Don Felder talks Styx/Foreigner tour, solo album and the Eagles

May 20, 2014

Don Felder loves to talk music.

Whether it’s about Styx or Foreigner, his fellow classic rockers sharing a bill on the “Soundtrack of Summer Tour” that comes to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on May 24, or his admiration of “triple threat” artists such as Alicia Keys and John Mayer, Felder is interested.

The former lead guitarist of the Eagles – he’s responsible for those now-historical notes throughout “Hotel California” as well as dozens of other Eagles hits – recently released his second solo album, “Road to Forever” (an extended version with four bonus tracks arrived a few months ago) and also contributed to a new version of “Hotel” featuring Styx and Foreigner on a commemorative CD of the tour.

Fans will recall his gripping and volatile memoir, “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles,” from 2008, and, while Felder does have an idea for another tome, the subject matter might be a bit different.

In a recent call from his home in California, where he’s lived since 1973, the gregarious Felder, 66, talked about his appreciation of his fans, the four hours of hits fans will receive each night of the tour and why he embraces social media.

Q: When the tour was announced, Jeff Pilson of Foreigner told me that he was excited about having you on the bill because you bring a “powerful cachet of songs” and a “great history” to the tour. What were your reasons for wanting to be part of it?

A: (Styx’s) Tommy (Shaw) and I have known each other 10 years or so. The guys in Styx are so much fun, just really nice people. There’s no drama, no egos. The same with Foreigner. We were working on some rehearsals to announce the tour, and it just seemed like a really fun group of people. I thought, this is going to be a really fun tour. It seemed like we could go out for three months together and not get sick of each other.

Q: Does it matter to you that you’re the first guy on stage every night?

A: Most people in that first slot gets 30 minutes, but I’m doing an hour, hour 15. The whole show is going to be about four hours. We want them standing up and not getting numb-butt.

Q: Do you like doing shed tours?

A: The thing that started me playing when I was 10 was the love of playing music. I don’t care if I’m playing a corporate event, a shed event or a billionaire birthday party. I love to play and to be able to go out with this catalog, it’s going to be a really fun summer. I don’t care where we play, to tell you the truth.

Q: With your new material, what is the approach with radio since most programmers are reluctant to play new material from veteran acts?

A: Classic rock radio, they love my stuff. They’ll be waiting with open arms for this next single. A lot of people I’ve known for 40 years in the radio business  understand my tragic departure from the Eagles and are willing to give it a spin. It saddened me that the Eagles would not speak to the press. They’d do one press conference and then get up and leave after 30 minutes. They didn’t understand that these people are your friends. I take the opposite approach.

Q: What’s your feeling about social media?

A: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…you have to embrace that sort of stuff and allow fans access. I read my Facebook stuff and try to respond to some of the people. It’s an odd thing for me to say, “Buy my CD, come to my show, but…don’t talk to me.”

If you go on YouTube, you’ll probably see hundreds of videos of me. I don’t care. You either have to embrace that and say it’s OK or be a dictator. It does dismay me to see people viewing the world through this iPhone lens, but if they want to capture that moment, why not? Typically at the end of the show, I’ll walk back onstage and there will be people who want to sign things, take pictures, and I’ll take the time. Why not? What’s 15 minutes out of my day? A lot of artists don’t do that.

Q: What did (solo album) “Road to Forever” symbolize for you, personally? Was it a cathartic experience?

A: I was in the process of writing my autobiography and as I was doing this emotional excavation of my life, for my own personal growth, I would get these overwhelming emotions that I could express much better in music. I try to capture those ideas in songs. One of them was the death of my father, which “Road to Forever” is about. I started writing that right after his passing in 1974-75; he never really got to see the success of my music career. That wave of emotion came back and I wanted to write this song as a nod to him.

I wanted to find some way to heal myself. I came up with “Heal Me,” so a lot of the songs on the album came from a lot of the personal reflection that I had experienced in writing that book.

Q: Are you always writing?

A: I am cursed with the driven desire to write music, lyrics, songs, guitar parts. I catch myself driving down the freeway or on a plane dictating into my iPhone. I try to spend time every day working on that. I wind up collecting tons of odds and ends. After August I’m going to sift through those things and complete song ideas and go in and record them for another project for 2015. I’m always in the process of scribbling something down, otherwise I will forget it.

Q: Who do you listen to these days? Any new acts, or new guitarists, that you really admire?

A: One thing I do is record every late-night show. I don’t necessarily watch them, but I’ll scroll to see who the artist is, looking for the next Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and I’m sadly disappointed over and over that I see fewer and fewer great guitarists. I think Guitar Hero has taken over what playing guitar used to be. Kids who grew up with it, they’re really good at the game. But I like Gary Clark Jr. - he’s a great, soulful player. I really like people who are the triple threat, who write, sing and play their own instruments. Alicia Keys, she’s a great artist, the Aretha of the 21stcentury. She can be in a room by herself with no band and make the hair stand up. John Mayer is the triple threat. Stephen Stills, John and I are going to jam on a blues song. Those triples threats deserve the ultimate respect.

Q: Is there a volume 2 of a book in you?

A: I’ve been playing around with a book called “Road Tales,” stories from the road, to do for charity. I want to get a lot of people from the music business who have really funny stories. Whoever contributes to it, a portion of the proceeds would go to their charity. I’ve been collecting stories, but I don’t have enough yet for a book.

Q: I know things aren’t friendly between you and the Eagles, but do you still keep in touch with (founding member) Bernie Leadon?

A: I was in touch with him until he rejoined the Eagles. We’ve known each other since we were 15, but the Eagles have an unusual philosophy -- you’re either a soldier in their army, or you’re their enemy. I’m really good friends with (sometime-Eagles bassist) Randy Meisner. I’ve reached out to try to shake hands with those (other) guys to leave history in a good place and they refuse to extend the hand.

Article via Access Atlanta
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