Glenn Frey - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Mark Taylor   
Sunday, 08 July 2012 04:30

For Eagles singer/guitarist Glenn Frey the heat is most definitely on in the summer of 2012, but it's a version of musical heat probably unfamiliar to a lot of his everyday fans. That's because with his latest studio album 'After Hours' Glenn has gone back to basics to record a piano and vocal album, which makes this interview I did with him recently at one of my usual secret London locations the perfect companion for your Sunday morning chill out.





Hi Glenn, thank you for speaking with Uber Rock today, so how are things with you?


Well I'm doing really good thanks for asking.


Welcome to a very wet and windy London.


Yeah but it's nice here though. It's a lovely day, it's an after hours day.


And funny you should say that because 'After Hours' is the title of your latest solo album, which in many ways is a change of direction for you. Some have called it lounge music some have called it jazz, so how would you describe it?


Well it's a collection of love songs, that's the best way to describe I guess, but it is a little bit jazzy and it is a little bit standardy, but it's definitely a romantic record.


Correct me if I'm wrong here but the title track is a Glenn Frey original but the rest of the album is made up of cover songs dating back to like the 1940's? So what made you decide on these songs?


Obviously first and foremost we chose to do songs that we liked, but I wanted to make, umm there were some obvious choices and then some less obvious choices.  I didn't just want to do songs from the 1940's because I wanted to do a Randy Newman song, and I wanted to do a Brian Wilson song, and I wanted to do a Bacharach and David song you know, so it spans more time than just that one period.  But the whole theme of the record is really to take you back to the days of the pianist and the vocalist, so this is a kind of piano record first and foremost.  Really I chose a lot of the songs because apart from them being great songs it also felt like there was a good match with the singer and my voice.  I mean there are songs I could never see myself singing you know, but these songs seem to be a good match for me.


After_Hours_coverSo has this been something you've wanted to do for a while now but couldn't because you were pigeonholed into one style of music?


I'd wanted to do this album for a long time yeah, but the real impetus to get this record done was to record it whilst my parents are still alive, and I'm like saying to myself "you better get this done, or you're going to be sorry" you know.  And it all came together just at the right time, and we'd worked on this record off and on for about two and a half years, and both my co- producers are keyboard players in The Eagles, um Richard Davis and Michael Thompson.  So as a result we were always working at the same time on the road and we always had the same "off time" in L.A, so we would go to my studio and work on this record, and kind of put together very carefully this big jigsaw puzzle, which it really is like doing when you're putting together an album, because you really cannot do it in one sitting, and you can see your eyes starting to get crossed after a little while you know (laughing).  So it really was a good process for us you know, work on it for a while then go away, and come back, you start to get a real good idea of what is going on with the record you know.


So was this an album that really came to life whilst the Eagles were touring?


Well every once in a while you'd meet the guys at soundcheck and someone would go "man we have a song for you", or we may share a CD or something but mostly when the three of us were out with the Eagles, we were basically doing what we do with that band you know.


As you've just mentioned your parents and their importance in the recording of 'After Hours' what has their reaction been to the record?


Oh this is their favourite Glenn Frey album, because they identify with the material so much, and it's my homage to the material of that age. Even the newer stuff the Brian Wilson stuff, well I was still living at home so that was still part of my growing up years as well, but for my folks this is a very meaningful record.


So what influence did Brian Wilson have on you as a performer?  I guess the vocal harmonies must have been a massive influence on you and the Eagles?


The Beach Boys were a huge influence on all of the Eagles; we consider them to be the greatest American vocal band ever, we all admire their work and Brian in particular, and 'Caroline No' is a song we didn't decide to even do until we were into the record a fair way, and we suddenly started to realise that perhaps the song could be a piano/vocal song too, and boy when we started to run it down.  Well first of all when you start to break it down you appreciate just how good the chord changes are and the melody and it's a beautifully written song, and you know I just hope Brian likes it.  I just hope Brian hears it and goes "Hey that Glenn Frey does a nice version of 'Caroline, No' (laughing) perhaps I should drop him a card (laughing) to let him know he did good".



