Schmit Wings It Like an Eagle
Author: Paul Zach
Publication: The Straits Times (Singapore)
Date: April 27, 2001
Abstract: Schmit talks about the album Feed the Fire and being an Eagle post-Hotel Calfornia, as well as other topics like censorship.
TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT has the dubious distinction of being a member of the band that made the biggest selling album in history but not being on that album.
With 27 million copies sold since it was released in 1976, Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-75 is a million ahead of Michael Jackson's Thriller on the list.
In fact, Schmit is not even on the 20th best-selling album ever, The Eagles' Hotel California. He took over from bassist Randy Meisner -- the same man he had replaced earlier in another country-rock band Poco -- in 1977.
At the time, the Eagles were recording the mistitled The Long Run. It was to be their last studio album.
Schmit did contribute one of the album's highest-charting hits, however. I Can't Tell You Why peaked at No. 8 on America 's Billboard chart in 1980. The song was featured in a memorable bathtub scene in the Diane Keaton's movie, Shoot The Moon.
"The only time it's actually bothered me is once in a while when I get one of these awards for an album that I haven't been on," he says over the line from his home in Los Angeles .
"A couple of times I've sent them back. What do I want with a Hotel California diamond award?"
On the other hand, Schmit, 53, has been with the Eagles longer than anyone except its two founders -- drummer Don Henley, 53, and vocalist/guitarist Glenn Frey, 52 -- and guitarist Joe Walsh, also 53, who replaced Bernie Leadon in 1975.
Henley and Frey are, in fact, the only Eagles who have appeared on all the recordings.
Schmit says: "Don and Glenn tell me, "Hey you've been out there longer than most of those guys who were in the band now and you've been helping sell that record'.
"So does it bother me? Not in the least. I mean, what a great fate! Destiny had a great plan. Am I going to complain or moan or groan?"
On the contrary, Schmit is looking forward to hitting the road again with the Eagles on a two-month tour of Europe which starts in Moscow on May 29, and the prospect of starting work on the band's first new studio album of all new material since 1979 later in the year (see story on page 5).
He is also excited about the release of his fourth solo album, Feed The Fire (LUCAN/BMG), his first since 1990's Tell The Truth.
Henley (Building The Perfect Beast, The End Of The Innocence), Frey (The Allnighter), and Walsh (But Seriously, Folks ... , So What) have all released best-selling solo efforts.
But Schmit's only solo success has been a modest hit, Boys Night Out, from his 1987 solo album of the same name. That does not bother him either.
He says: "I did it because I wanted people who wanted to hear my music to hear it."
Indeed, Eagles fans who cannot wait for the band's new album will find plenty of similar laid-back, tight musicianship and sound songwriting on Feed The Fire to keep them satisfied in the meantime.
Despite his age, Schmit still has a voice that could pass him off as the lead singer of a boyband, if it wasn't so much better than any of theirs. He sounds just as young on the phone. There are two covers on Feed -- Bob Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love and the Stylistics' You Are Everything. The rest are originals written mostly by Schmit and collaborators such as co-producer Mark Hudson, who also produced Aerosmith's new album.
One of the better ones is I'll Always Let You In, a track which could fit on any Eagles album and which benefits from some typically-slinky guitar work from Walsh, and Schmit in fine falsetto mode.
The closing Song For Owen is a lovely ode to his 16-year-old daughter, complete with violins, that will leave parents everywhere misty-eyed.
Now you stand so tall/and look straight in my eyes/longing with all your might to be strong and wise/so on summer nights while you're driving away/I hope you understand/that this new-found freedom you have earned/worries me till you return/and I'm doing the best I can/and my love for you will never end, he sings.
Schmit also has a 10-year-old son from his present marriage, which has lasted 17 years, and a 30-year-old daughter from his first marriage.
The most unusual track, Top of the Stairs, finds Schmit singing doo wop a cappella, backing himself on multi-tracked vocals.
"I consider myself to be a singer first. I consider that to be my first instrument," he says.
"I love any kind of music that has harmonies. I love gospel. I love bluegrass. I just love it."
It is about as far as he seems to stretch himself, though. He says: "I feel like I am evolving in the context of what I do the best, which is hopefully melodic and pretty and insightful music.
Indeed, unlike Henley, who gets political and cynical, and Frey, who gets uptight and moody, and Walsh's fun and funky approach -- Schmit's work is all very upbeat and optimistic.
"I have a really good life-style. I have good health. I have a wonderful family. I'm not angry about anything."
If that sounds out-of-synch with today's make-money-at-any-cost, Eminem brand of hate-and-violence mongering, he could care less (and frankly so can I).
"I find some of the music, certainly not all of it, that's out now to be offensive, depressing stuff that I'm very uncomfortable with my children listening to," Schmit says, admitting he is disturbed especially by Eminem.
"At the same time, I feel conflicted because I'm not really for censorship," he says. " Radio stations don't have to play it but people want it, so they do play it and the big money machine starts working."
And it is a trend he says he finds painful.
"There's got to be a ceiling somewhere. For instance, in movies, that ceiling to me would be pornography. We're getting closer to this ceiling but nobody is putting the brakes on.
"There's a place for pornography, too. I don't even think that should be censored but I don't think a six-year-old child should be exposed to it."