Don is part of the Soundtrack of Summer tour, also with Styx and Foreigner. I was lucky enough to have another go-round with Don this week to talk about it.
antiMusic: There's a few things to talk about obviously and you've got a lot on the go first off, let's talk about the extended version of The Road to Forever. I was already of the opinion that this is the perfect album, that there was no way of making it better…until I heard the extended edition. These four songs are just a perfect, worthy complement to the rest of the songs. First of all can you tell us about "Can't Stop Now" and how many guitar tracks are there because that sound is just so crunchy?
Don: (laughs) Well, first of all. When I sat down to decide to record this solo record, Road to Forever, I'd written 27 songs and I went through and picked out what I thought was a pretty diverse musical landscape of 16 songs; I thought that was a good balance for a CD.
There are a couple of ballads on it. There's a song that's kind of an acoustic with pedal steel, I wanted some rock n roll stuff, I wanted to play pop rock; there's a lullaby on there with strings…I wanted a fairly diverse topography musically to put on a record.
I went into the studio and finished recording and writing 16 songs and just as we were getting ready to go to manufacturing and artwork, the record company and my manager called and said, "Well you know, we need to have an exclusive for Amazon. We need an exclusive for iTunes. Oh, Japan wants to have an exclusive for their distribution network. And Europe and Australia want an exclusive."
So I had to pull four songs off the record and use them as exclusive songs for those purposes I just described, which really left only 12 songs. And to me that was like, it was a good combination, but it wasn't the whole picture. So it's as if you'd bought Hotel California and there wasn't "Life in the Fast Lane" or "New Kid in Town" or some of the other songs that were on there and that make that whole story of that concept, of Hotel California, complete.
I sort of felt like by pulling another song of the original release, it was cutting it short and since very few people I think had really heard those exclusive songs on iTunes or Amazon or in Japan or Europe, when it came time to the Soundtrack of Summer tour I said, well I would like to repackage Road to Forever, in its original structure, with all 16 songs on it and take the four songs that we excluded for special purposes and put them back into the package and you know, let people hear the whole record as it was intended.
So that was kind of the thought behind releasing the extended edition. It's not really the extended edition, it should be the Original Edition, is what it should be called. (laughs) Because it includes all the songs. But like you said it's got songs on the outtake, all the songs that didn't make it on the first release, like "Can't Stop Now".
I have an obsession with music. You know, you get to a point in your life, where some people want to retire. They just go, "Okay, I've been doing this for a long time. I'm a certain age, I'm just going to quit." But for me, I can't stop. I know I'm going to keep doing this for the rest of my life. Hopefully I'll be able to do it for as long as Les Paul did. And so that song, "I've Been Loving You For So Long, I Can't Stop Now", is about being obsessed with something, a woman, a love relationship, music, something you're just unbelievably passionate about. and no matter the financial burden or the hardships that go along with it, THAT's what you HAVE to do. You just love something so much, so that's what "Can't Stop Now" is all about.
antiMusic: If I had to pick a favourite of the four, although it's hard, it would definitely be "Southern Bound". It's got so much groove in it. What came first, the lyrics or the whole vibe of it?
Don: (laughs) The whole vibe of it. I wrote that track very shortly after I left The Eagles, when I started sketching out ideas. But you know, I'm always writing and coming up with guitar parts or melodies or singing on my iPhone on the freeway, lyrics so that I don't forget them. I'm just assembling tidbits of music and then when I have a large enough chunk of time, I go back through this and go, "That would make a great song. Let's finish this one." Okay, I'll make a basic track of this and spend time kind of breathing life into those ideas that come to me."
And so, it didn't really have much of a lyric concept at the time, but when I was in that mode and I had the time, working on Road to Forever, I kept remembering that groove and that pocket and wanting to kind of revitalize it, to redo it. So I went into the studio and took the old basic track that I had recorded earlier and started singing and writing lyrics, just shot off the hip, you know.
And the slide part that's in it, and the groove on it, always reminded me of going uptown down in the south. I don't care who you are or where you grew up, when you're in the middle of the northeast, knee-deep in snow, you really just want to grab the steering wheel of that car or whatever you're driving and turn it south and run for warm sandy beaches and a nice cold drink in your hand and your feet in some warm water. That's the recollection I have of Florida. And whether it's southern California, or southern Florida, there's a pull for me back into the south. So I wrote this song "Southern Bound", where we all want to go back to where it's warm and sunny and hang out in the mango trees.
antiMusic: Did you have a muse in mind specifically for "She Runs Free"?
Don: Well, yeah. A really good friend of mine, who…I've known this couple a very long time, a beautiful couple, very successful, more money than anyone should have as an individual, were having a lot of difficult time in their relationship. And the husband had been stepping outside of the marriage and got caught. I heard this story, and it's a very common story, and how people deal with it is their own choice. Unfortunately in this particular situation, she chose to not step back into this relationship.
