Timothy B. Schmit on Good Morning Sunday With Don Maclean
July 15, 2001
DM: In 1998 Radio 2 listeners were asked to let the station know what was their favorite song of all time. The winner was Hotel California by the Eagles. The Eagles are on tour over here at the moment and I persuaded one of their number, Timothy Schmit, to join me in the studio. Good morning Tim.
TBS: Good morning.
DM: Of course the Eagles disbanded way back in 1982 and several attempts were made by various people to get you back together again, all of which you resisted. What finally persuaded you to reform the band?
TBS: Well, there wasn't one incident. There were several events that kinda took place, and good timing, that probably made it happen. A few of us would get together in little sub-groups to do benefits; the Common Thread album out of Nashville which was a sort of tribute to us.
DM: You were all still in touch then, obviously?
TBS: Not really. In fact Travis Tritt, on the Common Thread album did Take It Easy and he asked us if we would all come and be in his video. And when we all did that, it was the first time we were all in the same room for thirteen years.
DM: Well, it must have been strange, having been apart for thirteen years, to try and recreate the musical chemistry.
TBS: Oh, that was the easiest part really. I mean, because when we were doing that video, part of that was supposed to be us playing in the background, but we had real amps and guitars there and a real set of drums, and we just started playing in between takes. And I thought to myself, "this is easy. C'mon guys," you know? And that was really the easiest part. There were a few emotional hills to get over but ...
DM: Well I mean, obviously there were frictions in 1982. You weren't worried that things would resurface were you, or were you wiser as well as older by the time you got back together again?
TBS: You know, I've learned that it's smarter not to worry about anything. What's gonna happen is gonna happen. We have a really solid following. In fact during those thirteen-fourteen years our music never left the radio. So...
TBS: So, that right there shows the strength. And when we got together for the... It was only gonna to be for six months for the Hell Freezes Over thing, and it ended up, on and off, for about two and a half years. It went that well.
DM: Great title there, Hell Freezes Over? (laughing) You could read a lot into that can't you?
TBS: Well, it's tongue in cheek. That was one of the phrases, you know, "we're only gonna get back together when hell freezes over." So it was pretty grim for the first few years. It was too big to ignore.
DM: You, of course, personally had great success before you joined the Eagles. Tell us about Poco. Can you remember that far back?
TBS: Oh yeah. I remember most of it anyway. I had been doing music for a long time. I cut my first record with a band in northern California-central California actually, Sacramento-with my friends, who I am still friends with. We had a mild hit record; we had a following and when we went to L. A. to try and finish an album, I met some of these guys who were eventually in Poco. And they eventually asked me to join, and one thing lead to another and I moved to L. A. and started touring around the US and it eventually around the world with that band. It was a great experience.
DM: But, as you say, you had a great following. It was very much a live experience. Is it live performances that keep you buzzing, getting out there in front of the fans? Is that what you want to do?
TBS: To me that's more like the frosting of it all. When you're trying to write songs, or when you're in the studio recording, it can get very tedious and very unglamorous. So, when you've gone over that hump and you start planning a tour, you still have to work. I mean-we're working really hard out here-but you're actually reaping and actually doing performances of what you've worked so hard in the studio, and before that writing the material. So yeah, I really do enjoy it. It's definitely the bigger buzz, yeah. That and actually hearing yourself on the radio still is pretty thrilling...
DM: Really, you still get a thrill out of that?
TBS: I remember the first time that I heard myself on the radio.
DM: Oh well, that must be fantastic the first time.
TBS: Yeah, I was really young and I was like, you know, on top of the world, you know. It was great.
DM: You?ve been to Russia as well recently for the first time. What were the Russian audiences like?
TBS: Pretty reserved, but it was a great experience to go there. It was a great experience to play in front of the Russian people, and to actually be there and actually go to Red Square. To see the famous church - I can't ever remember the name...
DM: St. Basil's.
TBS: Yeah, St. Basil's...yeah, oh, wonderful. Just thrilling to be there.
