As a member of The Eagles – the highest-selling American band in U.S. history – since 1977, Timothy B. Schmit has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won Grammy Awards and played to audiences as recently as last month that he literally could not see the end of.
This coming Saturday, Schmit and his own band will play in a much more intimate setting at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York in support of his 2009 solo release, Expando, which is highlighted by his impeccable and instantly recognizable vocals.
I had a chance to catch up with The Eagles' legendary bassist and singer last week from his home in Los Angles as he was getting set to embark on the 13-date solo tour to talk about Expando, his history with The Eagles and how the band plans to mark its 40th Anniversary.
Jeff: Your solo tour comes to York on May 26 in support of Expando, which was released in 2009, and you wrote and recorded all of the songs in your home studio. That had to be a nice feeling to make a record on your own terms and own time.
Schmit: Yeah it was. It was way different. The buck stopped with me, and I could try and experiment with whatever I wanted to. In a band situation you have to sort of compromise and it's a series of trade-offs, basically. In this situation you do what you please, not to say that the band situation is not a good one, I'm just saying it is different.
Basically I would get a song to a certain point and then have to figure out what to do next and wonder if the song is actually finished – that's a tricky one in itself to know when one is finished. I would think who I would like to play or sing on it and I would kind of just shoot for the top of my favorites.
In some cases, like Graham Nash, he's been a friend for a really long time. I've known him for a long time and that particular song ("Parachute") just begged for his voice so I called and asked him. It's timing too, are you in town and all that sort of stuff.
Kid Rock is a guy I was bumping into all the time in Malibu, and I actually bumped into him in London once. We started talking and swapping phone numbers and he had some time and came over and did that.
It was all really, "Hey, would you come over and do this? I would love to have you play or sing on this or that." Ninety percent of the people I called, maybe more, accepted my offer. A couple people didn't for whatever reason, but mostly people did so it was really great.
I just listened to Expando for the first time the other day and really enjoyed it.
Thanks! This album has been out since 2009, and I really never thought it got a good fair shake and you're proving that to me because people have still not heard it.
I'm hoping that people will get turned onto it because I think they will enjoy it. I mean not everybody, not people that listen to Metallica are necessarily going to like it, but maybe they will I don't know. I think it's worth it.
You have such a recognizeable voice and its hard not to compare these songs to The Eagles. There are a lot of good songs on this album that could pass as Eagles songs, how do you know this is going to be a solo song, this is going to be an Eagles song?
I just write, I write when I can and as much as I can. It's a long process for me. If I think something might be worth Eagles if we indeed are recording, I might pull it out and play it for the others and it either takes or doesn't. If it doesn't, which has happened, I go okay, I have that in my hip pocket for my own album. It's really that simple, I just try to write as much as I can. It's kind of a struggle for me, and it's kind of like being in the zone, you have to be in a zone to do it and once you start to get in that it's hard to get out of it. And you don't want to get out of it because you keep paper by your bedside and stuff like that because when you're falling asleep you think, "Ah. This line should go there!"
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of The Eagles. I read that there is a History of the Eagles DVD in the works, are there any other plans to mark the anniversary?
Well, that is supposed to be finished I think in two parts by Christmas and people are working diligently on that. I don't really know, I don't know if there are going to be other supplementary recordings. I don't really know yet and a lot of different things have been bandied about. We'll see what happens
There's certainly no inclination to do a next album or anything, at least not yet. I don't know if that will ever happen but we did that last one and I never thought we would so that was encouraging. Right now its just the DVD and hopefully we will totally restructure the live show and do a bunch of shows next year. I'm hoping.
Touring with the Eagles and doing a solo tour are completely different. What do you take from each one that you enjoy more than the other?
I really honestly enjoy it all because I kind of get to do it all. We just played the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and that day there were 65,000 people there. It's true there was a bunch of stages and we were on the main stage as the final act on Saturday night and I could not see the end of people. I mean, it was amazing.
We do arenas, typically 12-25,000 thousand-people arenas and sometimes we do stadium shows and it's great. It's a lot of energy at those things, but it's a little less personal than playing a 300-seater or 500-seater, which are more like the venues I will be doing on this solo tour.