But while she was making this decision, it was a very tumultuous time period for her and for him. And finally she decided she was going to start a new life, move out and even though they had kids, she just didn't want to be in that grasp of him holding her financially in that situation. So she just bolted. And you know, it takes a lot of respect for someone to do that, a lot of courage, especially for a woman in her late 40s to do that.
It's the same thing, if you know you're someplace where you're not happy. You have to make the move. It's for that uplifting, kind of empowering chorus that I tried to create there, not just necessarily about a relationship but it's anytime you're struggling in your life that's causing you to be really unhappy, sometimes you just have to break free of it and go on with life and find a new way to empower your self to be happy. That was the feeling I tried to capture in that song. Does that makes sense?
antiMusic: Absolutely. I really could see that for sure. For "Sensuality" it seems like it was more important for you to show what NOT to play rather than what you could layer on, and then you come in with a nice tasty solo and fade out with some hot noodling. It sounds like something that you may have kept stripping away layers like an onion from your initial runs at this composition. Did it happen like that or was it lean from the beginning?
Don: The whole thing started with a pillow. Robin DiMaggio, my co-producer came over to my studio and said, "We need something that has this kind of a tempo." And I didn't have any drum set so he took a pillow off of my sofa in my studio, pulled it down and I put a mic and he sat and played this pillow, and set out a groove.
So I made a loop of that, like a one-bar loop and it just played over and over for like five minutes.
And I sat there and said, "Okay, well we need a guitar hook and I wrote dah dah dah, that guitar hook and figured out some chord changes and just kind of put together this son structure over this pillow. Played bass on it and just built up the demo, but it was just me and it was kind of sparing. It didn't even have keyboards on it at the time so the way I usually do stuff, is I'll build a framework like that, or a bed musically of the song, whether it's got drums or a pillow or whatever it is. And then I'll try and write a melody and lyrics for it. And until you have melody and lyrics, you don't have a song.
I mean you can play an instrumental track but they're not songs. So the next thing I did was start trying to write song ideas about that. And I was invited down to this bar here in LA one night with my girlfriend at the time to go meet somebody and have drinks. The place was packed with LA women and they all had on the high heels and deep cut V front dresses, with just as much sexuality and sensuality pouring out all over the place as you could imagine…
antiMusic: Love those girls in black… (ed note - a song from (Road to Forever)
Don: (laughs) That's it. And so I went okay, there's this topic here, sensuality. So I picked that up that night at the club and came back and wrote the chorus for it. I wanted to write a little description of what that was, lyrically, so that it all would come together and finished the lyrics and then we went into the studio and recorded the basic track with Robin and some other players and that's how it came along.
antiMusic: Nice. Well, this summer is going to be a busy one for you since you're heading out on a pretty big tour. Before we talk about some new music that came out of this package, tell us how you came to hook up with Styx and Foreigner?
Don: Well, I've known Tommy Shaw and Styx for, gosh, maybe 12, 10, years, something like that. I've played with them. I've sat in with them at Alice Cooper's benefit to raise money for the Solid Rock Foundation. I just went over myself and they happen to be on the show and Tommy and I would work up "Hotel California" and they'd end up playing it with me and we'd do 3 or 4 songs. And then Tommy actually helped co write a couple of songs on this CD Road to Forever and helped co-write lyrics on "Wash Away" and "Heal Me".
We've done some shows together, my band and Styx and just thought it was a great combination musically and the audiences really are the same audiences that kind of enjoyed that same era of classic rock. It just went over really well. And the next thing I know, I get a call from my manager who's helping put this Styx tour together with Foreigner, and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing it.
I went, "Let me think about this; Foreigner has an incredible number of hits. They have a giant catalogue. Styx has a huge catalogue of radio song hits. The Eagle songs that I co-wrote, and played with and recorded with them, what a great show that would be."
So it looks like it's going to be four hours of just hit after hit after hit and everybody, now that I've met everybody in the Foreigner camp and we've been in the studio and done press junkets together, performed medleys together on television, I've had a chance to get to know these guys
And to work with these guys, there's been no drama in any of this organization, whether it's Foreigner or their crew, or Styx and their crew, or my band. You know you have to go on the road with somebody and you spend some time on the stage but then there's like 20 hours of the day, you're either travelling or eating backstage or at the hotels or hanging out or…and you know it's so delightful to have a bunch of really good guys that are fun to hang out with, that have great sense of humour, very talented, go on stage and play unbelievably well and get off stage and they're nice guys. So for me that's a real treat and I'm really excited and looking forward to it. It's going to be a great tour.
antiMusic: Where did the idea come to re-record "Hotel California"?
