Glenn Frey Talks About Art, Friendship and Tom Hanks
[This is a transcript of an Art of the Song interview as broadcast nationally on Public Radio. Click here to listen to the complete show with music.]
John: Do you engage in any other art forms besides music and songwriting?
Glenn: Let me think. I don’t paint. No, I guess probably not. Not per say. I sing and play piano and guitar. That’s really about it for me.
John: What about acting?
Glenn: Well, yeah, I guess that. Sometimes the phone rings. That’s what happens with me. Somebody calls up and says, “Glenn, come in. I want you to read for this.” So it’s happened a few times. I never really too actively pursued that, but it happened. When I did it, I really had a good time. It gave me a keen appreciation of what that television/movie thing is all about. It kind of also made me a little bit happy to be a musician. Maybe that ain’t so bad.
Viv: We are really looking forward to watching this new side of Glenn Frey wow the rest of the country as it has us.
Glenn: I’m starting to feel more like an educator. My friend Tom Hanks, the stuff that he does in acting, he’s basically, what he’s helping us do is to reclaim and re-understand a hundred years of American history. Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific, all the projects that he’s taken on like that. He’s sort of become a historian. I sort of feel like that with this record too. I kind of like the idea of pulling some songs back from the past and cutting them with the new technology that we have. I love the charm of the older records as well, but there’s something to be said too for moving this song a little closer to where you can really hear things. One thing I’ll say about my record, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t win a Grammy for best-engineered record. The guys that worked on it, Mike Harlow and Elliott Scheiner and Richard Davis, they did a fabulous job. We took it to mastering up in Maine to a guy named Bob Ludwig, who is the mastering guy. He’s the guy. He didn’t have to do anything to it. We play this song and usually they say, “Well, what’d you do?” He’ll go to some dial or some little thing and you’ll hear something just grow a little bit. He said, “I didn’t have to do anything to this record.” So that was a great experience. But, like I say, there’s so many Eagles fans out there and if a few of them happened to buy this record just out of curiosity, then I think I’m going to really surprise them. Most of what I’ve received from all my friends and secret Board of Directors, and even people now, like yourselves, now I’m starting to talk to people who have got this record in advance is, first of all they’re a little surprised that I would take this on and that I would sing this way. Then second is I think they’re charmed by the beauty of the record and by the weave and the way that everything is used in this record. It’s a real mood thing. I think they really get that. Then they also understand that we put this record together like it was a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. You don’t do that in one day. You work on it for a while, you step away, get some clarity. It’s nice to be able to work and not have to go from the beginning to the end. Be able to come back and say, “Yes, that was good. What about this, though?” You’re able to really refine and work on it that way. This record that we made, we all love this music, me and my guys. We were smiling a lot because it was so much fun to make. We know that Clive Davis didn’t call me up and tell me I need to go do a standards record to try to give my career a boost. “We’re gonna cut some songs, give us the songs you like, we’ll cut them for you and you can come in and sing.” Like I said, this is a serious piece of music.
Story Time With Glenn Frey
Another funny story, and I haven’t told this story to anybody. There comes a point in a record where you’re ready to sweeten, and we’ve got Allen Broadbent, this brilliant arranger, pianist, composer. He gets it. He’s so Johnny Mandel. He’s so Artie Butler. And so many other things. He’s brilliant. So he writes the arrangements and we have the string date set for September 25, 26 and, on September 21st, I contract pneumonia. And I went to the doctor on the 23rd and I said, “What’s going on? I feel terrible.” “Well, you’ve got pneumonia.” I said, “And you know what else I’ve got? I’ve got a string session on Wednesday and Thursday. You can’t put me in the hospital.” “Ok”. “I have to go do this.” “Well, go right home right now, lay down, start taking this medicine, start drinking a bunch of water, start eating this way…duh duh duh duh duh. Try to get yourself ready.” But I would go, I went to the string sessions, which is supposed to be the most light up, kick your feet back, and dig yourself kind of moments. And I’m like death warmed over. A low-grade fever and I’m on pain pills and everything’s just kind of opiated kind of blur. And we’re doing these strings and I’m lying on the couch. I put a suit on for the day so I looked good for the string guys and I’m lying on the couch like this. But, after the first day, it was so moving to hear the orchestra with me. We put synthesizer string mock-ups on stuff and we liked it, but then there is nothing like the real people playing the real thing. It was so otherworldly and so heavenly to me. I came back the second day and actually I hugged Allen Broadbent and then I turned to the orchestra and I said, “You guys have no idea how emotional and what a day yesterday was for me and what that meant to hear myself sing and be accompanied by all this brilliant music and this great writing. You know, I’ve been a Rock ‘n’ Roll star for all my life, but today I’m a musician, and I really feel that way and you’ve made me feel that way.” I’m like, “Ok, am I crying? Am I crying? I can’t do that. No crying in Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It was one of those kinds of experiences. I’m going to make another record just so hopefully I won’t have pneumonia for the string day and I can actually go there and maybe have a Bloody Mary and say, “God, that’s really good, isn’t it?” Glug glug glug. As opposed to the way it happened. The whole making of this record, it was so worth it for me. I learned so much about myself. I was surprised and happy that I could sing like this. That this might be something that could surprise a few people. If Brian Wilson told me he liked my version of “Caroline, No” or if Randy Newman told me he liked my version of “The Same Girl” or if Linda Ronstadt told me that I made a nice record, that’d be it. I’d be happy. Seriously. I have hopes for this record and I think it’s going to be one of these records that’s going to get passed from person to person to person over the next year and people are going to say, “Listen to this. It’s better than the other stuff you’ve been listening to like that.”
John: Glenn Frey, thank you so much for being with us today.
Glenn: Hey, today was a pleasure for me, and long live a good song.