Former Eagles guitarist/songwriter — not to mention multi-Grammy winner — Don Felder isn't one to simply rest on his laurels.
In addition to penning his best-selling memoir in 2008, Felder’s most recent album, 2012's Road to Forever, has done incredibly well on the classic rock charts and recently was re-released as an extended-edition package with four additional songs.
Felder is out on the road now with Styx and Foreigner in what’s being billed the Soundtrack of Summer tour. The jaunt coincides with the release of a new album of the same name. It features a collection of hits from the bands, and finishes off with a brand-new interpretation of the Eagles' “Hotel California."
I recently spoke to Felder about the Soundtrack of Summer tour, his early years with the Eagles and much more. Check out the interview below.
How did the Soundtrack of Summer project come about?
I’ve known the Styx guys for many years. We’ve done many benefits together in the past and started doing some shows together. Tommy [Shaw] and I became good friends, and he even volunteered some of his time to writing lyrics and singing on my last CD, Road to Forever. So when the idea for doing a Styx and Foreigner tour came up and my name was mentioned, I said "Absolutely!" The catalog of these three bands is just magnificent. I’m excited to be a part of it.
What can fans expect from your set?
I do some of the Eagles songs I recorded and played live with the band for 27 years. Songs like “Hotel California," “Heartache Tonight," “Those Shoes” and a version of “Seven Bridges Road” that we used to do with the Eagles years ago. We even do a version of my song “Heavy Metal,” which was something the audience used to yell out for us to do during the Hell Freezes Over tour [laughs].
What is it about classic rock that makes it so timeless and special?
Great songs really carry an era, and back in the Sixties and Seventies, there were a lot of great songwriters. When you think about the music from that era that has survived, it's because they were great songs people really bonded with. It’s the reason people are still going out to see the shows today.
How did you hook up with the Eagles?
I joined the band in 1974 and was working with David Crosby and Graham Nash at the time. I had already known the guys in the Eagles for years; Bernie Leadon and I had actually known each other since high school. One day they called me up and asked me to come in and do a session for them. So I went over and played on the song "Good Day In Hell." I remember they called me back the next day and asked me to join the band.
What's the origin of “Hotel California”?
We were in the process of writing songs for our next record, and I had rented a beach house in Malibu. I had a little reel to reel and every time I had an idea, I would go in and record it. I remember I was sitting on the couch in Malibu playing guitar when out came that progression. So I played it a few more times and then went back and recorded it and later put some bass and a few more guitar parts on it. I put it on a reel along with about a dozen other ideas I was working on and gave it to the band. I told them that if there were any ideas on there they wanted to finish to just let me know.
Sure enough, [Don] Henley called me up a few days later and said, "Yeah, I found one that has kind of a Mexican, reggae, bolero sound." I immediately knew which one he was talking about. Two songs actually came out of those ideas. One became "Victim of Love" and the other became "Hotel California."
Is it true you once gave guitar lessons to Tom Petty?
There was a store in Gainesville, Florida, called Lipham Music where I used to teach guitar. Tom is a few years younger than me; I remember one day he came in wanting to take guitar lessons. At the time, he was playing bass in a band called the Rucker Brothers Band, but he didn't think playing bass was a cool way to front the band so he wanted to play guitar. There were actually a lot of people from Gainesville who went on to have great careers. Steven Stills and I had a band together when we were 14. Bernie Leadon and I were in bands together and went on to the Eagles. Duane Allman taught me how to play slide guitar. A lot of people from that area went on to become well-known.
How did the recording of The Long Run contribute to the first breakup of the Eagles?
We had been on and off the road and in and out of the studio for years before that album. We had never really gotten any real time to recharge and recoup, and were at the point of exhaustion. Not to mention the fact that we had just gotten off of Hotel California with this monstrous hit and now had the added pressure of having to match it or do even better. It was a difficult time. There were a lot of breakdowns, anger outbursts and other things that were going on.
At that point, I thought it was the end of our career as the Eagles. That's why the album cover is black and looks like a funeral. The photographs inside are all darkly lit. It just came off feeling like, “This is the end...it's been a very long run.”
If you had to pick one moment from you career that’s most memorable, what would it be?
I remember it being a few days before our New Year’s Eve Millennium show [which also happened to be the last show Felder would perform with the Eagles]. We had a press conference, and the RIAA presented us with an award for the largest-selling album of the 20th century [The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975]. It hit me in the forehead like a Louisville Slugger. Nobody had ever really kept track of how many records we had sold or where we were in comparison to anybody else. It was just overwhelming. Especially when you think about all of the other people who've made records: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
A lot of people have hallways in their homes that are lined with gold and platinum records from all of their life’s work, but not me. I only have one.
Photo: Michael Helms
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.