Interview: Timothy B. Schmit
As a world renowned bass player, Timothy B. Schmit first found fame as a member of Southern California country collective, Poco. After several years performing with the band, a major promotion found the musician as the newest member of American soft-rock goliath, the Eagles in 1977. Not long after joining the Eagles, Schmit’s songwriting talents lent themselves to the iconic bands repertoire by gifting it with the bands final Top 10 hit, I Can’t Tell You Why.
Alongside his successes in one of America’s most celebrated and influential bands, Schmit has enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing 6 solo collections to date including his previous LP, Expando in 2009 and most recently, the release of new album Leap of Faith; the first Eagles-affiliated release since the passing of Schmit’s Eagles band mate, Glenn Frey earlier this year.
While the future looks uncertain for his band, Timothy’s solo career is as bright as ever as he ventures into the latest chapter of his solo work with Leap of Faith as we very very lucky to spend some time talking to Timothy about his brand new record along with his career as part of the Eagles and moments that have shaped the last several decades for the iconic bass player, vocalist and songwriter. Here is what Timothy had to tell us…
Brendon Veevers: How are you Timothy? Where are we speaking to you from today?
Timothy B. Schmit: Hi Brendon! I’m in Los Angeles in my recording studio.
TBS: Well, thank you very much Brendon. That’s nice to hear.
BV: Firstly, congratulations on the release of Leap of Faith which was released at the tail end of September. Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of the new record?
TBS: No, not really. I can’t say that I did. The end to releasing a record, like the end of a tour, is usually very anticlimactic. I was just happy to have it out and hope that it has been liked, you know?
BV: What type of release would you describe Leap of Faith and in what ways would you say this new collection differentiates itself from your previous solo work?
TBS: I sort of look at this album and sort of a sister album; an extension I guess of my last album which was called Expando. I wrote all of the songs myself. I chose not to collaborate. So I guess that would be one of the main differences in that I decided to do it all myself mainly because if I go back and skim through some of my past albums, I do have a lot of collaborations but there are one or two songs that I wrote myself on all of them that I actually kind of prefer it because its all me; there’s no compromise involved.
BV: What inspired you the most during the writing and recording and the general creative process of Leap of Faith?
TBS: Well, for me, I try to write in any possible moment when it strikes me so I didn’t start out saying “well this is what the album’s going to be like and this is what I’m going to do”. Basically, I would write a song or maybe a couple of songs and then I would get the studio up and running and start recording them, starting with an acoustic guitar. There was really no master plan but that this was what I want to do, this is what I do and this is how I do it.
BV: That is a good leap really for my next question Timothy. What kind of musician are you when you enter the recording studio. Do you let ideas and styles for your work come organically or do you go into this part of the creative process with a blueprint of how you would like your record to sound?
TBS: I’m a little of both. I’m quite unstructured as far as songwriting goes; at least at the beginning of it. Then I get a little more structured as the process goes along. My songwriting is usually a series of events in my life or things that I am really just thinking about a lot. Then when it comes to the actual construction part of it, I usually end up writing way more than I end up using. I edited out many verses to several songs because they were just too long and rambly. I edited out verses that I really liked they were something that I had said so its like a test. You know what, I don’t know how it all works (laughs). I’m lucky to be able to do it. I come in here and I sit down with my guitar and I start strumming and I see what happens.
BV: What is your song selection process like when it comes to putting together the track-listing for a new album? Do you tend to overwrite for new records or is everything written included on the album?
TBS: Most things that I write are included on the record but only if I really like them. Sometimes I’m not sure until they’re finished and sometimes I’m still not sure. I don’t have an excess of songs. I’m not particularly prolific when it comes to songwriting but I have plenty of songs that I have written in my archive here that I don’t care if they ever get heard.
BV: It’s usually several years between solo albums – is this conscious timing for you or does it just happen to work out that the time feels right every 7 or 8 years for you to produce something new for your solo catalogue?
TBS: Basically I try to write as much as possible and when I have a song that is complete – I don’t really turn on the studio until a song is finished. It’s only when I have finished something and when I like what we’ve done that we go in to recording it. It’s really that simple.
BV: You brought Hank Linderman into the fold on this record as co-producer and he worked with you on your last Eagles release, Long Road Out Of Eden. What most attracted you to working with Hank on this record? What resulting qualities do you feel Hank brought to Leap of Faith?
