Don Felder is a rock and roll icon who spent nearly three decades as part of The Eagles, adding memorable guitar work, and writing perhaps the band’s most seminal song, “Hotel California”. This week The Examiner connected with Felder, who after a few minutes of casual conversation, opened up about his new solo album “Road To Forever”, his journey since departing The Eagles and his wife of 30 years, his take on social technology in music, and an anatomy of “Hotel California”.
Felder earned the nickname “Fingers” from fellow Eagle Glenn Frey two years before he would join the legendary band. The nickname was in tribute to his guitar playing abilities. So in 1974 as the band was recording its third album, “On the Border”, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Felder was called upon to help out laying down some slide guitar on the track, “Good Day in Hell”. He did after all learn to play slide from another iconic axe man, Duane Allman. So impressed were The Eagles, Frey called him the next day and asked him to join the band. That’s Felder playing lead on the album’s hit single, “Already Gone”.
So began Felder’s quarter century-plus flight as an Eagle. After splitting from both his wife of 30 years and the band he’d been committed to for half his adult life, Felder was alone with his guitar, his soul, and his thoughts. All three would find their way into deeply personal songs and hundreds of pages of journal entries. The latter would turn into his best-selling book, “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001)”. The former would become the foundation for “Road To Forever”. The journey would prove to be a cathartic one for the 65-year-old, Felder.
“The first thing I did for about the first two years after I separated from the Eagles and went through a divorce with my wife was I started this series of daily meditations trying to really look back at my life and understand how I’d gotten from very impoverished conditions on a little dirt road in north central Florida. Growing up, learning how to play guitar, and all the different bands I’d worked with in Gainesville, then moving to New York, moving to Boston, moving to L.A. then winding up in The Eagles. And how that path had changed me; religiously, morally, ethically—you know I was drug into church by my mother every Sunday from the time I was two years old. I think I still have the scars on my ears from her dragging me in there. Then later in The Eagles I was literally drugged into promiscuity and that whole drinking and drugging lifestyle. That really wasn’t how I was born and raised, and I wound up doing things that I should not have done. So I really wanted to understand what had happened to me. To get a clear piece of all the puzzles put together. So as I would come out of these daily meditations I would write down these specific recollections. I started filling up legal pads in some sort of cathartic process to understand where I started, where I was and what I wanted to become.
That would ultimately lead to Felder’s book, but there was a second side to his search for self-awareness, and that would return him to his music. As always he would invite his friends to join him. Guys like Steve Lukather, Tommy Shaw, Randy Jackson and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
“At the same time I was writing and sort of cementing all those recollections of my life story I would get these emotional waves that would come over me about certain experiences. And I’ve had a studio in my home since ’82—so I’d go into my studio and I’d write song ideas about those experiences. So through the course of writing this book I assimilated 26 songs. Then after I finished the book, I went out on the road… It was a very bust 10 years. But the one thing that I really missed most was that I wanted new songs to play in my show. So I went back to those 26 song ideas and said I’m gonna look at these with a hard cold eye and discover what are the best 16 tracks. So I took those, went into the studio, worked for about a year with a lot of great players, friends of mine that were gracious to step up and help me. They were not only just brilliant players, but a lot of fun to work with.”
Making music and fun were not elements that Felder was used to feeling in the studio. Recording with The Eagles could be tumultuous.
“The sense that I had in my recent memory of being in a studio making a record was filled with contention and arguments and intensity from the years in The Eagles. And I really didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go out and make a record that was a good experience—a fun experience. (laughs) Steve Lukather, from the time he walks in the room until the time he walks out the door you will be laughing until your stomach hurts, and we just had—everybody that came in had the best time. There was no drama, in 24-point font in quotes, no drama. And I loved it. Why couldn’t we make records like this years ago? This is just fun.”
Don talked in depth about the creation of his newest musical child, shared a few stories of his days with The Eagles, told us why it took 30 years to get a second solo album, and took the time to share the story of building his most noted song, “Hotel California”. Discover how a track that started with a simple acoustic guitar riff on a Malibu beach would set the stage for one of the greatest rock songs and records of the 70s, and all time. Think you know the full story? Listen and learn.
Listen to the full 35 minute interview in the video box at left.
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