Eagle Takes Flight at Belly Up

The laidback Eagles bassist Timothy B. Schmit will play an intimate show at the Belly Up on Monday night.  Schmit spared a few minutes for me recently so we could discuss his current 10-city tour and his music. The only Eagle to be raised in California, Schmit talked about traveling in a trailer with his musician father, his own heavenly voice and his new album. 

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The 64-year-old is a natural storyteller and is devoted to creating good music for his fans. Schmit elaborated on his triple-crown title of session musician, band member and a solo artist. Although quite humble, Schmit shrugged off genre labels of his music and divulged the creative process of his hit song “I Can’t Tell You Why.”  

Gwendolyn Jackson: When does the tour start?
Timothy B. Schmit: The tour starts the day after Thanksgiving in Phoenix.  I will stop before Christmas and see what happens after that. I’ll probably do a lot of writing.

GJ: Have you ever played at the Belly Up?
TS: I have. I’ve played there 2009, October or November. It’s great. I’m playing in a lot of smaller places now, definitely way smaller than the Eagles. It’s a challenge and very interesting. It’s just way different, everybody is up close. Everybody can see everybody. I can see everybody on a much more intimate level.
GJ: What are your latest projects?
TS: My latest project is pulling this tour together. That’s mainly on my mind, and I’m also slowly writing my next album. I’ll be devoting a lot of time to that as well, because I don’t think there will be a lot of Eagles action, at least in the front of the year. I’m hoping to have a new album in 2013.

GJ: Is there a preference between being a solo artist, session musician or a member of the Eagles?
TS: I can’t really answer that. I like it all -- I really do. If I just depended upon my solo thing, I would not be living in the lifestyle I am now. That’s one aspect. Besides, it’s very satisfying, too, to be onstage in front of thousands of people. But it’s equally satisfying to be in a small setting with my own thing, and it’s different because the buck stops with me totally on my solo shows. So I don’t have a favorite. It’s like asking me my favorite song or my favorite Beatles song; it’s impossible.

GJ: What sound should your fans expect from your next album?
TS: I don’t think of it terms of what type of sounds. I almost don’t know what that means. I simply write songs and record them. I’ve always had trouble with labels, so I hope to write good music. That’s really as close a I can get. If people want to label it, that’s fine. I don’t really know how to do that. I usually sit down every day when I’m in a writing mode and crank out what I can. Some of it sticks, and some of it doesn’t, but it’s a whole process. You have to get through the bad stuff to find the gold or the good stuff. I want to please myself and I want to please my audience.

GJ: How do you maintain the clarity in your voice, and is there a regimen you use?
TS: My voice has actually changed a bit. I heard an old Steely Dan record I was on the other day, and it was really sweet to hear that young, 15-years-old voice. It’s not that any more, but you know, I work on it. I work to maintain my voice, and I never used to have to warm up, but I do now. It serves me well onstage to warm up, and I’m trying to preserve it as long as possible.

GJ: Any favorite artists you’ve worked with as a session musician?
TS: There’s quite a few. Steely Dan that I just mentioned is a real feather in my cap. Those sessions were really great. I got to sing on three of their albums in the '70s. I’ve done a lot of work I’m proud of. I got to sing with the Beach Boys once on an album they put out with other artists, and that was really sweet. Gee, Crosby, Stills & Nash -- there’s a lot of standouts. I’ve been really fortunate in my career that I’ve be able to actually not only meet the some of these people I used to admire, but actually work with them. It’s been really nice.

GJ: I’m certain San Diego fans want to know if there will be another Eagles tour.
TS: Eventually, yes. There’s nothing on the books right now, but we’re going to have to really revamp our show and put a new twist on it. Next year will be our 40th anniversary, or 40 years since the song “Take It Easy,” so when we do eventually start to tour, we’ll change things up onstage a bit. Maybe we’ll be more historical. I’m not sure what we’ll do.

GJ: What was the inspiration for the lyrics of “I Can’t Tell You Why”?
TS: I have only vague remembrances of all that [laughs]. There was stuff going on in my life at the time. I had a piece of that song written, and when I joined [the Eagles], they wanted to make sure I sang at least one song on my first Eagles album, which is The Long Run. So I brought that song and probably some other pieces of other songs. They really liked that song -- Don and Glen really liked it -- and they ended of helping finish that song, so that’s how that went.

GJ: Tell me about your last album, Expando; what is the meaning of the title?
TS: The title originally came from, well, I grew up in a series of trailer houses. Early on in my life, I was on the road with my dad, and he was a musician all his life. We pulled around a small mobile home, I think that’s what they call them now, but it was a trailer back then. We ended up getting a bigger one, and we sort of settled down in Sacramento. And the third and final trailer home, it took me through high school, [it] was called an Expando. After you parked it, you could crank it open so that it got wider. It went from 8-feet to 15-feet wide, and to me it was like living in a palace. So that’s where ... but I also like the sound of the word. It obviously connotes growth, and I thought it was apropos to the song; a lot of [songs] are autobiographical. The album cover was done by my wife, and that’s her artwork.

Catch Schmit onstage at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28 inside the Belly Up. Tickets are $25 and still available.

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