Songwriter Interviews

Timothy B. Schmit

by Greg Prato

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Timothy B. Schmit has been a huge part of some of the most classic of rock. From 1970-1977 he was with Poco, the seminal country-rock band. From there, it was off to the Eagles for The Long Run album. He was with them till the end, and along the way showed up as a bass player or backing singer on tracks by Bob Seger, Steely Dan, Jimmy Buffett, Don Henley and many others. Since 1984, he has been issuing his own solo albums, and in late 2016 released his sixth solo disc, Leap of Faith.

A talented songwriter, Schmit wrote the Eagles hit "I Can't Tell You Why" with Henley and Glenn Frey, and also "Tell Me What You Dream," a #1 Adult Contemporary hit for Restless Heart. Most of his solo offerings are also songwriting collaborations, but this time out he made a conscious decision to pen all of the material himself. Schmit spoke to Songfacts shortly after the arrival of Leap of Faith, and was up for discussing his latest release, a few classic tunes he has penned over the years, and the Eagles.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's discuss your new album, Leap of Faith.

Timothy B. Schmit: This is my second album that I self-penned the whole thing. And that is different from my first four albums, because I did a lot of collaborating with it - just a few scattered solo-written things. And when I go back to some of my older albums, I'm actually quite partial - in most cases, not every case - to the songs I just wrote myself.

Starting with my last album, Expando, I decided to do what I do, no matter how long it took and whatever the process was. So this album, Leap of Faith, I consider it kind of a "sister album" to my last album, because of that factor - that it's written all by me, alone.

Songfacts: What are some of your favorite tracks from the new album?

Timothy: I don't have a favorite song. Every song I put on this album or any of my albums is something that I like and feel is worthy of putting on album. There's nothing I would throw away. Anything I would throw away has already been thrown away.

I believe that this is fairly autobiographical - I get pretty personal with a lot of this stuff. If I had to pick one out, I like "Slow Down" and I really like "All Those Spaces," because it's sort of a freeform song, which was written... not haphazardly, but with the thought of not thinking too much, to see what came out.

Songfacts: You wrote a great song for Poco called "Keep On Tryin'." What was the inspiration for that one?

Timothy: Honestly, that was so long ago that I don't really remember - other than I must have been going through something likely with a relationship, to where it gave me pause to think about a lot of things. I do remember that song was written fairly quickly, which is unlike me, and I really like that. I wish that would happen more often. It's a song about hope - that's what I remember.

Songfacts: On what Eagles song do we hear Glenn Frey's best work?

Timothy: That's difficult. Those guys wrote so many great songs, and both of them [Frey and Don Henley] sing so great. I don't really have a favorite one. His voice was so important not only lead-wise, but to the harmony that went down with us. I'm sorry, I don't have a favorite - I think that it's all tried and true.
1968: Schmit auditions for Poco. They go with Randy Meisner.
1970: Schmit replaces Meisner in Poco.
1977: Schmit replaces Meisner in the Eagles.
Songfacts: What did you learn about songwriting in the Eagles?

Timothy: I learned a lot. I learned that it's a hardcore discipline. It's something you work at. It's not something - at least for me, and I saw that happen around, as well - that you take lightly. It's work. If you want to be a poet and put it into a song, that takes a lot of thinking.

Some songs come easier than others, but things aren't likely to just come out of the blue. Your initial idea might, but the rest of it is kind of "rolling up your sleeves and going to the office," sort of.

Songfacts: Tell me about writing the song "Tell Me What You Dream."

Timothy: I had a kernel of that song, and I brought it to two other guys, friends of mine named Josh Leo and Vince Melamed. People I had been working with and hanging out with back then. That album came out in the year my second daughter was born. It's a song that you get a scenario in your head and you work with it - you pick it apart and create a song. I don't have anything heavy or super-meaningful to tell you about that.

After the Eagles broke up in 1980, all five members of that lineup - Henley, Frey, Schmit, Don Felder and Joe Walsh (and also Meisner) - made it to the Hot 100 as solo artists. Schmit's biggest chart hit was "Boys Night Out," which reached #25 in 1987 and earned him airplay on MTV.
Songfacts: How did you feel about making music videos back in the '80s?

Timothy: It was part of the deal. It was kind of important, because MTV was fairly new, and they were only a video channel. It became an important part of promoting your record.

As far as filming and stuff, any film work is very tedious. There is a lot of waiting around, so it's not that glamorous. The majority of the time you're waiting to do your bit. When you're a central figure in a music video, you're not waiting around as much, but they can last for a few days. So I looked it as a great opportunity for promoting my music, but also, a full day's work... or two.

Songfacts: What are your thoughts on the Eagles documentary, History of the Eagles? Would you say that was a pretty faithful snapshot of band from your personal experiences?

Timothy: Yeah, I do. It was a chance for everybody who was in the band - or had been in the band - to say what they wanted to say, and that was the great element to that documentary. So yeah, I thought it was a good job.

October 14, 2016.
Here is our interview with Schmit from 2011.
His website is timothybschmit.com.

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