Don: Well they wanted to put out a soundtrack CD for the Soundtrack of Summer tour. So Foreigner had some songs they were going to re-record. Styx had re-recorded some of their stuff and management asked me what song or two I'd like to re-record and I said, obviously "Hotel California" would be the most fun to do. Tommy and I have already played it together. Styx and I have already played it together.
So I worked out this version that starts out this sort of steel string, acoustic introduction and then slowly it builds with some percussion. By the time you get to the last verse, the drums come in and it turns electric and I take a solo, then Tommy Shaw takes a solo and then Mick Jones takes a solo. We trade off singing the verses. Tommy sings a verse, I sing a verse, Kelly Hansen sings a verse. We all sing the harmonies on the chorus. It just turned into so much fun doing it, and came out so well, that I said, this is going to be so much fun. I'm hoping that we'll have time to be able to work that up so that we can play it live together. I think that would be fantastic.
antiMusic: Oh, for sure. Considering the theme of the tour, is there any pressure on you to do a lot of Eagles stuff or will you still be doing Road to Forever?
Don: Well, I'll have a one hour time slot and whoever follows me, Styx or Foreigner—they're going to trade headlines---whoever follows me will have an hour time slot also. There'll be two 15 minute set changes so that's 2 and half hours, so whoever closes will play for about an hour and a half, so that'll be four hours. It'll be somewhat of a redacted set for me. I won't be able to play everything that I normally play in my shows. Which is about an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. But there will be some obvious Eagles hits that I co-wrote or recorded with the guys. There'll be "Heavy Metal", there'll be a song or two from my new CD. I do a tip of the hat to Stevie Ray Vaughn where I get to play the blues, and play "Pride and Joy" and just PLAY, you know, not so much singing a song verbatim like a record but it's a great show. It's a lot of fun, and I think there's enough in the show that should satisfy Eagles fans and Styx fans and Foreigner fans.
antiMusic: You've already played with it once and that was just an absolutely amazing version for Hell Freezes Over by the way.
Don: Oh, thank you
antiMusic: How did you go about dividing up everybody's contributions this time around? Or was it just obvious who was going to go where?
Don: Well, first of all, as far as I know and I have to talk to the people at the Recording Industry of America, which are basically the Grammys, I think "Hotel California" is the only song that has been recorded twice by the same band and it's been nominated for Grammys both times.
antiMusic: Wow. That's amazing.
Don: It was nominated in '76, the original version. And it was nominated again, for the Hell Freezes Over version. So I don't know if I can expect anything (laughs) for this third version. But I have to figure out where everybody can bring in strength. Tommy is a great singer so he could obviously sing a verse. Kelly Hansen is a great singer, so he can sing a verse. I'd like to sing a verse; I sing the whole song in my show.
And yet we've got three great guitar players between Mick, Tommy and myself so we've got a stretch for the guitar solos on the end so that I play a solo. Tommy plays the next solo, Mick plays the third solo and then we all play the harmonies on the way out. So it really was a bit of an arrangement challenge in that I didn't want to make it sound exactly like the original '76 version or the Hell Freezes Over version in '94.
I wanted to do something new and different. So I had to take the talents that I thought everyone brought to the table and kind of dispersed them through the arrangement. So it was fun. Everyone enjoyed it. We had a great time. A lot of laughs.
antiMusic: I can imagine. With Tommy also appearing on the recording of "Wash Away", might we also see some other on stage collaborations as well or will that possibly be limited to "Hotel California."
Don: Well, I don't know. We haven't officially started this tour yet and so when we get to the same city, where we're actually on a sound stage rehearsing for a couple of days, there's been a lot of talk about what we can do together, either "Hotel…", or Tommy always comes out and plays "Wash Away" with me if we're in the same town. He comes and sits in with me in LA, and we get together.
A couple of shows we played together. He's the co-writer --- he knows the song. He's a great singer so, yeah, we've yet to find which collaborations we're going to do. We might even do an acoustic version like we did on Fox and Friends of a medley. I don't know. We're in the process of sorting all that out right now. But there will be some surprises.
antiMusic: I just heard a snippet of the Sarah McLachlan song that you co-wrote with her. It sounded great but how did you link up with her?
Don: Well first of all I have to say I've loved and admired Sarah's work for many, many years. And my daughter Leah, who is a great singer on her own, introduced me to Sarah's early song, "Angel" I think it's called.
Don: And so she wanted to sing that, she must have been 8 or 10 years old at the time, and so I had to sit down and figure out at the piano at the studio and I recorded a little piano track. And my daughter sang that. I think I still have that recording somewhere on a hard drive. I guess I could find it if I absolutely had to.
