Former Eagles guitarist Don Felder is now flying high as a successful solo artist, having just released an extended edition of his heartfelt and hard-hitting Road to Forever CD. This summer, he’ll be the opening act on The Soundtrack of Summer tour that features Foreigner and Styx as the co-headliners. Felder sat down with FOX411 to discuss that tour, how they all recut “Hotel California” together, and the not-so-secret inspiration for the Eagles’ best ballads.
FOX411: We really enjoyed the shortened, acoustic version of “Hotel California” you did with members of Foreigner and Styx on Fox & Friends recently.
Felder: We did record a new version of “Hotel California” with all three bands, which is really interesting. We traded off the lead vocals on all three verses. I sing a verse, [Foreigner’s] Kelly Hansen sings a verse, [Styx’s] Tommy Shaw sings a verse, and we all sing on the choruses. The whole song starts off acoustically and with a Latin feel, and it builds to a place where the drums come in and the electric guitars come on, and then it transforms into this big, monstrous beast. (laughs) Yeah, it was fun to do.
FOX411: Where will we be able to get this version?
Felder: It will be on a compilation CD with music from all three acts that will be on sale at the venues we play this summer.
FOX411: What songs will you be playing on The Soundtrack of Summer tour?
Felder: I’ll obviously do songs from my Eagles days — the ones I co-wrote, recorded, and toured with the band — like “Hotel California,” “Those Shoes,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and “Heartache Tonight.” In other words, I’ll be doing all of the rockers that were part of my “sentence” with the Eagles. (laughs)
FOX411: And you’ll be doing solo material too, like stuff from Road to Forever and the title track you did for the movie Heavy Metal?
Felder: Oh yes. There was always some guy at Eagles shows who’d smoked too much pot yelling out, “Heavy Metal!!!!” (laugh) The band would kind of scowl at me because they did not want to play that song at an Eagles show.
FOX411: Wasn’t that song originally intended for the Eagles?
Felder: The guitar arrangements and the lyrical ideas had been worked on for a song we never finished for The Long Run. It was tentatively titled, “You’re Really High, Aren’t You?” (laughs) But we never got around to finishing the lyrics, and we barely even finished that record before it finished us. Everybody was like, “Ok, we’re done, let’s quit. We’ve got enough to put a record out.”
FOX411: How did that track turn into “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)”?
Felder: In 1981, I went to Universal with the director [Gerald Potterton] for the screening of "Heavy Metal." As we’re watching it, I’m thinking, “I’ve got this great track that the Eagles aren’t using — maybe I could write some different lyrics for it.” So I rewrote some of the lyrics and rerecorded the track with almost identical guitar parts, and that became “Heavy Metal.”
FOX411: Of the four songs you added to Road to Forever: Extended Edition, I especially like the vibe of “Southern Bound.”
Felder: Thanks. I’ve always been drawn back to the South, whether it’s Southern California or in Florida where I grew up, and I wanted to write a song about that. The more time you spend in the North in the winter, feeling those cold hands on the steering wheel (laughs), you start thinking about putting your toes in the sand and chilling on the beach in the South.
FOX411: The slide work you did on “Southern Bound” brought to mind another guitar-playing friend of yours from when you were growing up — Duane Allman.
Felder: Oh yeah. I thought slide guitar was particularly appropriate for that song. Instead of playing fretted guitar lines, I thought that would be a tribute to the part of my life where Duane taught me how to play slide.
FOX411: What other Road to Forever songs will we hear live this summer?
Felder: I do the new single that will be out before we start the tour, a song called “You Don’t Have Me,” which is a ballsy rocker of a song that will fit in this show nicely between my catalog, Styx’s catalog, and Foreigner’s catalog. And I do a song called “Wash Away,” which I wrote with Tommy Shaw, and he’ll come out and sing it with me. Delightfully enough, last year, “Wash Away” wound up on the classic rock charts at #4, right between Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. That was a surprise to me. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty good company.”
FOX411: Not bad company at all. Finally, what was the secret to coming up with a great Eagles song?
Felder: When we were writing songs for the Eagles, Don Henley would be involved in some new love relationship, and he was always excited about them. But we were all waiting for the day that they would break up. We would be thinking, “Come on, Don; break up, break up, break up!!! We need a ballad for this record!!” And then it would be over, and he would come out and write this great ballad. (laughs)
Mike Mettler is the former editor-in-chief and current music editor of Sound & Vision, and he interviews artists and producers about their love of music and high-resolution audio on his own site, Soundbard.com.