It’s been almost 20 years since Glenn Frey released his last solo album, Strange Weather. In that time, he’s taken bit roles in TV shows and movies, worked on various charity projects, raised a family and played a lot of golf. He also reunited with a little group called the Eagles in 1994. They crossed the world on many tours and, in 2006, released the album The Long Road Out of Eden. Frey’s schedule has left little time for a solo career, but on May 8th he’s releasing After Hours, a collection of classic love songs that includes Forties standards like “Sentimental Reasons” and “My Buddy” alongside more recent tunes, like “Caroline, No” by the Beach Boys and “Same Girl” by Randy Newman.
We chatted with Frey about the new disc and what the future holds for the Eagles – including a new documentary about the group and a History of the Eagles retrospective tour tentatively planned for 2013.
It’s been a long time since the last Glenn Frey solo album. Why the delay?
Well, I’ve been pretty busy, obviously, with the Eagles. I’m also raising a family. My son is nine. I have two kids that have just now gone off to college. So those are big responsibilities. That takes me away from it. I’ve also been especially busy with the Eagles in the past five or six years. Obviously, there’s more to life than making records. But this record is something I’ve been carrying around with me for a long time. I remember when I first head Harry Nilsson’s album, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, and he did Gershwin and Cole Porter. And of course Linda [Ronstadt] made her two records with Nelson Riddle. They were beautifully orchestrated, beautifully sung, great material. I just loved everything about those records.
For me personally, a lot of this music is something that was played around my house before Elvis. This is the music that was on the radio, the big band stuff. And then when I moved to California, I met J.D. Souther. He was a big jazz buff, and he turned me on to music I hadn’t heard before, from Miles Davis to Ray Charles to Lee Morgan to Horace Silver, and I loved it.
How did you select the material that you wanted to cover?
I’d pick a song that I really liked, and the record started in the control room with the piano, myself and my producers, Richard Davis and Michael Thompson. We’d say, “What about ‘My Buddy’? What about ‘Sentimental Reasons’?” And they’d say, “Yeah, that’s a great song. Is there a version we should listen to?” And I’d say, “Yeah, just Nat King Cole, and that’s it.” We’d listen to the song, we’d find a key, we’d pick a tempo, and we’d sit there and I’d sing the song in the control room with the guys. It had to be a good marriage. It had to be something that suits my voice. We tried some songs that didn’t work. I won’t tell you what they are.
But that’s mainly the criteria. Just pick a great song. And you know, as a songwriter myself I have so much admiration and respect for this material. I know how difficult it is to write songs. So I think I bring a certain degree of reverence because of that. But basically it was just, “How’s the song sound with me singing it?” And we picked the ones that we thought sounded the best.
I’m sure it’s daunting to tackle a song as flawless as “Caroline, No.”
Sometimes an album just develops a life of its own. In that case, I didn’t want it to be all songs from the Forties. I wanted it to be a record for piano. And of course the melody is so beautiful and the chord changes are so rich and perfect. That’s the thing about every song in this record. Nothing is out of place.
I see that you’re doing a brief tour to support the disc. Are you going to mix Eagles songs into the set?
I have to. You start out and you play them some familiar songs so they’re starting to get their money’s worth right away, and then sort of in the middle of the set I think I can move into playing about five, six, seven songs from this record. And then feather out of that and play some other songs at the end that they all know. But the funny thing about this is, with just a couple of exceptions, everybody knows some of these songs.
I’ve heard Joe Walsh say that the Eagles are planning a 40th anniversary tour for this year. Is that the case?
Well, that sounds great, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s just kind of the way that things fall. This is more of a planning year for us. We went through a four-year touring cycle with Long Road Out of Eden, and this year we’re playing some places where we’ve never played before. That’s been sort of our goal now – at least once a year, go to a place where we haven’t played. Last year we went to China and to Taiwan. We went to Iceland, we played some places . . . South Korea . . . some places we’ve never been. This year it’s South Africa, it’s Dubai. We’re going to play Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year. Just a handful of shows this year.
We’re working on a two-DVD documentary of the history of the Eagles. It’s a time-consuming project. We hired a fantastic director – Alex Gibney, he won the Academy award for Taxi to the Dark Side, about Guantanamo. He also directed Smartest Guys in the Room, the Enron documentary, which was also nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. So he’s helming this whole mission that we have right now, and there’s a couple of other things I can’t actually talk about. But as far as touring goes, we haven’t decided to do that yet. We might wait until this documentary come out and then do a tour we can call “History of the Eagles.”
Joe was talking about a set list that goes chronologically through the history, with a lot of archival video getting incorporated into the show.
That’s exactly . . . yeah. I could see us doing that. I just don’t see us doing that this year. I see us getting ready to do this. Maybe when September comes around we can sort of look and say, “OK. Let’s go out next year and let’s do” – like you said. That’s my idea, but whether it happens or not we gotta just wait and see. We just do one year at a time with the band. It seems to be the best way to take everybody’s temperature and see what we’re up for doing each year. It just didn’t fall that we were going to be doing some big 40th anniversary tour – it may be better to sweep that 40 number under the carpet. People will look at the map and they’ll figure out that we’re really, really old. The Stones are doing the 50th, and the Beach Boys. So maybe we should stay out of that.
The fans would love to see Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon back on stage with you guys at some point on that tour. Do you think that’s possible at some point?
Well, I think . . . I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to say that’s hard for me to envision right now but, like I said, I don’t know yet. I have to think about all of this stuff but, obviously, my head is somewhere else for the next couple of months. Like we usually do, the four of us will sit down some place on the road and we’ll get in a dressing room or get into somebody’s hotel room and we’ll go, “Well, here’s what I think we should be doing” or, “Here’s what are options are this year. What do you think?” and we’ll talk about it. That conversation will probably take place sometime this year.
Does it ever just shock you to look at the sales stats and see just how many records the Eagles have sold?
I don’t get up every morning and say, “God dang! Eagles Greatest Hits is now past 30 million! It’s unbelievable!” But, you know, it boggles the mind somewhat. You have to adjust when things like this happen. You just have to keep perspective. As long as I keep taking out the garbage and cleaning up after the dogs and taking the kids to school, I’ll have perspective. I don’t get to bask in the afterglow much. I told the guys in my band, “The reason I like coming out there is because people do what I say, and this is the only place where that happens.”
It’s very gratifying to think that we’ve found this place and that we are where we are. And, believe me, we understand how we got here and we have a lot of appreciation for our fans and all the people who bought our music. If one-fifth of the Eagles fans in the United States buy this record because they wondered what I did and then were introduced to this kind of music, that would be fabulous. This record is more about the music than it is about me. That’s really the way I feel about it. I just feel lucky that I’ve been able to make this record and have an opportunity to introduce this music to some people that maybe haven’t listened to it much.