Another song you cover on 'After Hours' is 'Route 66', a song that's been done by many before you, but you've done it more in the style of the Nat King Cole version, tell us a little bit about how that came about.


Yeah, I heard first got to know the song via The Rolling Stones, but when it got suggested we kinda looked down the list of those who had also done it as well and checking the list on the Internet we saw the Nat King Cole version and said straight away "we have to listen to that", because we was a piano player.  So we found this black and white film of him playing 'Route 66' on television, and the band was upright bass, piano, guitar and conga, and that was the track.  You know it really swung, and sounded really cool.  So straight away we were like" we have to do this with conga", but then we added drums and we added steel guitar to add our own colouring to it, but yeah it was the Nat King Cole version we did.


The video you've shot for it certainly swings; you really look like you're having a lot of fun in that.


Oh yeah, it's hard not to smile when you're doing those kinds of tunes.


Glenn_After_Hours_5You've also shot a video for 'The Shadow Of Your Smile', which is a slower number altogether.  Tell us a little bit more about the history of that song.


I've always loved the song 'The Shadow Of Your Smile' and the version I think that is the best is the version by Tony Bennett. It originally came out in 1965/66, and it won the Oscar for "Best Song in a Movie" in 1966 and it was from a movie called 'The Sandpiper' starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and it also won the Grammy that year for the best song. Which kind of tied in with the year I moved out to California.  Uh, but like I said I've always loved that song, it's a beautiful song.  Johnny Mandel who is another legend from that era wrote the music to that song and it really is beautiful.


So were some of these songs like a soundtrack to your youth?


Oh I don't know, I sometimes think perhaps I was born too late you know, it would have been a lot of fun to have been an artist in the forties and fifties too, and sung some of the great songs written then.  But for me, it's just nice to go back and do all these songs.  I learned a lot vocally you know, because it's a totally different kind of singing.  I mean when you're doing the Eagles that's guitar singing and you sing with that as the basic instrument of the band, but this is 'piano singing' which is a very different style and I think it's...uh.... different.  I don't want to say it's more demanding but it certainly was a challenge.


Do you find it more relaxing to sing in this style then?


Well in the end everything needs to sound effortless, but getting to that point, I really had to practise, and practise them before we recorded. It was at this point that I found myself comparing my voice to other instruments.  Like when we did 'The Look Of Love' I said, "I'm a trumpet", and then on another song I would think, "now this is more like the clarinet" you know.  So there were these comparisons that started appearing and it really was a different style of singing, but one that I felt comfortable with from the beginning, and I felt that my voice was really suited to this kind of material.  So then it was just a matter of making it all work.


Glenn_After_Hours_4So with time do you think this because your voice is maybe a little more mature in its tone?


I think it's more just about the tenor of my voice, and the range and the tone of it.  I mean like my friend Bob Seger who I think is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll singers of all time, but I'm not so sure he would sound like I sound singing these songs, so it's just kinda more just how my voice is really.


You've mentioned 'The Look of Love' there in passing; so let's talk a little bit about that, written by another great songwriter Burt Bacharach....


Oh, I could do a whole record of Bacharach and David songs.  They have written so many great songs, and when their names get mentioned people normally think of the Dionne Warwick stuff first, 'Say A Little Prayer', 'Walk On By', uh you know, songs from that time period, uh but he also wrote 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'.  You know I heard a funny story about Bacharach.  At the time he was at his zenith the other great songwriter in America was Bob Dylan and everyone was recording Dylan songs and everyone was recording Bacharach songs. So Bacharach turns to his friends and says "you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to write a song for Bob Dylan" and they say that he wrote 'Raindrops Keep Fallin'' with Dylan in mind, and I'm thinking "good god" (Glenn breaks into a spot on interpretation of Dylan singing said tune at this point).  But Dylan apparently passed on the song and they ended up giving it to BJ Thomas, but an interesting story that.


