Off The Record
November 25, 2001
JB: He got his musical start as a guitar player in a Sacramento, California high school, folk trio called Tim, Tom & Ron. That combo soon morphed into a surf band called the Contenders. There were three guitarists and a drummer and after a couple of months of rehearsals and gigs, Timothy B. Schmit traded his guitar in for a bass. Hey, this is your Uncle Joe Benson. By 1970, Timothy's bass skills landed him a slot in an up and coming country rock band called Poco. He spent seven years singing and writing songs with Poco and then Timothy received the chance of a lifetime. Glenn Frey invited him to join the Eagles, to fill the slot vacated by Randy Meisner, who Timothy B. Schmit had previously replaced in Poco. Unfortunately, the Eagles split up just two years after Timothy was added to the line-up but they reunited in 1994. Today Timothy B Schmit shares his incredible story, Off The Record.
Plays Life In The Fast Lane
JB: What was the first rock & roll record you got?
TBS Hound Dog.
TBS: Yeah, I remember getting it. I think I was nine or ten years old.
I don't specifically remember hearing Elvis on the radio at any one particular point where I said, "I gotta go get that," but I definitely went and got it. And, of course, back then a lot of his records were A and B hits and Don't Be Cruel was on the other side.
JB: The legend has it when Richie Furay and Jim Messina were closing out Buffalo Springfield, getting ready to form Poco, that they talked to you about playing bass, or your name had come up early on, then Randy Meisner got the job. Poco finished their first album and then Randy left. Is that when you got a call to come back?
TBS: Yeah. I met Richie & Messina & the other guys who were to be Poco through a mutual friend in Sacramento-this girl that I knew-who used to come back to Sacramento and tell us that they knew the Buffalo Springfield, and we thought they were like...we thought they were blowin' smoke. And the band I was in was in Los Angeles recording and she said there's an opening for an audition, then I realized she was telling the truth. I went to Richie's house and I auditioned for a couple of days actually. And Randy auditioned in between there. It was also Vietnam War time and all my...deferments were gone. I had like a #38 lottery...
JB: #31, yeah.
TBS: I'm not certain that was the only reason-I'm not saying it is-but I know that was one factor, and Randy got the job. I went back to Sacramento feeling like a failure. It was my really one big shot, I thought. I thought probably my only one, living in Sacramento, that I did not get the job. I felt horrible and went back to school because that was what I did every year. Yeah, I got another call saying that he was quitting and it all kind of fell together that way.
Plays A Good Feelin' To Know
JB: The first time you had already been in the studio recording, in Los Angeles, but the first time you actually recorded with Poco would have been Sixty...
TBS: Sixty-nine, yeah.
JB: And you guys were playin' live gigs before that happened...
TBS: Well Poco, which was Pogo originally, and they got sued by Walt Kelly as the story goes, they changed their name to Poco. They didn't want to change it too much because they were getting quite a following. They had already committed to Doug Weston at the Troubadour for, like, eight appearances or something. And Randy quit the band and they became four people for a little while; Messina went back on the bass. And that's when they brought me in and I would rehearse with them during the day and I would watch them play at night. After a while, I remember there was a three-set Saturday night, and I knew enough of their material to do one of those sets. I remember I had to borrow a shirt from Messina...I really came here pretty poor and ill prepared. That was when I first played with them...was at the Troubadour actually. Eventually I was worked in, and I learned the rest of the stuff, and they learned some of my stuff, and on & on...
Plays You Better Think Twice
JB: During the time you were in there, there were some personnel changes in the band as well.
TBS: That was the main change, with Messina being replaced with Paul Cotton. There was another major change when Richie Furay quit the band. We decided not to try and replace him. He was irreplaceable. So we became a four-person band.
JB: In the early 70s, I imagine you were doing session work or backing vocals for people at various times or was Steely Dan the first time you got a call in to work?
TBS: I don't think it was the first time that I got a call. I had met Gary Katz, their producer, up at ABC, which became Poco's label too. A guy who worked closely with Poco up there introduced me one day and I simply said to him, "I love your work. If you would like to use my services, I'll be there." And he actually called me and Richie for a really obscure album for another project he did by this guy named Thomas Jefferson Kaye, who became a really good friend of mine. And we sang on his album, and they liked what happened. I don't know why they never called Richie, but Steely Dan called me up, and I went "YES!" and I sang on Ricky Don't Lose That Number...was-I think was the first one that I sang on. And then I sang on over half that album. And that was the first record I heard my voice every hour on the radio.
