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Glen Frey, taking it easy
7:00am Saturday 21st July 2012 in NewsXtra
Glenn Frey, a founder member of The Eagles, has a new solo album. He talks to Andy Welch about his time in one of the biggest-selling bands of all time, as well as his new offering After Hours.
The USA's West Coast has long been famed for its relaxed vibe. Whether it's the endless sun and surf or the acres of space, there's definitely something fuelling the region's laid-back, can-do attitude.
Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, might not have been born in California - he's from Detroit, Michigan - but when he speaks now, full of positivity and like there's all the time in the world, it's easy to see how he's been shaped by his years spent staring at the Pacific Ocean.
If he's become a product of his environment, much of the music he made as part of The Eagles with Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner couldn't have come from anywhere else either.
The band, who formed near the Hollywood Hills in Laurel Canyon in 1971, made their name on the back of country-inspired, radio-friendly hits such as Hotel California, Desperado, Peaceful Easy Feeling and, not to labour the point, a song called Take It Easy.
The formula worked brilliantly. Their Greatest Hits album, originally released in 1976, has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, putting them among the top 30 best-selling artists of all time.
Now, 20 years after his last solo album, Frey, 63, has recorded another collection. Taking it easy is still at the heart of the album, but this time, instead of the sun-kissed harmonies he's known for, After Hours features covers of his favourite standards.
"I've wanted to make this sort of record for a long time," he says. "A couple of things happened that were benchmark moments.
"Back in the early Nineties I was partner in a restaurant called Andiamo, Italian for 'let's go'. My business partner was a Broadway producer, and he wanted to start a restaurant based on The Fabulous Baker Boys.
"He asked me to make some CDs of songs I would want to hear in the restaurant, so one weekend I went out and bought every CD I could think of along those lines. There was Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme, all those singers."
Frey put together 10 hours of music to play for the diners. But that was almost as long as the restaurant was open.
"We didn't make it through the first season," he says, laughing, "but at least I was left with all of that great music."
The next step came 10 years later when Frey, a keen golfer with a single-figure handicap, was playing in a tournament in Pebble Beach, California, organised by his friend Clint Eastwood.
"At Pebble Beach, Clint is the king. Well, he's actually king most places he goes, no one is going to tell him any different. Anyway, he's a big music fan, jazz in particular, and one of the things he does is organise a party the night before the tournament, where all the singers and comedians that are playing are asked to perform.
"Clint asked me to play one of my hits, and something from the Forties, because he has the Jack Shelton Orchestra there to play Big Band songs."
While doing so, Frey discovered he has the same vocal range as Tony Bennett, so could sing Bennett's songs without the need to change the key. He performed I Wanna Be Around one year, The Good Life the next, and I Left My Heart In San Francisco third time round.
It was only when he was having dinner with other friends at Pebble Beach - Michael Bolton and Huey Lewis - that the idea of recording the album cropped up.
After Hours was pieced together slowly over the course of a few years, in between Eagles tours and recording sessions. "It was great not having any pressure," Frey recalls.
Among the covers (For Sentimental Reasons, The Good Life and a stripped-back take on the Beach Boys' Caroline, No), there's one Frey original. It's the title track and was written for 1984 album The Allnighter but didn't make the final cut.
"I had been waiting to release that song, and this seemed too perfect an opportunity to miss. That title, After Hours, just says it all."
When not tinkering in his studio, Frey spends much of his time taking care of his 10-year-old son. As well as trawling through the archives for a documentary about The Eagles, to be released next year.
Relationships between the band's members are reputed to be frosty. Don Felder, fired in 2001, famously sued the rest of the group over earnings. It was later settled out of court. Other rumours abound that since their reformation in 1994, each member has travelled separately and stayed in different hotels.
Frey thinks the reputation is unwarranted. "That sort of stuff is kind of blown out of proportion," he says.
"On the surface it may seem that we don't get on, but everybody in our band is just a passionate person. When you have people that care deeply about what they're doing there's going to be times when we don't agree.
"We're the same guys we were 30 years ago, we're just more accepting of each other's personalities, which is a big thing. And we don't drink and get high any more, which is also a big difference.
"We also deal with things right away, whereas we didn't do that back in the day. Things were coming at us fast and furious in the mid to late Seventies.
"We started playing those big venues and selling a lot of records, and we could've handled things better. We're sitting here now, though, and relationships are strong, especially between Don (Henley) and I. We both started our families late so we have that in common.
"People don't know a great deal about the band, which has been to our advantage, so this [documentary] will hopefully be a real insight into what being in The Eagles was and is like.
"I want people to see that, 99% of the time, we had an absolute blast."
Extra time - Glenn Frey :: Glenn Frey was born in Detroit on November 6, 1948.
:: He moved to Los Angeles with a girlfriend in the late Sixties and began writing songs and performing. He briefly shared an apartment with Jackson Browne, with whom he wrote many songs.
:: He met Don Henley in 1970 and the pair formed The Eagles. They released their self-titled debut in 1972.
:: They released five more albums but broke up in 1980.
:: Film director Cameron Crowe said he based the guitarist central character in Almost Famous on Frey, and some of his lines are direct quotes from interviews in the Seventies.
:: After Hours is out now
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