Don Felder could take it easy if he wanted to. He turned 70 in September, and between the 27 years he spent as a guitarist with the Eagles and his own solo work, he’s been a part of more than 80 million albums sold.
And yet, he’s now doing a solo headlining show at The Depot in Salt Lake City on Friday night. This after he joined Styx and REO Speedwagon on a national summer tour that included a stop at Usana Amphitheatre back in June. Meanwhile, he’s also working on his first solo album since 2012’s “Road to Forever,” which he anticipates will be released early in the second quarter of 2018.
Take it easy? Not when he’s got so much yet that he wants to do.
“I love writing, I have a great studio in my home — I just redid my studio within the last year, so there was a lot of inspiration to go in there and work with new gear. Literally, it’s just been set up so we can kinda go through and throw things against the wall and see what sticks — and the stuff that sticks, I finish, and stuff that doesn’t winds up going to digital heaven,” Felder said with a laugh. “I love that part of the music industry, the creative part of it, where you walk into an empty room, there’s nothing there but you and equipment, and you have to create something out of nothing — music, tracks, guitar parts, lyrics, vocals, arrangements, production, editing, mixing, just the whole process.”
He said the new album, like his last one, would be full of guest appearances, revealing that, among others, Sammy Hagar had contributed vocals, and that guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani joined him on a track that recalls the famed outro riff of “Hotel California,” though he was quick to clarify that it’s “not quite exactly like that, ’cause Satch doesn’t play like Joe [Walsh], and I don’t try to repeat myself by playing the same things I did 40 years ago.”
Beyond that, he declined to venture an assessment of how it compares to his other material, saying, “You really don’t know what it’s gonna be like until you actually release it and put it out.” Besides, he added — laying the self-deprecation on thick — his guess wouldn’t be worth much anyway, considering “I’ve been historically wrong about picking — or [rather] not picking — ‘Hotel California’ as a single.”
To this day, he remains grateful that Don Henley talked him into it, convincing him that the song Felder first brought to the table warranted special attention.
Decades after it became arguably the Eagles’ signature song, he said he still didn’t fully grasp its historical magnitude until one particular performance.
“I never really realized the international impact or global impact of that song until I was performing for the United Nations,” he recalled. “There were about 500 or 600 presidents, heads of state, secretaries of state, kings, whatever you want to call them, all in this room, from all over the world, and typically when you see the United Nations, they all have on ear-cups with translators going on. There were no translators or ear-cups. And when I went out and played ‘Hotel California,’ everybody in the room sang along with it. I was just baffled. … It was one of those light-bulb moments.”
He also remains grateful for his time with his former bandmates, even if it came to an ignominious end.
Though his dismissal from the Eagles in 2001 at the hands of Henley and the late Glenn Frey led to years of animosity and lawsuits, not to mention Felder’s best-selling tell-all book, he would rather the enduring narrative of the band be focused on their accomplishments rather than their acrimony.
“I have a lot of great memories of my time in the Eagles — times of us not necessarily grinding in the studio or worn down to a frazzle by being on the road for 11 months out of the year, but times when we were fresh and enthusiastic and young and excited, and creative juices were flowing and ideas were pouring out of everybody,” Felder said. “However the stars aligned, or whatever was in the water that we were drinking at the time — or whatever was in what we were smoking at the time! — produced those songs and those magical moments. That particular combination of people and time and space created that noise, and we had a really great time doing it.”
He’s still having a great time.
While he enjoys the creative portion of studio work, he also loves the performance component of being able to share it with an audience.
Felder said some actor friends of his succinctly summed up the inherent differences of the two processes by comparing them to the differences of acting in a movie vs. for the theater.
“On a movie set, you do take after take after take, and, ‘Wait, we’ve got a problem with a certain light,’ and, ‘Wait, we’ve got to reshoot that again,’ and, ‘Oops, there was a truck in the audio track; we’ve got to do that again,’ and you don’t get any [special feeling] when you get the right take,” he noted. But “when you walk out on the stage live, on a Broadway show or a theater, there’s a certain amount of adrenaline ’cause you can’t retake your errors, you just have to go out there and nail it verbatim. And what you get at the end of the night is this overwhelming appreciation live response from people you’re performing for.”
He’s hopeful he can still elicit such responses with his concerts.
Felder said his shows run about 90 minutes and include Eagles songs, solo material and various other things — such as a tribute to blues-guitar extraordinaire Stevie Ray Vaughan — that “just gives me a chance to step out of that contained Eagles perfect-arrangement format.
“It’s a lot of rock ’n’ roll,” Felder said. “Halfway through the set, people are up dancing, they’ve got their iPhones out, just having a great time with songs like ‘The Long Run’ and ‘Heartache Tonight,’ ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ ‘Take It Easy,’ ‘Hotel.’ It’s a really strong ending to the show. It’s a lot of fun. You won’t see anything but smiles.”
When • Friday, 8 p.m.
Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $30 advance, $35 day of; Smith’s Tix