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Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles

Timothy B. Schmit is the Eagles' bass player, and also an outstanding singer and songwriter. His work with The Eagles is best exemplified by the song "I Can't Tell You Why," which he co-wrote and sang lead. Although he's best known for being an Eagle, Schmit was also a member of the groundbreaking country-rock band, Poco. He has always been in demand for his high, pure singing voice - listen for him in the background of Toto's hit "Africa," and on Steely Dan's albums Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam and Aja.

The Eagles keep Schmit busy, which may be why he's just now getting around to touring in support of his 2009 solo album, Expando. He gave us some insights on what it's like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time, why the Eagles broke up, and the rumor that he was the one who coined the term "Parrotheads" to describe Jimmy Buffett's fans.

Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): I think of you as sort of the George Harrison of the Eagles in that you have all this great singing and writing talent, yet you're a little overshadowed by a couple of really assertive songwriters. Is that a good comparison?

Timothy B. Schmit: I don't know. It's a flattering comparison. Someone once called me the Ronnie Wood (laughs) of the Eagles. I don't really think about any of it in those terms. I have a certain job with the Eagles I try to fulfill and certain commitments to myself on all kinds of levels, and try to do my best. And that's it, really.

Songfacts: It's interesting; you're touring in support of an album that came out in 2009. You must be a really busy guy that it's just hard to find time to focus on supporting your own music.

Timothy: Well, yeah. I do have a lot going on and a lot of it is band related. But it's kind of lightening off at the moment, so I'm able to do this. And I'm also able to commit a little more time to writing the next album. I like to keep busy. I don't like to have too much downtime. I need to rest, like everybody else. But then enough's enough, and let's try to do something that might be meaningful, you know?

Songfacts: I want to talk a little bit about your work with the Eagles and probably the most familiar song of yours is "I Can't Tell You Why." Is that based on a personal experience of your own?

Timothy: Well, first of all, it was co-written by me and Don and Glenn. I did bring a portion of that song, unfinished, to them back then, because I was new in the band and they wanted to introduce me on a good note, no pun intended. And I had this little piece of a tune that they really liked. It was loosely based on my own experiences.

Songfacts: When I hear that, I just wish there were more Eagles songs that featured your vocals. I didn't realize, until I prepared for this interview, all the great songs that you've sung on. Are you as in demand, do you think, for your vocals as you are for your musicianship, your bass playing?

Timothy: I used to sing on a lot of records and a lot of different projects, more in the past than I do now. I'm still available. But I don't get as many calls, which is fine. And I can tell you that it was always 99% asking for my vocals, not to play bass or guitar or anything. That's a fact.

Songfacts: Some of the Toto songs that you sung on, the Crosby, Stills & Nash stuff that you've been associated with, it's just wonderful stuff. Some of my favorite songs.

Timothy Sang Backup On:

Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam, Aja
Randy Newman - Little Criminals
Joe Walsh - But Seriously Folks
America - Alibi, Perspective
Bob Seger - Against the Wind, Like a Rock
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Daylight Again, Carry On
Toto - Toto IV
Timothy: Yeah, I just heard a song the other day, like yesterday, I was listening to satellite radio and a song came on that I sang on it, it was Steely Dan, and I really listened to it. This was a long time ago, early '70s. It was a song from Pretzel Logic, which I sang a lot on. And it was kind of bittersweet in a way, because I had this young, pure voice -

Songfacts: You still sound very young.

Timothy: Oh, thanks. It was very fulfilling to hear it. Steely Dan's a real feather in my cap to be able to have worked with them.

Songfacts: My understanding is that they only worked with the best, so I think that says a lot about you.

Timothy: It's quite an honor, really.

Songfacts: When you think about playing with the Eagles, do you have any favorites that you enjoy playing on?

Timothy: Meaning during the show, my favorite songs to play?

Songfacts: Yeah.

Timothy: Well, yeah, there's several. Some of the songs, there's a reason why they've been around so long, because they're really good. And that's the very reason why they had such longevity - it's in the songs themselves. I always like to play "The Long Run," even "Hotel California," which I've played a gazillion times, it gets such a great audience response, it's still pretty much fun to do. And then there's a couple of new ones that we play when we do our really long set, which we haven't done in a while. One of my favorite songs off The Long Road Out Of Eden album is "Waiting in the Weeds." A sweet song, really, a jewel of the album, I think. There's plenty that I still enjoy.

Songfacts: The song "Hotel California" has become almost a story unto itself. You joined the band shortly after that came out, right?

Timothy: Right.

Songfacts: Did you have any idea that it would take on a life of its own and become an allegory for California at the time?

Timothy: I knew that I was joining this band at a peak moment and I was very excited and happy to do so. That album had just won Album of the Year, and in fact that night of the Grammys we were rehearsing. They were rehearsing me into the band and we watched the band get that award on TV. Nobody from the band was at the ceremony - we were rehearsing. We turned it on to see who won.

It's a great song. It doesn't surprise me that it's been around and it's going to stay around for a long time, I think.

Songfacts: Were you a part of the Poco reunion that played at Stagecoach?

Timothy: I was, yes.

Songfacts: What stands out in your mind as far as that experience?

Timothy: Well, I had been asked if I was interested in doing different projects with those guys quite a few times in the past, and I always said no, just because I was more interested in moving forward. And this time what really sparked me to do it was the original drummer, George Grantham, and it was the fact that he was going to do it. A few years prior to that - I think about 3 years - he had a really massive stroke, on stage, actually. And it really debilitated him for a long time. When I found out he was well enough and could function well enough to actually be a part of this reunion, I said, "Man, if George is going to do this, I think I'm going to do this."

