like my Gibson that I played for years on Hotel California for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibit in Cleveland… It’s on loan there, we’d extract that back and put it on exhibit, some notes, some tape boxes from old early demos of from Hotel. I think I have the original cassette of the demo that I made at home of “Hotel California,” just stuff like that.

Is there an Eagles-related accomplish that you are proudest of?

Don Felder: I think the music that we made together had a really wide sense of different types of music from harder rock to country rock to really sweet ballads with orchestras to “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” with these big vocal harmonies, to “Life in the Fast Lane,” to the old stuff like “Tequila Sunrise”… Real close to the country western sound and it was a really wide variety of musical tastes and genres and every one of them has been done really exceptionally well. I mean the hours and hours and hours that we spent in the studio working on every note of every performance of every one of those tracks, you know, it becomes tedious and frustrating to take that time. But then when you listen to stuff that was done 40-something years ago, you go, “Wow that sounds really good.” I suppose we didn’t let anything go by that was mediocre. Everything had to be the best we could possibly do, whether it was vocals or guitar parts or lyrics or whatever it was, so we just invested great amounts of time making it as good as we possibly could before it went out.

Having worked with such a detail-oriented band like the Eagles, did that spoil you when it came to working with other musicians post-Eagles?

Don Felder: It wasn’t that they weren’t trying as hard, it was just their way of making records… We had what was called a giant microscope. We put the giant microscope on every note of every track that was on that record. If there was something that was a hair out of time it was fixed. If there was something that was a little out of tune it was punched in, re-recorded, and fixed. If there was a vocal that was just a little off, it was re-sung. Nothing got by that was mediocre.

One of your notable Eagles co-writes was “Those Shoes,” which was copied for a WWF theme song for the wrestler Razor Ramon. Any thoughts of that similarity?

Don Felder: I never heard it, I have never seen it. I don’t watch WWF so I have no idea what you are talking about… Are they still using it?

It pops up occasionally on retrospectives.

Don Felder: Yeah, I didn’t know. It slid under the radar.

So finally, Don, any last words for the kids?

Don Felder: Yeah, three words: Practice, practice, practice. It is the only way you get anything you want in this world. You’ve gotta work hard for it.

[Featured Image by Michael Helms]

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