Glenn Frey, a founding member of the Eagles, talks to Vicki Anderson about playing golf with Clint Eastwood, a new documentary History Of The Eagles and why he made an album for his Mum and Dad.
The Eagles' Glenn Frey hasn't forgotten the last time he played in Christchurch.
It was November 1995 and it rained. Sideways.
"Every time I've been to New Zealand it's rained," Frey says.
"But that Christchurch rain was the weirdest . . . it came in sideways. They were squeegeeing the water off the stage.
"I'm happy to be playing indoors this time around."
The Eagles, which Frey and Don Henley founded in 1971, have sold more than 150 million records worldwide and have notched up six Grammy Awards.
They've had numerous worldwide No 1 hit singles, enduring classic songs like Hotel California, Life In the Fast Lane, New Kid in Town, Heartache Tonight, Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Desperado, Tequila Sunrise, One of These Nights, I Can't Tell You Why, Lyin' Eyes and Take It to the Limit.
Although the group disbanded in 1980 before reuniting in 1994, their songs remained on heavy rotate on Classic Hits stations around the world and still do now.
Frey performs at the CBS Canterbury Arena tonight as part of a two-date New Zealand tour in honour of his latest solo album, After Hours.
"The show is based largely around After Hours but I'm going to play songs from my solo days and the Eagles' repertoire. It's some of the stuff I've done and the music I love and admire.
"It's sort of a Glenn Frey greatest hits show."
You might also hear You Belong to the City, Frey's 1980s soundtrack hit which featured on TV show Miami Vice and the global hit The Heat is On, which featured in the soundtrack to 1984 movie Beverly Hills Cop.
Joining Frey here is his "terrific" band, which includes Scott Crago, drummer for the Eagles, all the keyboard players from the Eagles band, alongside Tom Evans on sax, flute, clarinet and trumpet, Reggie McBride on bass and Frey's long-time friend Dan Grenier on guitar.
After Hours, Frey's first solo album in 20 years, takes its name from his 1984 album, The Allnighter, and offers Frey's interpretations of "music he loves", from songs from Great American Songbook and other favourites by the Beach Boys such as Caroline No and greats by Randy Newman.
He says the project began in the early 1990s when he was a partner in a restaurant and was asked to put together eight hours of "sophisticated music" that could be played there.
"Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Diana Washington, I made hours and hours of this music. The restaurant was a flash-in-the-pan but I was still playing the music."
Around five years later, Frey was playing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Golf Tournament - Frey's been a member there "for years" - when he got an invitation to perform at the volunteer party.
"I got an invite from Clint Eastwood to do a bit of a performance, then I got another note asking me to sing one of my hits and something from the 40s. Clint loves that music, he's a real audiophile."
Having notched up an impressive golf tally, Frey sang Tony Bennett songs like The Good Life and I Left My Heart in San Francisco. "A couple of days later, Michael Bolton, a friend of mine, said I had sounded good and suggested I make a record.
"That April some friends and I went into the studio and cut three songs, demos, and it sounded good, my voice fitted."
For Frey, who gets the double N in his first name as his mum was a big Glenn Miller fan, it was more important that he release the album so his parents could hear it. "My Dad is 91, my Mum's 87, it's the music they played and listened to when I was growing up, back when they were young parents, and other songs are back when they were growing up themselves."
Kiwi Alan Broadbent, who has previously undertaken string arrangements for the likes of Diana Krall, Steely Dan, Natalie Cole, Sir Paul McCartney, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart, Shirley Horn, Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Dr John and Mel Torme, worked with Frey on the album. "I knew right away that Alan was right for it. His arrangements are beautiful."
Frey makes music for his own enjoyment and says he felt so comfortable with the music that he's eager to repeat the experience.
"There were a lot of songs and singers that I didn't get around to, I think I'll do another album, definitely. I enjoyed the journey."
Lured from Detroit to southern California over 40 years ago by the Beach Boys' depiction of beach life, Frey may have played bass for Bob Seger if life had turned out differently.
Seger wanted Frey in his band but Frey's mother caught a young Glenn smoking marijuana and decreed that it wouldn't happen.
But Seger still proved a mighty influence. Frey sang on the studio version of Seger's Ramblin' Gamblin' Man.
"He really mentored me. He talked with me about singing and took me into the recording studio and showed me how it was done."
Together, the Eagles notched up their 40th anniversary last year and a newly released three-hour, two-part documentary, History Of The Eagles - The Story of an American Band, finally lifts the wings on the band.
"We've known that we were going to do it for some time.
"We started talking about it over 10 years ago but in late 2010 we thought we should do it now while everybody was still interviewable. People don't know a lot about us, there's a lot of mystique that has surrounded us, so it's good to put a few things to rest and present the Eagles as it was."
Commendably, everyone involved, including Don Felder, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and David Geffen, were given the opportunity to have their say although Felder has since been reported as saying he's not entirely happy with the result.
Directed by Allison Ellwood and co-produced by Academy Award-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney, Frey describes Gibney as "perfect" for the task and describes the documentary as a journey from "innocence to experience".
"Alex has made some great documentaries, like the Enron one. I remember when we were talking about making this he said 'We're going to tell the truth, aren't we?' I said 'Of course'.
"The first memory I got from going through the history was how much fun we had. We shared this experience that was unique to us.
"I think, too, that the story is interesting, especially part one which looks at the music scene in southern California at the time. It was a great time to be a young musician.
"Don [Henley] and I shared this dream and we've lived it. It's the American Dream of anyone who ever picked up a guitar. It's been a real journey and I'm proud of us."
Within the next six months, Frey hopes the Eagles will soar again.
"There's this plan to take the documentary and incorporate that into a live show. To play shows, perform songs we haven't done in a while, maybe expand the setlist to three hours and present it in a chronological way that traces our journey.
"We are trying to get something together."
Frey has heard more cover versions of the Eagles' track Hotel California than he cares to remember.
The lyrics have been given numerous meanings by fans and critics since he wrote the super hit in 1997 with Henley.
It's even been played onboard the space shuttle as a wake-up service for astronauts.
But there's one place he'd rather not hear it again.
"The worst place is in elevators . . . you're trapped in there and they're butchering your song with those casio keyboards. Let me out!" he jokes.
Glenn Frey at CBS Canterbury Arena tonight with support from Dane Rumble. Running times: Inside doors open 7.30pm. Dane Rumble and band, 8pm. Interval, 8.30pm. Glenn Frey and band, 9pm. Approximate finish, 10.30pm. Parking on-site, $5. Tickets to the show from ticketek.co.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News