Plays Ricky Don't Lose That Number
JB: Fagen & Becker-legendary for how regimented their recording sessions were. I don't know if Pretzel Logic was--did you come and it was like, "okay, here's your part, now you do this?"
TBS: Yes. (laughing) Yeah, they knew exactly what they wanted me to do. I think a couple of times they weren't sure exactly what was gonna happen, but they figured it out. They were great to work for. I got to sing on three of their albums.
JB: You're coming out of Poco that, at that point, had maybe creatively stagnated-certainly weren't making a commercial impact-and after a few months of thinking about it, discussions, whatnot, finally you're into rehearsal, when did it finally dawn on you? Was it the first time you went out on the road with them or was it in the studio, rehearsal, when you said "My God, look at this. It's the Eagles?"
TBS: The way I even caught wind of their interest in me was...my neighbor for a long time, he lived right across the street from me at the time, was JD Souther-one of their buddies who has written some great stuff. I was over hanging out with him one night, and he said "you can't say anything but it's in the air that, you know, I think they're gonna call you." I was like, I could hardly sit still. I mean, what could be better? When they did call me, it was the perfect thing. The fact that they didn't ask anyone else and they asked me before I even played with them. Although now, Don and Glenn and I did play together on a Linda Ronstadt cut once in the studio, now that I think of it. But, it just seemed like a perfect match all the way around. It was a perfect career move for me; and I was exactly what they wanted, as far as talent, I guess-the high voice and the bass playing and all that. It was obviously good for them too, and I don't mean that in a cocky way. It just seemed so right. Then, we did go on the road. We went on the road before we started recording. I remember the first gig was in Canada somewhere. I remember walking up onstage for my first show, pretty much unannounced as the new guy because there wasn't a new record yet. It was really very thrilling. I could hardly believe it really.
Plays Hotel California
JB: The Eagles were also infamous for being perfectionists in the studio. But when they went out on the road to do Hotel California, they were out for a year-year and a half, something like that. Did you have any inkling? Did you get a call before that tour was done? Did you hear some rumblings?
TBS: Well, just previous to the call that I received, probably for about six months or so, I was actually contemplating a possible next move, because Poco was really just floundering. We had leveled off ...to a point where we were going out and just going through the motions and our popularity was waning. And the actual creativity within the band-including myself-was stagnant. And although it was a lifeline and was some security, it just didn't hold the excitement to me anymore. I'm sure everybody felt it.
I remember I was staying at a hotel somewhere on the road, and I found out that Irving Azoff was staying at the same hotel, and I knew him and I knew the Eagles too. I didn't really hang a lot with them, but I knew them, dating back from a long time-Troubadour days. I called up Irving and said "I want to have a little visit." I went up to his room, and I knew that he was handling Steely Dan and I knew that they were going on the road. And I actually said, "Do they need any singers?" I was actually willing to just go be a singer for them. So he obviously sensed that things weren't really kosher with what was going on with me and Poco, and I think that he told them around the time they were having trouble with Meisner-or vice versa, however that went-that that wasn't working out and they caught wind that I would quite possibly be interested and I certainly was. I said yes right away. The only thing is that I had to keep a lid on it. I had to go to Poco band meetings and I went on another tour, and they said "we don't want you to talk about it yet." And then there came a point where we were having another major band meeting to really plan our future and our next album, and I called up Irving and those guys and said "I have to tell them. This is not working out." That's what we did.
Plays I Can't Tell You Why
JB: Is it true that the first thing that was recorded for The Long Run album was I Can't Tell You Why?
TBS: I was the first guy to go in there and do the vocal, I think.
JB: Had you written that before...?
TBS: I actually had a piece of that too. Things were a little foggy back then, Joe.(laughing) So I don't remember every detail, but I remember having a piece of that song-like a little kernel of a song, song-ette. And I went to Glenn's house and Don was there and I played it for them. They liked it and we all kind of rolled with it after that.