DM: But what's it like playing to an audience most of whom don't understand your lyrics?
TBS: Well, they understood something. They came-quite a few people came-and, you know, music probably just transcends all those verbal, you know, problems and everybody understands the language of music.
DM: You've got a new CD out. This is you Timothy B. Schmit on your own. It's called Feed the Fire and we asked you to choose something from it. And you said, 'Well, why not the first track'. The Shadow:
TBS: Sure, why not.
Plays The Shadow
DM: That was called The Shadow and it was sung for you by my guest this morning, Timothy Schmit. How did it all start for you Tim, when did you find that you had this talent for music?
TBS: I think that anybody who's on stage, on any level, has one thing in common and that is we're probably all hams, you know, we all...
DM: I know exactly what you mean. (laughing)
TBS: I think all of us at a young age probably go, 'Hey look at me, look at me', you know; and so I'm not denying that. It was at a very young age. I played several musical instruments. I actually tap-danced when I was very young.
DM: And you started off playing the violin didn't you?
TBS: Yeah I did. My father was a violin player, although he didn't teach me. I was definitely musical. I could sing. I was singing in the school chorus and stuff. I was on stage at a very young age.
DM: Was that with your dad?
TBS: No, actually I was tap-dancing. (laughing). And I'm not afraid to say it!
DM: See, if you had waited a bit you could have been with Riverdance over here.
TBS: Please! Right around high school-right around puberty it was so uncool to do that, that I stopped it right away and started picking up the guitar.
DM: I can understand that. You?ve just said that your dad was a professional musician. And as a small child, rumor has it, you lived in a big camper van and traveled all around the country with your parents. Is that right.
TBS: Yeah. My dad, when I was about five years old, and mother, they sold our house and we moved into what you call a camper van, we call it a trailer-house. It was twenty-eight feet long, eight feet wide and there was my mom, my dad and my brother and I. He actually pulled us around from gig to gig, you know, we would stay in one place for ...
DM: I should imagine that was great as a kid-very romantic sort of existence for a child?
TBS: You know, I always loved it. I remember after maybe being somewhere four or six weeks or so, I would get woken up before it got light out. They had a bed made in the car, like in the station wagon that was pulling the trailer, for my brother and I to kinda snuggle down. And then my dad would hitch it up and we would start traveling and I would look behind and our house was following us! You know, it was really great.
DM: How old were you then, when your mom and dad actually settled down and bought a proper house?
TBS: I was between ten and twelve. I can't quite remember. when we actually settled in one spot, which was Sacramento, California, because my dad got a lot of work around that area. And he eventually started teaching music. We didn't move out of that house on wheels until I started college.
DM: What did your schoolmates think of you? Did they like the idea that somebody in their class lived in a trailer?
TBS: Hey, that's an interesting question. I was definitely different. There was maybe one other person in school who lived in the same trailer village, but everybody else-they would sleep over. I would go sleep over at their house. My dad was not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but I was never wanting for anything.
DM: But the point is he did not go off and work and leave you and your mom and your brother behind, did he? He took you with him which I think-I personally-would have been very grateful for that.
TBS: Yeah. When I go home now from touring and I see my children for the first time in weeks, I still remember before he started taking us with him. I remember when he would come home. I still have a vision of him coming through the door with a smile on his face. And so my mother for the first five years of my life is the one who really raised us. He was gone a lot.
DM: Was he pleased that you followed him into the music business?
TBS: I think he was pleased that I became, you know, successful because he warned me once, when he saw me gettin' ready with my Beatle haircut, and gettin' my suit and tie on, gettin' ready to go do a show. I think he saw a sparkle in my eye that he recognized. He took me aside and he told me a couple of things. He said, "I wanna tell ya that this business is really up and down. It's a roller coaster so, you know, you can be really happening one day and bottoming out the next." The other thing he said was, "If you attain any kind of success at all, you're gonna start reading things about you." He said, "Don't pay any attention to what they say. As long as they are writin' about you, you're doin' good." Which has come in very handy.
