Glenn Frey of The Eagles sets his standards high
By Harris Cohen Special to The Post and Courier – Wednesday, November 7, 2012
If you go
What: Glenn Frey
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St.
Price: Requires $500 membership to Music With Friends, plus $1,500 annual fee for three shows
For more info: www.musicwithfriends.com
A combination of heading up one of the most successful American bands, a successful solo career during a lengthy “temporary” hiatus of that band and a notable acting career could have led Glenn Frey to take it easy.
Instead, The Eagles re-reunited in 2007 and released the chart-topping double album “Long Road Out of Eden,” and Frey plays the new kid in town with his recently released dynamic collection of standards titled “After Hours.”
Frey related a desire to record an album like this for the past 20 years, but The Eagles, raising a family and other matters delayed the project.
Now with more time, the most altruistic reason drove Frey: both of his parents are still living.
“My father is 91 and my mother is 88. I wanted to finish the record while they are still around and for them to enjoy for a long time to come. This is the music they listened to when they were growing up,” Frey said.
Frey said he listens to the style of music he chose for the album a lot, as it is a nice diversion from what he typically plays. He was familiar with many songs of the era.
More so, he was a partner in a restaurant in the ’90s, and his co-owners asked him to record eight hours of music for background ambience. “I bought every record from every artist of that era: Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, everyone. The restaurant came and went, but I kept the CDs,” Frey laughed.
He then was asked by Clint Eastwood at the AT&T Pro Am golf tournament to volunteer to sing some songs from the ’40s at the party. Frey went back to the CDs he had made and concluded he could sing “The Good Life” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in the same key as Tony Bennett. “I did this for a few years, the audience enjoyed it, I enjoyed it and I gained a feel for what this is like’” he said.
Afterward, friend Michael Bolton suggested he take his interest further. Frey made a few demos with some buddies, and he thought they sounded good. Once in the studio, with a song list, they obtained the lyrics and worked out the appropriate key. “With just a piano, we wanted to see where the song took us,” Frey said, adding, “It was most important that the songs were a good fit for my voice.”
Frey does not prefer the term “standards” as a category for this album, instead seeing “After Hours” as a collection of classic love songs.
He originally wanted the album to consist of all ballads with no peaks or valleys in terms of tempo. “I wanted to create a mood,” he said.
However, a friend suggested one song should have an upbeat, faster pace. Frey reasoned “Route 66” fit the bill and is a love song, one for driving.
As covering standards tunes has become popular with albums released by Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney and Michael Buble, among others, Frey didn’t listen to a lot of versions of a song.
“I only listened if there was a definitive version, as I didn’t want the outside influence. Not that theirs weren’t good or honest,” Frey said.
Desiring his own vision and staying true to the spirit of the project, he funded the effort himself.
“No record company told me to make this. As much as it sounds like a cliche, it was a true labor of love,” Frey said, comparing the effort to a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with a piece for every note.
As soon as Frey became a songwriter, he gained an appreciation for this material.
“I know how hard it is to write a really good song, and a great one can take a little luck. It’s certainly not three chords and Budweiser,” he said, adding, “These are some of the most venerable artists ever. This record is about the songs, not me.”
Being a prolific songwriter himself and having others cover his material, Frey emphasized the respect for the material, saying, “Artists write the lyrics, the specific words, the melody and chords for a reason, and a lot of thought goes into a song before it’s finalized. I loved studying the songs. I lived with the songs, and it was fun.”
Although an accomplished and successful musician and singer, Frey did not simply walk in and sing, saying it was a learning process where he had to practice and sing the songs over again until he felt control and a sense of ownership of the songs. “This is more nuanced material. It’s like being naked out there, so I had better have my act together,” he said.
With his own successful songwriting, Frey desired to place an original song on the disc.
He called one of his writing partners, Jack Tempchin, to see if he wanted to write a standard-genre song together. Tempchin replied, “Glen, we’ve already done that!”
The song “After Hours” was to conclude Frey’s 1984 “The Allnighter” album but was left off due to the more rocking style of the collection. They found the demo, thought it fit and was also a great title for this release.
After ‘After Hours’
Frey said he wants to record another album in this style, calling “After Hours” only a stab at the genre.
“I feel I have to. This just got my feet wet. I’m feeling comfortable and there are so many songs I didn’t get to,” Frey said.
He even started talking about a follow-up prior to finishing this one. Frey already has five songs in mind and mentioned artists Louis Armstrong and Peggy Lee along with more from Randy Newman, Dinah Washington and Burt Bacharach for new material.
With The Eagles still playing select concerts, when asked if there is another Eagles album to come, Frey replied, “Oh, God, I don’t know.”
He elaborated that it is not an emotional decision but a logistical one as it takes a long time to write, compose and record an album, which means lengthy stays away from their families.
“If we have something new and interesting, it probably makes more sense to put out an EP or even just a single,” Frey said.
In the interim, solo projects have occupied the band’s members, and The Eagles will release a career-spanning DVD at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
The band started the project a couple of years ago and had been talking about it for 10 years. They picked Academy Award winner Alex Gibney to direct the project and unearthed vintage footage including the band backing Linda Ronstadt.
“It’s a good story, a good movie and it’s the truth and not all gloss. We’ve lived the American Dream,” Frey said.
Music With Friends
Frey is excited about the Music With Friends shows tonight in Charlotte and Tuesday at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston.
“I’ve been looking forward so very much to playing these songs in such small venues. There’s a lot more control, everyone can see and hear clearly. It makes everything so intimate, magical even. It’s easier to chat with the audience and tell the stories behind the songs. November is going to be a lot of fun,” Frey said.
For these shows, Frey will open with familiar songs from his catalog, then move to “After Hours” material.
Starting with “For Sentimental Reasons” and “The Shadow of Your Smile,” Frey says, “People are possessed by these songs, and it affects me the same way. It places both the listener and me in a sentimental, melancholy place.”
When looking out at the audience, Frey said he sees people holding hands, then shoulders touching.
“These songs move people and everybody has a place where these songs unlock emotions,” Frey added.
Frey will emphasize songs from “After Hours” and will play tunes from all segments of his career.
“I’m not beholden to the past but will certainly acknowledge and highlight the best songs,” Frey said.
This show concludes the Music With Friends 2012 schedule.
Club founder Larry Farber reflected on the year: “We’re really pleased with the truly wonderful shows by legendary Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight and we’re 90-percent-plus full.”
The club already has sent out a poll for member’s desires for next year’s performers.
Farber said, “It’s not just about the artist and instead the whole experience, the small-venue intimacy and the people.”
This success has led Farber to expand with the club’s third site, tentatively scheduled to debut in November next year in Nashville, Tenn. “The artists have spread the word that these are their favorite shows. Artists and agents are now contacting me. Anything is attainable,” Farber said.
The club also works with its members for charitable causes, with several seats for the shows auctioned for local organizations. The club donated seats to the local Frey concert to the Gibbes Museum of Art in conjunction with the Art and Fame Lecture Series sponsorship.
“Giving back to the community is an integral part of the club,” Farber said.