5 Questions with Don Felder
Monday January 8, 2018. 12:00 PM , from Sweetwater inSync
It’s a cliché to say that someone needs no introduction, but that cliché would certainly be true for Don Felder, former lead guitarist for the Eagles and now a successful author and solo artist. How much more do you need to know other than he wrote the music for “Hotel California”? I was privileged to not only interview him for the 100th episode of Sweetwater’s Guitars & Gear but to also share the stage with him for an Eagles tribute show. Felder couldn’t have been nicer, humbler, or more grounded, which definitely came across in our interview. To see the complete interview, click here.
1. I’ve covered Eagles songs for decades, but now, having really dug into those songs, I’m amazed at the detail you guys put into each song.
We were quite meticulous about not only the quality of what went onto the records but the songs themselves: the songwriting, the production, the engineering. There are very few — if any — mistakes on any of those records. If anyone made even the slightest mistake or even an out-of-tune clam, we repaired it. In those days, it wasn’t Auto-Tune. It was re-sing it or replay it, punch in to grab that line or phrase. Everything was intentional and written that way and produced that way.
2. A great example is the song “Take It Easy.” In the first two verses, it goes G-D-C. But in the third verse, for just one chord, it goes G-D-A minor. Where does an idea like that come from?
Jackson Browne actually wrote, I would say, 90% of “Take It Easy.” That chord change came, I believe, from Jackson. As long as I’ve known that song, that third verse has the Am instead of the C in it. It kind of makes it a little different. A lot of people who play it just forget it; they just go right back to the C like in the first two verses. Those sort of intentional little unique things — lyrically, melodically, arrangement-wise, background-vocal-wise, everything was just a little different [each time]. I thought it made it more interesting than just cut/copy/paste replication.
3. What was the arranging process for those songs?
There were so many different approaches to each song. Everybody brought a certain talent to a song: guitar tracks, vocal arrangements, lyrics. The melding of all those ideas and the input from so many different people seemed to have this kind of torque and stretch that went into something different than just one person doing the arrangement.
4. The guitar parts are so melodic. How did you come up with those? Were they improvised?
Some of those were just made up on the spot. Other solos were meticulously “sewn together” in the studio, where we would take part of the melody from the song and include a hint of that in the solo. A lot of times, I would write stuff in advance, with a concept of musically how I wanted it to sound. Other times, I’d just make it up.
5. What do you look for when you’re picking musicians for your band?
First of all, there’s a level of competency that has to be there: vocally and musicianship. Second, you spend about an hour and a half to two hours with the people on the stage. You’ve got 22 hours off the stage to live with these guys. So I choose people I’m very comfortable with — just a lot of fun, typically really smart. I look for people who are not only gifted players, but who are also interesting people that I want to have in my life. We don’t have anyone in our band or crew that’s a problem or who has an ego — don’t need any of that!
See the full interview with Don Felder here…
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