They were just waiting to see if I wanted to do it, too, everybody who had been in the band, including Jim Messina and Paul Cotton, and of course Richie Furay and Rusty (Young). So what stood out is just the fact that we were all there, we're all still alive, and we were all onstage together. That's it.

Songfacts: I want to talk a little bit more about time management. You must have new music that you've written since Expando came out, right?

Timothy: Yeah, I'm starting to write some songs again. I'm not incredibly prolific, meaning I don't do it very fast, so it really is work for me. Some things come easier than others; it's like all facets of life. So I don't have a ton of excess music, I don't crank out a song a day. I have to work at it to get things how I want it, and sometimes it takes a long time. So that's what I'm doing now. And I may have a lot of next year to be doing that, because I'm not sure how much the Eagles are going to work next year. So we'll see.

Songfacts: We talked about reuniting with the guys of Poco. What's it been like to be able to tour again as the Eagles? I imagine there are people that didn't get to see the band the first time around. Has it been gratifying to be able to give the fans those shows with all those hits?

Timothy: Yeah, it really is. It's very obvious to us that people do want to hear the hits; they're not as interested in newer music. But we do do some new songs, because we have to keep interested, too. We have to have our carrot dangled in front of us. But we know what they want and we try our best to give it to them. And it's very satisfying. We just played a show last weekend in Las Vegas that was really a lot of fun. We hadn't been on stage for two or three months prior to that. We just had a sound check and did the show. It was really fun to have been away from it and to see an excited audience again.

Songfacts: The reunion tour was called Hell Freezes Over, the joke being that the guys said that you wouldn't reform until hell froze over. So I wonder if you could just comment on how maturity has just played a role in making it so that you guys can just step on stage and so easily go into performing. Do you feel like you've reached a point now where you've kind of put all those things behind you and you can just be musicians playing together?

Timothy: Yeah. We know we have a viable product, for lack of better words. And we know that we do it well, we know that there's a demand, and we get together and we go to work. I think maturity has a lot to do with it. We're smart enough to know that we need breaks, and sometimes long breaks, from each other, as well as to be with other parts of our lives, mainly family. I think it was key. I think one of the reasons the band broke up in the first place was that we very rarely took breaks, we were just going all the time and pressuring ourselves. And plus we were young. We were a lot younger and didn't know any better.

Songfacts: On another topic, is it true that you came up with the term "Parrotheads" to describe Jimmy Buffett fans?

Timothy: That would be true.

Songfacts: Really?

Timothy: Uh-huh.

Songfacts: What sparked that inspiration?

Timothy: I did a little bit of touring with Jimmy a couple of summers, a couple of years on and off after the Eagles had broken up in the '80s. I was sort of in the background all of a sudden, but happy to be working. He was a friend of mine, still is. And we were going to a show, and I was in his car. We were going to one of those outdoor summer shows, and we had to drive basically through a lot of people who were going to the show, and they saw him and they started getting excited. And he started waving. I said something to the effect of, "Man, these are your own Deadheads. They're not Deadheads, though, they're Parrotheads." And he ran with it. It's too bad I didn't license that. (laughs)

Songfacts: That's what I was gonna ask, have you profited from it? But you haven't.

Timothy: No. Only by word of mouth.
We spoke with Timothy B. Schmit on November 10, 2011. Get more at timothybschmit.com.
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Comments: 12

Love your voice and songs you wrote,I love the fact that you never changed the way you looked your long hair,white shirt and vest,my kind of guy never change that.Kristina Calce from Oakville,ontatio Canada
Love Timothy and his great voice and songs.
Love and love
Nathalie Salmon
Love Timothy B. Schmidt! And love this song. Takes me back.Karen from Greenville, Tx
How about that, tho, the Eagles "Hotel California" hitting big at the same time as Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours". What kind of celestial line-up of the sun, moon and stars occurred for that to happen; two of the best selling albums of all time. Interesting.Camille from Toronto, Oh
thank you for all the great songs.. love this new cd Expando and the song Ella Jean love it wow...you write such great songs. again thank you ....Mary from Auburn, Wa
I remember seeing Timothy playing at a teen center in Sacramento when he was in a band called the Contenders. The Contenders became The New Breed which played "GreenEyed Woman" on American Bandstand. We watched it on TV and rooted for them as the "home team".Ed, Now In Japan
"Waiting in the Weeds" has become one of my favorite songs of all time. It paints such a picture of late summer. If you haven't heard it, take a minute. It deserves at least that much. Great live, too.Onealsinga from Georgia
I really dig the reviews, opinions, and tips about writing music. It’s a hard thing to progress at and sites like this help. Great post, keep up the good work. Thanks.Simon George from Franklin,tn
Timothy.....Your voice is amazing. I can't tell you why is one of my favorite Eagles songs. I loved Poco and was pleasantly surprised when you joined the Eagles. I thought "what a excellent addition to a group with decent vocals already." What you add to Eagles vocals is like the "cherry" on top of an Ice Cream Sundae. Will ALWAYS be a Timothy B. Schmidt fan.Dennis from Florida
Those were the days my friend, we thougth they never end but they did.
Eagles, Fagan and Becker, CSN, Poco, Byrds - Some of America's very best bands...
Zion-pedro from Zion, Il
loved his solo lp with keepin it cool and a remake of the old tymes song so in love on it keep on keepin on tim jim a fanJim from Ontario, Canada
The eagles said the reason they didn't show for the show was they didn't believe in award show.Yet Irving Azoff wanted a guarantee they would win album of the year.Fleetwood Mac won the award for album of the year Rumors.Dan from Winthrop, Ma

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