So I became a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan, early on. And through the course of my charity work, I've done a lot of work in Canada with different people that are Canadian residents, either professional hockey players or different people up there involved in the oil industry, I do a lot of charity work in and around Canada because my woman, Catherine is from Canada. It's opened up a whole other door for me. And I have to tell you Russ Courtnall, he was a player with the Kings, with Gretzky. He and I became fast friends and his brother, Geoff, started dating and is dating Sarah now. So Geoff was talking to Sarah and she was saying, "Ah, I'd like to write with some other people".
Jeff had seen me play numerous times at the Courtnall events, charity events and had come to one of my shows and he said, "Oh, you should call Don Felder. We'll see if we can't get you guys to write together." So the next thing I know Sarah's down at my house for a few days, and we're in my studio (laughs) working on this song. And she is so unbelievably talented, such a great voice.
We just set up a mic and a piano for her and a guitar for me and started sketching through this song. And where there were holes lyrically, I'd try to prompt her with a few key words to get her to kind of come out with some more lyrics and fill in the rest of the missing pieces, and more produced it than co-wrote with her. But I did write some for it but she's just a giant talent. We had so much fun together. It was an honor to get to meet her personally and work on that record
antiMusic: Have you been writing with anyone else?
Don: I'm always writing. What I do is collect pieces of songs through the course of the year. When I finally have the time to sit down and comb back through them whether it's guitar licks that I've recorded or a little track that I started in my studio. Maybe singing a melody in my iPhone on the freeway hoping I don't get a ticket from the highway patrol --- I pull all that stuff together and when I had the time I picked those pieces that I liked and spun into finished tracks, and finished the lyrics.
Usually I do that just sitting on an airplane with headphones and a laptop and I'm writing as I'm listening to the demo track that I wrote. So anyway, I'm constantly writing. And then when I get to a point where I think, like I know I'm going to write on this next record and have a lot of other guest performers coming in with me.
I had so much fun doing that last time, I like to have a lot of people come in and play with me, different guitar players, singers, writers, drummers --- just a lot of people I know in the business. I'm going to invite them to this next record. It's going to be a lot of fun.
antiMusic: You've got me utterly excited. I was just going to ask when, how long before we hear the next Fingers Felder solo album?
Don: Well, it'll probably be somewhere in 2015 if I'm not working between now and all of next year. They're already booking into 2015 and I just have to block out a couple of months, which is hard for me to just spend time in the studio to actually sort through these things, bring them up to snuff and go into the studio and record them. I'm constantly picking up pieces along the way. I'm hoping I'll be able to get something out by the end of 2015.
Morley and antiMusic thank Don for taking the time to speak with us.
Check out the extended edition of The Road to Forever here.
Visit Don's official webpage here.
Dates for The Soundtrack of Summer Tour are as follows:
May 16 - Oklahoma City, OK (Zoo Amphitheatre)
May 17 - Grand Prairie, TX (Verizon Theatre)
May 18 - Houston, TX (Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion)
May 20 - Clearwater, FL (Ruth Eckerd Hall)
May 22 - Estero, FL (Germain Arena)
May 23 - St. Augustine, FL (St. Augustine Amphitheatre)
May 24 - Atlanta, GA (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre)
May 25 - Orange Beach, AL (The Wharf)
May 29 - Tuscaloosa, AL (Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre)
May 30 - Simpsonville, SC (Charter Amphitheatre)
May 31 - Charlotte, NC (PNC Music Pavilion)
June 1 - Virginia Beach, VA (Farm Bureau Amphitheatre)
June 5 - Cincinnati, OH (Horseshoe Casino)
June 6 - Chicago, IL (First Merit Bank Pavilion)
June 7 - St. Louis, MO (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre)
June 8 - Kansas City, MO (Starlight Theatre)
June 19 - Boston, MA (Bank Of America Pavilion)
June 20 - Bristow, VA (Jiffy Lube Live)
June 21 - Big Flats, NY (Summer Stage)
June 23 - Verona, NY (Turning Stone Casino)
June 27 - Mashantucket, CT (Foxwoods Resort Casino)
June 28 - Wantagh, NY (Nikon Jones Beach Theater)
July 4 - Scranton, PA (Toyota Pavilion)
July 5 - Bangor, ME (Darlings Waterfront)
July 6 - Gilford, NH (Bank of NH Pavilion)
July 9 - Canandaigua, NY (Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center)
July 10 -Detroit, MI (Freedom Hill Amphitheater)
July 17 - Minneapolis, MN (Target Center)
July 18 - Walker, MN (Moondance Jam)
July 22 - Denver, CO (Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre)
July 23 - Salt Lake City, UT (USANA Amphitheatre)
July 25 - Las Vegas, NV (Orleans Arena)
July 26 - Los Angeles, CA (Greek Theatre)
July 27 - Santa Barbara, CA (Santa Barbara Bowl)