Getting back to your album now and another two songs 'It's Too Soon To Know' and 'For Sentimental Reasons' are two songs that Linda Ronstadt has previously recorded, so why those two songs?


Let me tell you, I didn't know she had recorded either of those songs when we recorded them, uh the Nat King Cole song ('For Sentimental Reasons') I've always loved and I just felt like I could sing it and do a good job.  The other song I got from Dinah Washington, and I'm a big fan of hers, she was a great singer from the forties and fifties and she came from Detroit.  Uh...and I started going through my collection of all her greatest songs, and there really were a lot of great songs to go through but 'It's Too Soon To Know' I particularly liked.



A bit of an obvious question I guess, but are you going to tour 'After Hours'?


Well the record came out in they States in May and I did some shows on the East and West coasts including a couple with an orchestra which was really a lot of fun for me and the audience too, and right now I'm really hoping this record takes seed in Europe, because I'd like to come back in about three or four months and do some small halls with orchestra, I'd like to do here in London perhaps Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Holland, that would be a nice start for me, plus I get the chance to play with some good musicians, which is always nice you know.


So with the 'After Hours' vibe I guess playing an Eagles song in that style would not really fit, but what about your solo material?  I was thinking 'You Belong To The City' might fit.


Actually I've been doing a jazz version of 'The Heat Is On', which we just came up with one day, but it's a really great take on the song you know.  It really does depend on the song though, but The Heat Is On' really works.


I can't really do this interview without asking you about life within the Eagles at the moment.  You and Joe both have albums out right now.  What are the other guys up to right now?


I know Don's been working on a country oriented record, Timothy I'm not to sure, but he had a record come out last year so...maybe he's been doing a few shows? This is really a quiet kind of year for the Eagles, and it's just the way it turned out it's not by any design.


Glenn_After_Hours_1Isn't next year you guy's fortieth anniversary?


The big project that's going to come out next year is 'The History Of The Eagles' it's a two DVD project that we've been working on with Academy Award winning Director Alex Gibney so we got this great film maker to help us pout this together which we hope will see the light of day next year. And we might even go back on the road touring a how that's more like the history of the Eagles you know. Something that's kind of linear that would maybe start with 'Take It Easy' and end with 'Long Road Out Of Eden' and follow the band through each of its you know, from the early country days through to the adding of Joe Walsh, our more R&B stuff, that really could be interesting.


That sounds like a long show Glenn, but wasn't your last tour a two and half hour show?


Yeah, but that cycles come to and end now so we're thinking about how do we approach the next couple of years and what do we want to do.


Personally I was lucky enough to see you guys at the Impact Arena in Thailand last year, but I just wondered if you realised how big the song 'Hotel California' is in Asia, you hear it everywhere.


Oh yeah, I know it's amazing sometimes, people will write to me and say "I was in Singapore and went into a nightclub and the band who were from the Philippines were playing 'Hotel California'" and you know its like crazy, just crazy like that. It's a good life you know.


Glenn_After_Hours_2One last question then and totally non-Eagles or 'After Hours' related but I believe you saw The Beatles live in 1964, I'm just intrigued to know what they really were like live.


It was (a long pause) EPIC. I remember that they didn't have a P.A. system they just sang through whatever the system was in the venue.  It was the Olympia Auditorium where the Red Wings played hockey and it was very boomy and they came out on stage and the screaming was so loud that you could barely hear what they were playing.  But Paul would go like "one, two, three, four" and then they would launch into 'I Saw Her Standing There' or something and then the crowd would get soooo loud and people were like hysterical.  There was a girl in front of me who fell in my arms almost catatonic just saying "Paul, Paul" and I'm just thinking to myself "this is awesome, this is what I need to do".  It really was a huge influence on me.


Glenn it really has been fantastic talking with you today, and I'll be keeping an eye out for 'After Hours' and hopefully those tour dates sometime soon.


Yeah I think everyone should give 'After Hours' a try you will be in for a pleasant surprise.  Thank you guys.


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