DM: Yeah, yeah, don't take any notice of the critics what ever you do. Obviously though, you have become a great performer, but you're also a very well known writer. And that's sort of, well more than a second string for you. You'll probably argue that really it's the main thing that you do.
TBS: Yeah. I think with any group, or any person, it doesn't matter how talented they are as far as music goes, you have to have a great song as a seed or your talent is wasted. So it's essential to have great songs if you want to make it in this business. And I truly believe that's the reason for the longevity of the Eagles. It's really song power.
DM: Absolutely. And what's your inspiration?
TBS: Well, you know, I just try and dig as deep as I can. I think it's important to follow what is you, you know, like for instance I know my age. I know my audience now. I'm not gonna try and dig out my old dance shoes and be 'NSync. It just would be stupid. So I have to stay within my parameters. That doesn't mean I can't stretch those parameters, but I shouldn't go too far out of bounds.
DM: And yet you are reaching audiences of your own children's age, aren't you?
TBS: Well, yeah. It's very encouraging at these shows. You go out there and you see, you look at the audience and it's not like it was 25 years ago. These people are old, like me! But then when the audience starts standing up and getting into it, people start coming forwards, standing up, coming towards the stage, then you see a lot more young people. It's very encouraging that there are younger people who are still into it. It helps for inspiration up there too, I'll tell ya.
DM: You've been, over the years, in great demand from all sorts of people as a backing vocalist, and as a writer and as a musician. You've worked with them all haven't you?
TBS: Well, I don't know if I've worked with them all, but I have worked with-I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of great, great people.
DM: Crosby, Stills and Nash you worked with.
TBS: Yeah, that's pretty interesting. I sang with Graham and Stephen on a separate project once and they were about to do a new album. And they were having a little trouble with their third partner, David Crosby. He was, let's say, "unavailable." And so they invited me to go to Hawaii, where they were recording, and for a lot of the album, called Daylight Again. I was the third voice. I was in there singing with them all the time. It was a great thrill. They're great folks.
DM: One of the great secrets of the music business revealed here on Radio Two. We had better hear one of those, hadn?t we? From the album Daylight Again, Crosby, Stills and Nash or should we say Schmit, Stills and Nash.
Plays Wasted on the Way
DM: That was Wasted On The Way; Crosby, Stills and Nash, but in actual fact featuring my guest this morning, Timothy Schmit. Tim, the Eagles will certainly be remembered because you're numbered among the top three bands of all time along side the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. That must give you a lot of pleasure?
TBS: It's quite an honor. I mean, what can I say, I mean, I'm one of the luckiest people I know!
DM: But rock and roll is ageless, isn't it? We've got Status Quo over here, all of you roughly the same age, bringing in their own age group and, as we've said, all the young generation as well. How is it that it is so ageless, would you say?
TBS: Well it's quite a phenomenon isn't it? I mean, the first record I bought was in the late 50s. As a young boy I bought Hound Dog by Elvis Presley on an old 45, you know. And back then people were saying that it was just a phase; a thing that's gonna go out the door in a few years. And I've been fortunate enough to be part of it and watch it and be a part of its staying power. None of us would have thought we would be up there on stage still doing it in our fifties, and we've got, what, the Stones have gotta be pushing sixties now, right? And they're still going strong. I have so much admiration for them. Even with all their differences and publicized scandals and all that, they still get together every coupla years and say, "Let's go to work."
DM: Well, as your dad said, it doesn't matter what they're writing as long as they're writing about you.
TBS: Yeah. It's a real thrill, a real chunk of history that I saw revealed in front of me as a young boy. And you know, and the reason is 'cause it's so good. I mean, first time I heard this stuff, you know, like everybody, "this is cool", you know. It's infectious.
DM: Yeah, I feel sorry for the youngsters of today. They never had it the way we did. Really good music.
