Don Felder talks about working with The Eagles and his new solo album

Don Felder is probably best known for his lead guitar work with The Eagles. Felder was inducted with the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 however left the group shortly their after. He has recently released a new solo album titled “Road to Forever” which is his first solo release in 30 years. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Don recently about the album, his autobiography and his plans for 2013.

Adam Lawton: With your last solo album being released 30 years ago what prompted you to now release an album of new material?
Don Felder: When you are in The Eagles you eat, breath and sleep Eagles business. You are either on the road, writing songs, doing interviews or performing. It is something that is all consuming and a monster of a machine. When I left the band in 2001 I really went through a period of self reflection. I started meditating between 30 and 40 minutes a day where I would look back at my life. I was trying to get a handle on what had happened to me and how I had changed. I would come out of these sessions and write down my recollections. My fiancé had read them and told me she thought it would make a great book. I told her that I was the world’s worst English student in high school and I actually had to go to summer school because I failed English. The next thing I know I am on a plane to New York with a literary agent. We ended up coming back with 5 offers from publishing companies to publish this book. I then had to look at the daunting task of having to take all these recollections  of my life story and write it in to a book. That took some time. During that first year of separation from the Eagles I also was separating/divorcing from my wife. Everything that I knew was stripped away from me. I had to find a place where I could resolve all of that. As I was going through the book writing process there would be painful parts that I needed to work through. To help myself through those tuff times I would go in to my home studio and write a song about it. I wrote 26 song ideas at about the same time I was writing my book. This was an effort to emotionally and intellectually flush myself of these feelings. I didn’t want to carry this excess baggage with me through the remaining years of my life. After the book was published I went out on the road to promote it as well as doing shows with my solo band which I have had for about the last 8 and a half years. In between all of that I worked on this album. I took the best 16 songs from the original 26 and recorded them for this CD. At that point I really shifted myself away from book writing and promotion. There were a lot of reasons that caused this album to take so long. I definitely wasn’t at home just twiddling my thumbs. (Laughs) I had a really full plate on all levels.

AL: Did you find any similarities between writing a book and writing music?
DF: Absolutely! It was a dual cathartic experience. On one hand I was writing the text of my life while on the other I was writing the music to my life. I turned those stories and experiences in to songs. To me real art weather its film, literature, painting or music contains stuff that have a human common denominator. People can experience those things and relate to them. I felt it was important for me to take my experiences and put them in these songs.  For me that is one of the most personal things an artist can do is to expose themselves in these ways. I felt the process to be very personal on both levels.

AL: The album features an impressive lineup of guest appearances. How did you go about picking people to appear on the album?
DF: One of my top criteria was having people that I know and who are good people and friends that wanted to have fun. When I finished the song “Fall From the Grace of Love” I wanted it to have these really great harmonies in the chorus. I called my friend Steven Stills who I was in a band with when I was 15. He actually lives down the road from me and we hang out and play golf together. When I got to California the first band I was in was Crosby, Nash. I called those guys up and asked them if they would sing on the record. They came over immediately and we had a really great time. There was no drama like I was so used to with my old band. Steve Lukather is probably one of the funniest guys to be in a room with. Not only is he a great guitar player but he is a ton of laughs. He played on the song “Road to Forever”. Tommy Shaw of Styx came in and helped with a couple tracks. Randy Jackson also came in and did some bass work on a song. Everyone knows him as the “Dawg dude” on “American Idol” but, he is a monster bass player! Randy is probably one of the top players in the Los Angeles area. He just destroyed this thing. They are all just friends of mine who happened to be in or around town. We had a lot of fun and made some great music. Those sessions really wiped away the old stigma of being in the studio and having arguments and contentious feelings. There was none of that and everything was just all good. In fact I had such a good time that I will promise the next album will not take another 30 years. (Laughs)

AL: How did your song “Fall From the Grace of Love” end up being chosen to appear in an episode of Showtime’s “Homeland”?
DF: I love the show and was just as shocked as everyone else when I heard they wanted to use one of my songs. I watch that show religiously as I think it is one of the most exciting shows on television right now. I got a call a few weeks back by the people who handle my publishing company that they had received a request from the people at “Homeland” to use the song. I said absolutely and felt quite honored.

AL: Can you tell us about your tour plans for the rest of this year and in to 2013?
DF: I think my last date for 2012 is December 15th. We have had such a great response to not only the new record but also the live shows that I plan on working from early February through fall of 2013. I will probably stay out on the road until it gets too cold to be slopping around out there. I could certainly use a vacation right now. It seems the closest I get to a vacation these days is doing interviews with people like yourself.

AL: What do you think has been the biggest change in your audiences over the years?
DF: Personally I am not a fan of going to really large venues like football stadiums or hockey arenas to hear music. I think that is the wrong place to go. The sound is usually bad and most instances you are so far away from the stage that you get a better show watching the video monitor than you do from your seat. It is just not comfortable. I prefer to play the 3-5,000 seat arenas. In the summer I do like playing larger venues like State Fairs and such with bands like Reo Speedwagon and the Doobie Brothers. Those big festivals that happen during the day are really great and people love that. I think the smaller venues are much more comfortable and intimate. It also is better sounding for the artist and listener at a smaller venue. We are also able to make the ticket prices much more affordable than that of say the Eagles. About 60 percent of my shows consist of Eagles songs while the rest is covers and solo material. It’s a great evening where by the end everyone is up on their feet dancing and having a great time. There is no drama as it’s just a great group of guys playing great music and having fun.

AL: Is there anything else we can be watching for from you in the coming year?
DF: There are a lot of things in the planning stages for 2013. Those things will start to show up on the website once they become public. Right now there are a couple tours being planned. One includes going to Japan, Europe and Australia. That is going to be contingent on the routing of where we will be and when during next year. I can’t really say exactly what will happen until those are contracted. I love to be out playing music and have a very child like enthusiasm for it. When you are doing something you love to do it is a playful experience. I have been fortunate enough and been given the gift to be able to do what I love. I enjoy it for that.

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