Timothy B. Schmit Of The Eagles
Back In The Fastlane
By Greg Rule
Bass Player May/June 1995
"I don't usually do this kind of interview," says Timothy B. Schmit, gently, as we walk into his dressing room. "I look at all the great musicians in Bass Player, and I think, Jeez...now these guys are bassists--they know what they're doing. I'm not technically trained; I learned by playing along with records and listening to the radio. I'm flattered you want to talk to me."
Bug-eyed, I grapple for a response. Should I casually remind him that: (a) he's a member of one of the biggest-selling bands of all time; (b) he's on one of the biggest tours of the 90's; (c) his bass playing is incredibly tasteful and solid; or (d) he's one of the finest singers ever to strap on a 4-string?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
The years have been kind to Schmit, and deservedly so. In 1977, after a successful seven-year run with Poco, he took the bass-playing reins from longtime Eagles bassist Randy Meisner--whom, ironically, Schmit had previously replaced in Poco. Timothy jokes, "After replacing Randy for the second time, I said to him, 'I can't wait to see what you do next!"
Schmit's angelic voice, showcased on the 1980 Eagles hit "I Can't Tell You Why," solidified his place in the musical history books and paved a clear path for his eventual career as a freelance singer/songwriter. During the 14-year Eagles "vacation" that ensued, Timothy released three solo albums; the latest is Tell Me The Truth. He also wrote songs, toured and recorded with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band in 1992, and contributed vocals to such hit singles as "So Much In Love" from the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack and "I Won't Hold You Back" from Toto's early '80's blockbuster Toto IV. Despite all this, though, Schmit was more than happy to get the reunion invite from Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Don Felder, and Joe Walsh.
"Ever since the Eagles broke up the first time," he says, "there were rumors of a reunion. I constantly had to tell people it wasn't happening, and after a while, I actually gave up thinking it was ever going to happen." But after Frey, Henley, and Walsh got together for a benefit gig a couple of years ago, Felder and Schmit were invited to join the trio for the filming of Travis Tritt's "Take It Easy" video. "That was the catalyst for the reunion," says Timothy. "Once everybody said okay, and we agreed on what the arrangements would be, it just started rolling." Before long, Schmit was in the studio adding tasty bass work and killer vocals to what would become the Eagles' comeback album, Hell Freezes Over.
To prepare for the tour of the same name, Schmit's first order of business was to get his hands back in shape. "As I get older, I'm noticing how physical bass playing is. A while ago I injured some tendons in my hand because I hadn't been practicing, so when we decided to do a three hour show, I practiced as though I were training for a sport. I started with ten minutes a day, and then I moved to 20, and then a half hour. I kept going until I was playing a couple of hours each day."
Onstage, just like before, Schmit juggles both bass and vocal duties. Which role does he prefer? "I still think of myself more as a singer," he says. "I mean, when I haven't got something going, I very rarely pick up my bass. But I do enjoy playing, and I always have--it's just that I really don't look at myself that way. Lately, though, I've been feeling more like a bass player; that's probably because I'm so active with the instrument right now. I do work at it, and I really have been doing my homework. I'm probably more confident with the instrument than ever before."
Sitting in the corner of Schmit's dressing room is a '64 Jazz Bass. "That bass was on 13 albums--Poco, Eagles, and various other things. I bought it in 1970 for $175 from a surfer who needed the money to fix his car." Schmit's main axe these days, though, is his Carvin LB20. "It's passive. When Carvin asked me to design a bass, I had them subtract things rather than add. It has one volume knob on it--that's it. The simpler the better."
Other instruments in his road case include a Pedulla Buzz fretless and a Fender Vintage Jazz Bass reissue. Timothy's all-Trace Elliot amp stack consists of an AH600SMX head, a 1518 1x15 cabinet, and a 1048 4x10 cabinet. "I love this amp," he smiles. "It's a workhorse. You could throw it off a cliff, and it would still work and sound great." He also travels with a Nady 950GS wireless system and a Yamaha D1500 effects processor. "I use the effects only for a slight bit of chorusing when I play the fretless," he explains. "When I'm playing my regular fretted bass, I don't use any effects at all."
As for the future of the Eagles, Schmit is optimistic. "We're all getting along incredibly well, but you never know how long it's going to last," he comments. IN the meantime, he isn't taking anything for granted. "I pretty much savor every moment of this tour," he says, taking a deep breath. "I mean, it doesn't get much better than this."
Back to Keep On Tryin'.