Ex-Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder, having told all about the band in a best-selling memoir, will let the music do the talking when he makes his Atlantic City debut.
Felder, who is performing 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at the Golden Nugget, was a prime force in the Eagles, co-writing “Hotel California” and providing signature licks to “Life in the Fast Lane,” “One of These Nights” and other familiar tracks, before a bitter split in 2001.
Since then, Felder has written the 2008 New York Times best-seller, “Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles,” and has just released his first solo record in nearly three decades.
“Road to Forever” (Rocket Science) is a musical chronicle about coping with loss — Felder’s 29-year marriage also ended around the time of his Eagles stint — and starting over.
For the project, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member called on many of his famous friends, including one of his first bandmates, Stephen Stills; original Toto guitarist Steve Lukather; “American Idol” judge and bassist Randy Jackson; and Tommy Shaw of Styx.
“It was a celebration — a labor of love more than it was an intense process that I had learned to really hate going through so many times with the Eagles,” he says.
In A.C., Felder plans to perform a mix of Eagles material and tracks from the new album, as well as a tribute to the late blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
He talks about why things went so wrong with the Eagles and how his Florida hometown turned out to be the unlikely jumping off point for his career and that of other famous peers.
Q: Having co-written “Hotel California” and other hits for the Eagles, do you feel extra pressure to produce something great when you write your own material?
A: When I wrote the music for “Hotel California,” I had no idea what it was — I don’t think any musician ever does. A song like “Hotel California” only comes along very rarely. If you’re always comparing everything you do to that song, you’re going to end up losing that battle. I tried to create something I thought was worthy to the time and energy it took to write and produce these songs, and be really fun to play live that people could relate to.
Q: Things didn’t end so well with the Eagles. Do you have any relationship with the band today?
A: It feels like I’m standing next to this frozen wall of ice. I can see past the wall on the other side, but they can’t hear me, and they’re not chipping the wall to get through. I’ve reached out numerous times. The only response I ever get is from the attorneys. My wife and I were married 29 years and have four kids together. We speak on the phone and come to each other’s houses on Thanksgiving. There’s no reason if a relationship doesn’t work out that you can’t appreciate the years you had together without carrying all that baggage. Unfortunately, it’s a one-way street when it comes to that band.
Q: Why do you think your time together was so tumultuous?
A: I think it was a really rare opportunity to have five guys in the band that each brought an enormous amount of talent. Any one guy in that band could be a frontman and had been a frontman. Everybody brought something to the party. A lot of the conflict that went on was about what songs were going to go on the record, what lyrics were good, how do we make the best record? You can’t say to someone that what they worked so hard on was not good. There was a lot of tension and conflict there.
Q: So it doesn’t sound like a reunion is likely anytime soon?
A: I have no idea if there will ever be a physical time and space when we’re all on the same stage again. I never say never, but I’m not holding my breath. We created some great music together. I love playing with those guys. It’s the other 22 hours of the day.
Q: You’re part of a generation of talented musicians from Gainesville, Fla., and the north central part of the state, including Stills; Eagles co-founder and high school classmate Bernie Leadon; Tom Petty, who was your guitar student; and the late Duane Allman, who taught you to play slide guitar. Why do you think so much talent came out of this one region?
A: They were people who were just driven in their particular field. No one was particularly affluent. All were pretty much self-taught. If I knew something, I’d show Tom. If Duane knew something, he’s show me. We were always trying to out-do the other person or other band. There’s a song on this album called “Give My Life.” It’s about finding something in your life you’re willing to give your life to, whether it’s a woman or a relationship or a (career) path. All of those people had that willingness to commit themselves and give themselves 100 percent to what they loved the most, which was playing music.