JB: (as I Can't Tell You Why
concludes): Bill Szymczyk handled production duties for The Long Run
. Recording sessions crisscrossed the country between Miami and Los Angeles over the course of two years, and when the album was running past schedule in December of '78, the Eagles released the holiday single, Please Come Home For Christmas, backed with Have a Funky New Year. Two songs that never appeared on an Eagles album.
JB: The recording sessions for The Long Run
took a year and a half, from beginning to end. It wasn't continuous that whole time...
TBS: It took too long, yeah.
JB: I know Don has said the band should have taken a vacation instead of working as hard as they did. It would have done everybody well. During the sessions, you didn't walk into the most contentious situation in the world, did you, when you joined the Eagles?
TBS: Apparently there was some tension going on already, but I was so happy I was oblivious to it. I though that anything that I felt-any weirdness or any tension-was just regular band stuff. I had been in bands for a long time and that stuff just happens. You get a group of people together and you work together for a long time in a studio or in a road situation-you're around them all the time-you start rubbing...each other the wrong way. And I definitely felt that stuff, but I didn't know the depth of it. I didn't have the history. And I, quite frankly, didn't want to know about it. The one thing I did know was that I thought that there was a lot of unnecessary BS going on. It seemed like people-instead of just talking to each other-it was just being held in, or spoken to this person and that person. I thought it was just regular band stuff.
Plays The Long Run
JB: The band's really got a magic about 'em. Under the most duress, they come up with some of the best material. The easiest band to use as an example would be Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. How that turned into such an incredible album, whether anybody in the band knew it or not. And I've always thought The Long Run was...I personally like that better than Hotel California.
TBS: You know, that album is really something when I think about it. Some of the songs are so out there, are so experimental, so biting. I think it was really on the edge there. Maybe all that tension had to do with that. I agree. I think it's a very good album.
The other thing that happened during that album, and you can hear little bits of it on the box set, is some of the out...we cut probably three times that many songs-trying to make them into songs. Because the general MO of the Eagles in the studio is pretty much...I've yet to see somebody come in with a complete song and say "listen to this" and everybody goes "Great! Let's cut that." We have a piece of a song; we work it out; we work it into a track form. For anybody who doesn't know, it's just the music. And then the song is written over that. There might be some ideas-melodic. We might have a title-it's always good to have a title. And then you go from there. Lyrical ideas might be there, but they're still floating around in the ether somewhere. But we try to capture the music, so we do tracks first. And we did a lot of tracks. We threw away a ton of stuff.
Plays Heartache Tonight
JB: When the tour for that ended, and the band effectively went on hiatus, was that a surprise to you? Did you know the band was...
TBS: See, I remember the last concert in, was it 80, 81 or something?
JB: The live album was recorded in July-Santa Monica Civic, yeah.
TBS: I remember that concert because it was... Very good, Joe! (laughing) Right off the top of your head.
JB: If I had worked that hard in school, would either one of us be here right now? (laughing)
TBS: That concert was really intense. People were saying stuff right onstage to each other. When we got offstage for the encore, there were literally guitars flying. It was very intense. But once again, in my little world that I was living in, I really just saw it as another major unhappy band event. It didn't occur to me that it was actually over, at least for quite a while. I really took it that way for a long time. That was gonna be the last show for quite a while anyway. Then I got a call from the same guy who asked me to join the band-it was Glenn-or I called him for some reason. He actually said, you know, "Snap to it! This thing's over! Get with it! Come back to earth! It's over!" (snapping fingers) I got off the phone and I was...really sad. I was really upset, because everything was going great for me.
JB: Well you came into perhaps the greatest rock band certainly of the 70s...the greatest American music-generating machine on so many different levels-at a creative peak and then...
TBS: I got off the phone and I remember I was actually a little bit misty. I couldn't believe it, and told my wife about it and we sat there and contemplated it for a little while. And we never got in the same room together again-the band didn't get in the same room together again for thirteen years.
Plays Already Gone
JB: I've always wondered, 'cause the Eagles are so good live; no matter whatever's going on the background, for those of us watching, you guys played so well, everything worked so well. When you got back together did it take a couple of rehearsals to learn who everybody was and where the instruments fit again or was it pretty much, "oh yeah, it's only been a few months...?"
