Having formed The Eagles back in 1971, Glenn Frey is responsible for arguably one of the best songs in music history, the platinum-selling single ‘Hotel California’. Now, with the imminent release of his sixth solo album, ‘After Hours’, RedHotVelvet caught up with the inimitable musician in the Soho private members club, Blacks.
Dressed in a smart suit with a day of interviews ahead of him, Frey is demure and focused. The decadent room in the restored Georgian building mirrors his multi-layered character, yet there’s not a hint of celebrity about the sexagenarian. “I’m really happy,” he says about being in London. “I have a lot of connections to Britain from the early days of my career. We made our first two records here – it’s always nice to come back. It’s very different from the London I came to in 1972. But it still has a lot of charm.”
‘After Hours’ is quite a departure from Frey’s previous releases. A melange of classics from the 40s to the 60s, he describes how the album came about: “I’ve been carrying this energy around for a long time. I finally decided to get started on the record since both my parents are still alive and I wanted them to enjoy it. It’s the music they grew up listening to; it’s an homage to the music of my childhood.”
“One nice experience I had a few years back was playing in the Pebble Beach ATNT Pro Am Golf tournament in Northern California. Clint Eastwood is the king and unofficial head of the tournament, and the night before the event, they throw a party in the Montaray Civic Centre where Clint asks some of the artists to perform or tell jokes. Of course, they asked if I could play something, and I said yes, but then I got a note that asked me to play one of my well known hits and something from the 40s!”
“So I gulped and started wracking my brains for what I was gonna do. Turns out Tony Bennett and I have the same range, we can sing in the same key. So I started singing his songs at the event each year, and it was fun! I really enjoyed it. Michael Bolton came over to me and said I sounded really good and asked if I ever thought of making a record. So, I went back to LA, and worked with Richard Davis and Michael Thompson [from The Eagles touring band] and we made some demos.”
Were there any tracks you cut that didn’t make the final record? “Not really. We’d try them out in a room like this,” Glenn gestures to the size of the room with its piano in the corner, “and we’d find the chords, start singing and see if it works. We knew before we cut the tracks if they were any good. The first three songs were ‘The Good Life’, ‘I Wanna Be Around’ and ‘The Look Of Love’.
When asked about perfectionism, Frey is honest. “I think I’m a perfectionist in whatever I do. I think you gotta aim high and make it as good as it can be. We made this record over a long period of time. My keyboard guys are with The Eagles so we had the same schedule. We put it together like a jigsaw. You can’t do a 1000 piece jigsaw in one day, so we worked on it in bits and pieces. We took our time with it and we did a good job, I’m really proud of the record.
Do you find solo work less stressful to record? “Well, the decision making process is simplified compared to working in a band. I’m working with the other two guys who I really trust, and the engineer, so we still have lots of discussions. A record is like a tattoo – it’ll be with you for the rest of your life. Or longer!
Sipping a glass of water, Glenn smiles as he considers songs he wishes he’d written. “Oh, y’know, I wish I’d written anything Randy Newman or Paul Simon wrote. Or Bridge Over Troubled Water. Yesterday.” Anything you wish you hadn’t written?! “Yeah, but I’m not giving any secrets away! There are some songs I wish I’d written better – let’s leave it at that!”
When asked about plans for a solo tour of the UK to support ‘After Hours’, Frey is typically modest. “Hopefully we’ll generate enough interest to play a few shows, some small romantic halls. More intimate shows are a better way for the music on this album.”
With six Grammy Awards under The Eagles’ collective belt, some fans are hoping for new material from the legendary band, but Frey refutes any possibility of that happening soon. “No, no plans for an album, but we’ve been working intensely over the last year on a 2 DVD documentary on the Eagles, We hired a really talented Academy Award winning film maker Alex Gibney. He’s done a terrific job. I think that’ll come out around Christmas maybe, then we’ll go on the road. We might do some recordings to include with the video project, but we’ll address that in the Fall. Things with The Eagles always happen when they’re supposed to happen. It’s an entity unto itself. We play when it’s the right time to play, we record when it’s the right time to record. But we never force it.”
Asked about how he thinks the music industry has changed throughout his career, Glenn is confident in his answer. “It’s a double edged sword. There’s a lot more media involved. Before, you made a record, the singles went on AM radio, the album tracks went on FM radio, you did a few interviews and TV shows, and that was it. Now it’s a many tentacled animal. The best thing you can do now is to get your music on TV.”
Does he think it’s harder to get new music noticed in today’s world? “We have a fast food attitude to music nowadays. We buy it, eat it and throw it away. It’s very instant. I asked my kids about this, and they said if a record has at least three songs they like, they’ll buy the album. If it’s only one track, they’ll just download it.” And what new music is he enjoying at the moment? “I like The Gorrillaz. I always keep up to date with Jack White and his different projects. And Adele, I like her.”
We ask Glenn if he wants to play a quick fire word association game and huge smile spreads across his face. “I need some wine! Is it a drinking game?!” A brief moment passes as we wonder who’s going to order the wine – Glenn’s assistant? His PR manager? “I’m joking!” he grins.
Hotel California? “Ohh, err… Gosh… Y’know… Yeah… It’s an epic song on an epic record! A big part of my life.”
Drugs? “Err… Mostly not good!”
Don Henley? “Brilliant. Gifted. Tenacious. Committed.”
Life? “Short and wide.”
And with that, we leave the thoroughly pleasant Glenn Frey to enjoy his late lunch – a delicious looking vegetable and chicken pie. Despite such an awe-inspiring career, he’s really rather normal.
Photos by Rachael-Emily.com