TBS: Don't you go sounding like an old codger now! (laughing)
DM: No, I like being an old codger it suits me. We mentioned the Beatles, and you went on tour with Ringo Starr, didn't you, with the band that he formed?
TBS: I did. I went out as one of his All-Starrs in 1992, and I was over here. The biggest thrill, aside from having him call me up at my house asking me, "Duh, would you like to be a part of this?" was actually being on stage, playing along, looking over my left shoulder and Ringo is playing drums. I mean, how good can it get, you know?
DM: He was a great personality, wasn't he, apart from everything else?
TBS: He still is. He's a great guy.
DM: Well, you've released a solo album so you're still pursuing your solo career to a certain extent. Feed The Fire, it's called. We've already discussed it, but reading the lyrics on there, there is a lot of soul searching has gone into the music on this album, hasn't there?
TBS: Well, I don't know, I guess. It's really me practicing my craft, or there are a few songs on there that I did not write, too, so it could have been soul searching on other peoples parts-friends of mine. In fact I was very objective that way. I actually kicked out one of my songs in favor of a song that wasn't written by me. Just because I wanted it to be good and I felt that it was better.
DM: You talked about inspiration though. Your inspiration obviously comes from various directions, but are you a spiritual being?
TBS: Oh, I don't know. Maybe you could ask my friends that. I don't know. I try to treat people simply as I want to be treated, you know. I find that kindness goes a long ways. And that a "please" and "thank you"-it's like I'm talking to my children right? A "please" and "thank you" go a long ways. I lead a privileged life. I know that, you know. I am one of the really fortunate ones. There are a lot of people who've tried to do this who have not been able to do it and have had to do something they don't like. I've been able to do this pretty much my whole life and really do well and have a secure life on many levels. My family's healthy and happy. I'm tight-my best friend is my wife. I have wonderful children. You know, I have nothing to complain about. If that's spiritual, that's it.
DM: It's great to hear. Who do you thank for that? Do you thank God for that or...
TBS: Well, you know, I'm not really a religious person but I have to say that I try every day-and I already did it before I left the hotel room-I try and throw my thanks up into the universe. Something's going on, something's going that's really good!
DM: Which you can also do through your music, of course.
DM: The last track on this album Song for Owen. I'm sure you're going to tell us who Owen is.
TBS: Owen is my second daughter. I have three children. I have two daughters and a son, and Owen is my teenager. My oldest daughter, because of a divorce, I really only saw her like on weekends. I didn't live day to day with her through her teenage years. Now I'm really experiencing it with my daughter, Owen. To be a father is one of the most gratifying experiences I've ever had, but at the same time it's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, too. And my wife and I-we're hands on parents. We try to be involved in their lives as much as possible. Even then, you have to sort of reign them in sometimes. The whole thing to me is to try and help them to decipher between good and bad, between right and wrong; that you will come into these situations in your life where it's going to be really tempting and you have to stop-I say this to my son all the time. I'm worried about him! (laughing) You know why? Because he's a risk-taker-And I say, "Look, there's gonna be situations in your life when you are gonna have to stop for a second, and you have to say is this the right thing to do."
DM: How old is he?
TBS: He's ten.
DM: You've got work storing up for you there. (laughing)
TBS: He reminds me of me. (laughing)
DM: Yeah, that's why you're worried! (laughing)
TBS: I had a much easier time with my daughters. (laughing)
DM: I don't know. You wait until Owen gets married. You're not going to like that at all!
TBS: I have one married one.
DM: Really? How did you cope with that?
TBS: Great. I like him. He treats her good. They're a real unit.
DM: Well, the tour that you're on which is going to take you to Sheffield, to Manchester, to Belfast to Glasgow, London, of course, and to Birmingham twice, which is very wise because that is where I live.
TBS: That's right. We knew that, that's why we're there twice.
DM: I'm going to catch up on you the second time...
DM: Timothy Smith [yes, he said Smith, or it sounded like it], thanks so much for being with us on Good Morning Sunday.
TBS: Thanks for having me.
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