TBS: Hank is very valuable to me. He is very talented. Hank has worked with me a lot; we’ve been working together for around 20 years now. I originally asked him to come and help me learn how to maneuver during my bands demo studio which has evolved to a full-on studio and I found that all that technical stuff got in my way. I’m not ignorant of it but I don’t want to delve any deeper than that because I would rather just concentrate on songwriting so when it was time to record I asked him to come in. On my last album (Expando) I credited Hank with Production Assistant but that wasn’t being very generous. By the time this album was finished that credit was not enough. He’s here all the time with me and he is responsible for why it sounds so great and that’s why he is co-producer on Leap of Faith.
BV: Do you prefer to work with the same crew or are you open to mixing things up and bringing new musicians into the fold?
TBS: Hank and I – as far as my solo stuff goes – we have a good working routine. Loosely – a loose routine about how we go about things. We understand each other. We have technical balances and all of that. It’s very comfortable. I go out to my studio from my house and he’s there and we get to work. We get along great together and we have a lot of fun. In terms of new people; its always fun to bring someone new into the studio to work on it. I’m not opposed to working with other people but I really haven’t had to do that. Mostly it’s really comfortable here and we’re not afraid – I’m certainly not afraid – to try whatever, no matter how ridiculous it might seem at the time, because you never know what’s going to work.
BV: Leap of Faith is the first Eagles affiliated release since the passing of Glenn. Does being the first of your band-mates place any amount of additional pressure on the release for you or does it perhaps feel in any way like you are helping in the recovery period?
TBS: I don’t really do it on any of those levels. I just do my work. It’s been horrible and awful for all of us and we’re still processing it all but I never even realized that I would be the first one after Glenn’s passing. I think “oh I am?”. Life moves on and we all have to move forward and that is simply all I am doing. Releasing an album since his passing; it just happens to be that way so there is no pressure or any of that. I’m just practicing my craft.
BV: How do you see your own career, outside of your time in the Eagles, shaping now that that chapter has come to an end?
TBS: I look at my career and everything in my life as one long string of days (laughs) and events and non-events and whatever. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future – nobody does.
As far as the band, it’s over. If we’re going to do anything, it hasn’t been talked about yet. We’ll just see what the future holds.
BV: Having achieved a phenomenal amount of success across multiple projects over the last several decades, what would be your most memorable solo achievement?
TBS: I’m on my 6th album and my albums have only ever had moderate success in the past and this album – I’ve never heard anything from my past on the radio, well, vary rarely have I – but I’ve already heard a few cuts from the latest track on the radio and its starting to make some noise. I don’t know for how long it will last. I hope for a long time but this is a great achievement for me as a solo artist and as a songwriter to be recognized and to be played on the radio. One might think that that wouldn’t be a big thing to me because I have heard myself on the radio a lot for years but not me as a songwriter and not me as a solo artist so lately I’ve been like “thank you” to the universe because this really pleases me.
BV: Of the songs on the new record, whats the most personal track for you?
TBS: Honestly, almost all of them are pretty personal. The song called All Those Faces – it’s not too personal – well, it is a personal song but it’s me sort of brainstorming through the lyrics. That’s all really that is but kit sort of developed into something that is very meaningful to me but I couldn’t really explain to you exactly what that is.
There’s a song called What I Should Do which is personal in that its about how I do my work – its all quite self-explanatory in the lyrics. It’s about how I’m not comfortable if I’m not doing my work. I don’t define myself by my work but its a big part of me and its very important to get whatever is in my head out and luckily I have the avenue of songwriting for that.
You’re So Wild is a very personal song. I don’t really want to comment too much on that and I actually questioned myself as to whether I should even include that one because its so personal and that’s all I’m going to say about that (laughs).
It’s Alright is also a love song that I wrote to my wife about ten years ago and I have included it finally. This Walk, the very last song, is very personal. It has to do with a time when I wasn’t feeling too good and when I was trying to stay hopeful.
BV: Have you started to think about touring plans to take the new record out on the road? Anything you can reveal to us at this point and if you do have tour plans, will they take you abroad?
TBS: The record was released during Nashville’s America-fest and I was part of those festivities and I also did a solo show there in Nashville and then I went the next night to Atlanta and did a show but to be honest, I wasn’t liking what I was seeing in terms of venue possibilities to continue so I decided to give that part of it some time so that maybe some time around the start of next year I would see whats available for me to play and how feasible it would be and maybe I will do a little touring next year.
BV: We last saw you play solo over here in London at Cadogan Hall when you were promoting Expando and the show was amazing.
TBS: Thank you. Yes, we are hoping to come back there. We are sort of in the planning stages of what we’re gonna do and in what order but I would love to come back there and I remember that show. That was a fun show and I remember my friend Paul Carrack was there. So yeah, I hope to come back and do some more playing.
Timothy B. Schmit’s brand new album Leap of Faith is available now.