TBS: It was like riding a bike. It was just right there. The bike needed some lubrication here and there, but it seemed quite natural. In fact when we first got together for the Travis Tritt video...Travis Tritt-he did Take It Easy-asked us if we would be part of the video and that's when we all first got in the same room together. They were props. I mean, they were real amps at the video shoot and a set of drums. And we sat down and started playing, and this was before there was any talk of us getting together again, and inside I was going "Lookit you guys, it's that easy! What is wrong with you?" (laughing) And eventually, it actually happened.
Plays Eagles' version of Take It Easy
JB: You've been working almost every day, haven't you?
TBS: Well, on and off, yeah, so I guess it's not every day. We get together for two and three weeks at a time and do a five-day-a-week thing.
JB: Can I ask are there, like, 47 songs now?
TBS: No, there are about fifteen ideas and I'd say about six of 'em have really great possibilities, and we're going to start recording pretty soon and then we'll go back... We've actually been throwing songs around together as a band. We've been actually in the same room actually throwing out ideas and being brave, which wasn't hard when we weren't, you know, middle-aged. (JB laughs) And it's not hard any more either. You just do it. The atmosphere is conducive for it. Things are good.
JB: You've done solo albums. You've actually done different kinds of music, I believe, if I remember correctly.
TBS: Yeah, I've had three solo...I now have four solo albums out.
JB: The fourth one came out...the fourth album called Feed The Fire came out this past spring. You've been working on it for a couple years?
TBS: Yeah, obviously on and off. I have a studio in my house. I worked with Mark Hudson for a little while. I ended up using a...few songs from him. Mainly it's me and my friend Hank Linderman...at my house.
JB: When did you get Walsh in, at the end?
TBS: Yeah, I mean, it needed a lead part, and I called Joe to find out if he would come and play and of course he said yes. Joe and I-we have a good relationship-I've been on several of his albums and so he came right over and just kinda did that in one or two takes. Joe is really good. That's how he really...you get the sound, you role the tape, it's usually how it is.
I'll Always Let You In plays and the show closes.
Timothy's comments seem to have been taken from the same interview as the November 2001 show and these are the comments that were not repeats from that show.
JB: So you joined, what, six months before they started the first time around on The Long Run?
TBS: No. They actually made me a part of the band before I played one note of music with them. They said, “you’re the one we want,” which was very flattering, but I couldn’t wait to get that first rehearsal over, you know, just to make sure about things. (laughing) I would get together with them. We would rehearse some of the existing songs and then we started working on new songs and eventually went into the studio. It was a gradual thing.
JB: I never would have guessed from talking with various members of the Eagles over the years that the group would have gotten together again. I know several people who wanted to and kept waiting for it to happen. Were you surprised when the rumblings started because it was a year or two in development before it came down, wasn’t it?
TBS: Yeah, well, during that 13 years, I spent a lot of time hoping and wishing that it would. I was really humbled during that time. My whole lifestyle changed. I started hustling, started, you know, I was singing for people I probably wouldn't normally sing for. I did it just because I didn't want to do anything other than the music. After the band broke up, I was going through a horrible divorce. I lost a lot of stuff. I lost houses. I lost my record deal after my first solo album. Things were just, like, not lookin’ that good, except for the fact that I was with-who is my wife now-I was just starting to be with her and she was...that was the great part of my life then; and we eventually had a child and then a second child. That was what really kept me going. But my career didn't look good at all for a while to me. It just didn't seem like anything was gonna happen. And the minute I finally let go of the possibility... Every once in a while I would go “if the band would get together, things would really be happening,” but then I'd go “I've gotta stop thinking this way. I have to be happy. I have to start looking at my life, like, okay I have to live in a smaller house and my second car is a used car, but I have these things. I should be thankful for this.” I kept telling myself that, and it actually started to work. So as soon as I gave up completely on the idea of the band ever getting back together, the rumblings started to happen and eventually some of the guys got together for this show, this benefit; and then Don and Glenn and I got together for a benefit and it finally just started to, sort of, like a hurricane, started just to pull together. That's what happened and the rest is history, as they say.