It's the same as in you're up there playing and singing and trying to hopefully have the audience relate to the stuff. That's the same, but the difference is the size and how personal it is or isn't. Of course, the smaller venues are much more like sitting around a living room with a fireplace than an arena is. But it's all good!
When The Eagles broke up in 1980, you were relatively newer to the band. How difficult was that to go through?
I was aware that there were some strange vibes and some conflicts but honestly I didn't realize how deep they were because I was fairly new in the organization and these kind of things had been I guess festering. But I really thought it was regular stuff, it felt like any other band I had been in ya know – having some strains and conflicts and disagreements and this and that.
So when it finally did break up and I knew that was it – and I thought could have been for good like everybody else – I was very upset and I definitely had a sadness going. I was just really getting into it and loving it.
Then my whole lifestyle kind of changed slowly. I was going through a divorce, I was living with another woman who I've been with now for almost 34 years – which was obviously a very good thing, I had my first child, the band broke up, I put a solo record out and then lost my record contract. It was very roller-coastery and I was a little bitter about it too I think, truth be known, silently bitter and upset.
But as soon as I accepted my new lifestyle and saw my glass as half-full and filling up more and more on every other level, and started to come to terms with that, the band – everything started falling together and then we finally did get it back together. So that's how it works right? You just have to accept what's going on and keep working hard and you see what cards you're going to be dealt.
It doesn't seem to be something totally uncommon for bands to fight and break up.
Honestly, it seems to me like every band I've been involved with, or even other bands that I know of, it seems like its kind of normal to always be on the verge of breaking up. It's just kind of the nature of it. So now I really just take it a day at a time and I don't freak out if things are looking grim. Different moods you know, and if the mood is waning it used to really affect me, now I'm really thankful for all that is on my plate, really.
Yeah, I'm sure it did. In 1994 when we did get back together, we really only had planned a couple months of touring, not an extensive thing, and that was going to be it. But it was received on such a massively huge level that we are still going. I always appreciated it, I really did and I still do. I try not to take any of that stuff for granted because it's pretty special stuff. I'm one of the lucky guys, there are a lot of talented people out there who don't get this kind of life, ya know? People are way more talented than me that you'll never hear, I'm one of the lucky guys.
Throughout your career, you've played and sang on so many great songs with your bands and many other bands. Do you have a favorite song that you have been a part of?
Geez, I don't know. I've sung on a lot of really great records and amongst those are some Eagles songs. I was really fortunate with "I Can't Tell You Why" and there's some more what they're calling now "deep tracks" like "Sad Café" on The Long Run album, that was a great one. Off the new album, I think the real gem of the album is "Waiting in the Weeds" – the Henley composition. There's a bunch of Steely Dan songs that I got to sing on that when I hear them it's just so great that I was able to contribute to. I know I'm not being specific but there's just too many.
I got to sing "Caroline No" with the Beach Boys on kind of an obscure record called Stars and Stripes and I went out and sang background with them.
These are really high points to my career and in a lot of these cases like the Beach Boys for instance, I used to listen to them in high school. I never dreamed I would even say hello to one of them, let alone sing with them or know them. Brian Wilson has been to my house, ya know? It's pretty great.
I also read that you are credited with coining the term Parrotheads when you were a member of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band?
Ah! The important question always pops up! [laughs] Yes, I coined that phrase. I played with Jimmy for a short while and was riding in his limousine one time to one of those outdoor venues where you have to drive through the crowd to get to backstage and people started recognizing him and started getting excited. I just said something to the effect of, "You got your own set of Deadheads here, but they're not Deadheads they're Parrotheads," and I guess he liked that.
Once this tour wraps up, what do you have planned next?
I definitely have plans on continuing writing and recording for the next project. I've actually started a little bit. The slow part for me is writing and I'm surrounding quite a few ideas right now and I'm looking forward to that.
For more information on Timothy B. Schmit visit www.timothybschmit.com.
Jeff Cavanaugh writes sanctimonious stories about the genius of rock stars for SaraBozich.com. Follow him on Twitter.