Interview with Don Felder, Performing at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on Sep 16
Throughout his career, Don Felder has witnessed the dawning of new eras in music but he still approaches writing and performing with the same unflinching passion as he did in the early years. As a former lead guitarist with the Eagles who co-wrote “Hotel California,” it’s part of his story and a huge chunk of American rock history. But Don “Fingers’ Felder still has something to say and he called on some of the biggest names in the industry to help share the message.
Felder stops in the Jacksonville area on Sept. 16 for a performance at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall (www.pvconcerthall.com). Fans will hear new material from American Rock ‘N’ Roll, a salute to Stevie Ray Vaughn and a collection of classics from his time with the Eagles including “Fast Lane,” Heartache Tonight,” Take It Easy” and “Hotel California.”
“By the end of the night, it turns into a big rock and roll party,” he says. “We have a great time. It’s a lot of fun.”
It’s been seven years since Felder released any new material and Felder’s “American Rock ‘N’ Roll” is worth the wait. With nimble fingers and an enviable collection of rock’s most esteemed musicians, it’s a veritable who’s who in rock and roll and showcases all of Felder’s best tricks. Musicians like Richie Sambora, Peter Frampton, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, Slash, Mick Fleetwood and Sammy Hagar all guest on the record and bring own talents, own intensity, own history to the record to the project.
“It took me two and a half years in the studio to make this record. I’m on the road somewhere between two and a half and three weeks a month, so it’s hard to make a record when you’re out on the road doing live shows and there are so many different guests. Trying to get someone like Slash to play on the record when he’s out on tour with Guns ‘N Roses, you’ve got to kind of base that song around his schedule. Mick Fleetwood plays drums on it and Chad Smith plays drums on it too and to coordinate all these schedules was really hard and it took longer than the production process,” he says.
“If I had just used a bunch of local session guys, I could probably get it done in four or five months. But that wasn’t the point of having all of these people that I know and that I love the way they play and being able to select the most appropriate players for a specific song. Slash was the perfect guy to play on “American Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Frampton was the most perfect guy to play on the song “The Way Things Have to Be”.”
The result is a technical, textured ride through the eras represented by the players themselves. Felder recalls the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac touring together in the mid 70’s. Since then, he’s remained friends with Mick Fleetwood, playing golf together and performing for various charitable events. When it came down to laying down drum tracks on the record, reaching out to Fleetwood was a no-brainer.
“To hear him play takes my heart and soul back to the 70’s, just his sound and the feel and the pocket that he has. I thought he would be the appropriate guy to start this thing off. The song “American Rock n Roll” starts off talking about ’69 and Woodstock and progresses through the decades and about halfway through, Chad Smith comes in and starts playing drums,” says Felder.
“You don’t really notice the change except all of a sudden, the intensity of the track steps up, much like the Chili Peppers-feel that just has this edge on it that wasn’t back in the 60’s and 70’s. It just jumps out and you can feel his energy. Musically, there was a migration that took place through the decades by having the different players. It was a really interesting thing as a producer and a writer to have these musicians that I know and know how they play do me the honor of coming in and playing on certain songs.”
Felder penned what he calls “a big stadium rock song” called “Rock You” and needed someone with the chops to make it soar. He recalled playing Wembley Stadium with Elton John and the Eagles in front of 110,000 people and knew Sammy Hagar was the perfect fit to replicate the feeling.
“It was the first massive stadium show I had ever played and probably the first stadium show the Eagles had ever played. I thought about how much energy there was in that kind of a crowd. I wanted to write something I could play in big stadiums like that. I thought I’d really love to have a great rock singer. Who can I get and I thought Sammy! We went into the studio and set up a microphone and 20 minutes later it’s done.”
“There was an electric energy when you come into a situation like that where you have to be spontaneous creative with some really great people. Singing a duet with Sammy really pushed me to the edge of my boundaries, out of the box of being safe,” he says.
“Sitting there and trading guitar licks with Joe Satriani who is probably one of the most incredible technically proficient rock and roll guitar players today, I can’t fall back on my old licks. I have to step up and just be as intense as he is. It’s fun to do that. It’s really interesting to be able to use that creative energy and spontaneity that happens like that on a lot of tracks and it ended being a very fulfilling project.”
Translating the music on tour takes a new level of commitment but Felder is up to the task and plans to deliver an amazing performance night after night while honoring the artists who gave their time and talent to make “American Rock ‘N’ Roll” something special.
“For the last three and a half weeks, I have been daily dedicated to learn and master and perform Joe Satriani’s solos on “Rock You.” That’s been the hardest thing to portray some of the performances on this record that we done by other people,” he says. “But I’m going to play a Satriani guitar as an homage to him. I’ll let the audience know we put this together – me and Joe and Sammy – and how much fun it was and what a challenge it’s been. So here we go!”