I was given the honor to talk with Don Felder this week. I say the words “given” and “honor” because it’s not everyday when you get to talk with one most well respected musicians in the world, as well as one of the writers of the mega hit song, “Hotel California.” Felder is also regarded as one of the nicest guys in music, and he lived up to that billing in our 30 minute conversation.
Felder is best known as the former lead guitarist of The Eagles, one of the most popular and influential rock groups of our generation. One of their albums, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) sold over 29 million copies in the U.S. alone and was awarded by the RIAA the top-selling album of the 20th Century.
Well, Felder has released a new solo album. It’s called Road to Forever, and it’s great. It must also be great to have ton of friends in the music business that will come out and play on your album, when asked.
Such is the case with Felder. He had, among others, Crosby, Stills, and Nash help out, as did Tommy Shaw of Styx. He even pulled Randy Jackson, or as Felder calls him, “The Dog Dude” off American Idol to play bass on the song, “Someday.”
“Most people don’t realize he (Jackson) is one of the best bass players in Los Angeles, and he has produced so many great records,” admitted Felder. “He’s an amazing musician, as is Tommy Shaw, who also is such a fun guy to work with.”
Felder said he had a blast making this new album, which stands in contrast to some of the times he had with his previous bands when making records.
“You really find out who your friends are,” smiled Felder.
More on that in a bit.
Felder spent 27 years with the Eagles and he originated and co-wrote The Eagles’ smash hit, Grammy-winning “Hotel California” – along with fan favorites like “Victim of Love” and “Those Shoes.” You know his guitar work on legendary songs like “Life in the Fast Lane,” “One of These Nights,” “New Kid In Town,” and many more. After leaving that group in 2001, Felder also became a New York Times bestselling author when his book about his time with The Eagles.
In fact, when talking with singers and musicians, sometimes they know when a song will become a hit. That wasn’t the case with “Hotel California.”
“I had no clue whatsoever,” admitted an appreciative Felder. “I found it a unique set of musical keys that came out, put it on a reel with 16 or 17 song ideas, and gave copies of the cassette to Henley, Frey, Walsh and Meisner.”
The rest is history, and “Hotel California” was born.
Felder also plays an instrument that has always fascinated me, the pedal steel guitar.
“I had to play it when I joined the Eagles back in 1975, along with the banjo, mandolin and other instruments.”
I also asked Felder about one of my favorite bands in Poco, who swapped members with the Eagles back in the day. He also brought up Poco member Rusty Young, who may be the best pedal steel guitar player in the world.
“Rusty Young is absolutely brilliant– not only today, but even back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was heads and shoulders above everybody else that was playing pedal steel guitar in a rock band.”
Felder went on. “Rusty is by far, a five-star musician, and is in his own league.”
Felder also says Poco has his vote if and when they appear on a ballot for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Felder said he’s a fan of technology coming into music, but it depends on what you are comfortable with. He even just recently filmed a video that shows people how to play “Hotel California.”
He also sees the reason mp3s are so popular, but he hates the fact that the high fidelity is lost when we listen to music through ear-buds on an iPod.
“The quality of the frequency bandwidth is gone,” explains Felder. “The music has been compressed down to such a small file, that you can’t compare it to the way it sounds in the studio.”
Felder says he writes songs today with the help of his iPhone.
“If I get an inspiration, I’ll turn it on and sing a melody or hum a chord into it.”
Felder says he has all the modern tools in his studio, but sometimes he reverts to good old pen and paper. You can also follow him on Twitter and friend him on Facebook.
“You get into it, or you get left behind,” laughed the likeable guitarist, when asked about social media.
As a former member of the Eagles, Felder can now look back and appreciate all the talent that was in the band.
“There was an abundance of talent in the band,” Felder explained. “I would write songs and everyone else would, too.”
There were five “A-type” personalities here and it naturally caused friction and emotions to run high.
“Emotions are what it’s all about when it comes to being a musician,” adds Felder. “You get a feeling of emotion and energy from music, it’s a form of art.”
And for those rumors about Felder being one of the nicest guys in music…
“Don’t believe everything you hear,” smiled Felder. “Especially the good stuff.”
You can go to to DonFelder.com to hear samples and buy his new album. It would make a perfect holiday gift.