Eagles member takes flight with solo album
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He's the Eagle who isn't Don Henley or Glenn Frey or Joe Walsh.
That would be Timothy B. Schmit, the bass player who joined the mega-selling rock band in time to record one album before it broke up in 1980, a split that left him "pretty shocked."
To make matters worse, he was undergoing a divorce at the time, and he struggled to stay afloat in the ensuing decade as he rebuilt his life with a new family.
No job was too small for his ageless tenor vocal and multi-instrumental prowess. Japanese albums. Records for Twisted Sister and Poison. Tours with Toto and Jimmy Buffett.
He released three solo albums before the Eagles reunited in 1994. A fourth followed in 2001, and his fifth one comes out next Tuesday through Lost Highway Records, making him the only Eagle to release any solo discs this millennium.
Schmit, 61, recorded "Expando" on his own dime at his home studio in Los Angeles during breaks from the Eagles, who have been on the road on and off since May last year.
He recruited some high-profile friends for select tracks, including Graham Nash, Dwight Yoakam and Kid Rock on background vocals; blues guitarists Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Keb' Mo'; Van Dyke Parks on accordion; Gary Burton on vibes; and keyboardists Garth Hudson of the Band and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers.
Unlike the 2007 Eagles album "Long Road Out Of Eden," for which Schmit co-wrote the title track, the recording was not done through the exchange of email files.
"As corny as it sounds, I wanted to keep it as organic as possible," Schmit told Reuters in a recent interview. "Everybody who did appear on the record came through my studio doors here."
That includes the Blind Boys of Alabama, who showed up in their van -- someone else was driving -- singing along to a Schmit demo that was blasting from their CD player.
Schmit deliberately did not involve his fellow Eagles on the project, in part because he viewed it as a modest hobby with "zero pressure." Also, his bandmates scatter to the four winds when they're off the clock.
Even though Schmit cut his teeth in the country rock genre, first with the Buffalo Springfield offshoot Poco and then in a watered-down hugely commercial fashion with the Eagles, "Expando" showcases his first love: folk music. As the comically funky autobiographical track "White Boy From Sacramento" goes, "I think the Kingston Trio is so gear."
"The first singing group I was in, we were such fans of the Kingston Trio that we dressed exactly like them and sang their songs," he recalled, pulling out a photo of his 14-year-old self rehearsing for his group's first gig. "Don't get me started! They were definitely a big influence on me."
Schmit befriended Kingston Trio co-founder Nick Reynolds in the six months before he died last October, and is the proud guardian of the tenor guitar that Reynolds played on such hits as "Tom Dooley."
Schmit veers toward the introspective on such tunes as "Compassion," "Melancholy" and "Downtime." And he croons sweet nothings to his wife of 25 years in "Ella Jean," not that it gets him out of doing the dishes.
"She's not particularly impressed, in general," he said. "The first night I met her, I asked her if she wanted to hear some music. She said, 'Sure.' She thought I was going to play her some tapes or something. Well, I picked up the guitar and started singing. She was so unimpressed, which completely attracted me."
He makes it a family affair on "White Boy From Sacramento," which features lead guitar from his youngest son Ben, a 19-year-old student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
With the Eagles off the road until "some time next year," Schmit will hit the road with a small band to play a selection of club shows, beginning Wednesday in Los Angeles.
"I don't have a big solo record of hits," he said. "I'm going to hit this album a lot, and hopefully have a good time doing it."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)