INTERVIEW WITH DON FELDER
One of the best guitar solos of all time…mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice…this New Year’s Eve Los Cabos will party at DESPERADOS.
Don Felder is in town!
A four-time Grammy® Award winner, one of the most popular and influential rock lead guitarists, famous for his song Hotel California and awarded by RIAA for recording the top-selling album of the 20th century, the former member of the band THE EAGLES saw his record Road to Forever hit #1 in the Classic Rock charts with his song You don’t have me.
Don Felder chats with Destino Magazine Editor Michelle Monroy about Los Cabos, music, and life.
Happy new year!
DM: When was the first time you came to Cabo? What made you return?
DF: The first time I came to Cabo was about thirty years ago. My son grew up on the beach in Malibu and was an avid surfer. He wanted to come down to Cabo for his birthday and surf Costa Azul. We went on a dad and son surf trip, flew down with his surfboard, rented a Jeep, headed to the hotel, and the first thing the next morning we went out to Costa Azul. We had a wonderful time; I watched him surf and enjoyed the beautiful weather. After that, I started returning to Cabo with my wife. We would go down and stay at Palmilla; we love that hotel. I would play golf – when the golf course was added – and then I eventually started moving my boat to the Cabo marina during the winters. I met some delightful people that were also using the Cabo Marina as their escape during the cold winters. I just fell in love with Cabo and I returned often as I could, either to play golf or for sportfishing, I just always had a great time.
DM: Los Cabos is a great golf destination and it’s known that you’re an avid golfer. Do you have a favorite course in Cabo?
DF: I love Cabo del Sol and I’ve always enjoyed playing Palmilla. A friend of mine built a house out there, just past the Palmilla Hotel. We would go golfing and then go out to the boat on the marina. It was just delightful.
DM: You have worked with many musicians throughout your career. Do you have any particular experiences that have marked your life?
DF: I think a lot of my musical background came from my early childhood and my teen years when I was in bands with Steven Stills. We were around fourteen years old. I was Tom Petty’s guitar teacher when I was about sixteen. Duane Allman taught me how to play slide guitar. There was this studio down in Miami called Criteria Recording Studio and it had five different studios in the complex. When we started making records with the Eagles down there, you could walk down the hallway and the Bee Gees would be in one studio and Crosby Stills Nash and Young would be in another. Clapton would be there, and then Chicago in another room. You would walk down the hall and someone would say “Hey, come in here, we need a guitar part.” A lot of my influences and experiences in my music career occurred by having a lot of doors open when I was at the right place, at the right time, and also by knowing the right people. My early influences were artists like BB King, Albert King, which are great blues players, Chet Atkins who was a great country artist, Howard Roberts, who was a great jazz guitar player. I started trying to learn any and everything I could possibly get my ears on. Just learning how to play it all.
DM: Where do you find inspiration?
DF: I don’t really pursue inspiration. I think it finds me. Something happens in the day, or I hear a phrase or I read a couple of sentences that give me a thought, an inspiration or an insight into a song idea. I frequently sit around watching television and playing guitar, just fiddling around, and all of a sudden I hear something in the music score of the orchestra and I have to stop my DVR and rewind it. Sometimes I’m driving down the freeway in LA singing a melody into my iPhone – trying not to get stopped by the police – or I’m on an airplane scribbling lyrics into a music-writing program called Master Writers. I spend a lot of what you would normally call “wasted time” on the road, in hotels, on the airplanes, or backstage playing and writing. It’s always around; it’s just a matter of hearing something that triggers a thought or an idea. I’ve learned over my years that if I don’t immediately write it down, or immediately jump on the idea, or record it, then an hour or so later it’s gone. That’s what happened with the song Hotel California. I was sitting on the beach in Malibu playing guitar and this idea came out and I ran into my little one-year-old daughter ‘s bedroom. When she was awake I had a little recording studio there. I recorded the basic idea and then came back later thinking, “you know, I think I’m going to finish this.” If I had not put it down somewhere it would have gone away. I’m very attentive to those really subtle inspirations that come along, and when they show up, I grab them.
DM: Which of the songs that you have written is closer to your heart?
DF: I really enjoy the song Hotel California, mainly because at every live show, I get to play it. For example, I do shows for the United Nations in New York City. The last time I was there, which was a couple years ago, I went out and played in front of five hundred Heads of State and Presidents from all over the World. I would say that only less than half of them spoke English, but when I started playing Hotel California, everybody in that room knew the song. Even if they didn’t speak English, they hummed and sang along as if they knew the lyrics. At the end, I got a standing ovation for it. That song has probably had the greatest global impact of anything I’ve been a part of creating. It seems to have the longevity that a lot of other songs don’t.
DM: Do you have a favorite guitar?
DF: I actually do. When we used to travel through Texas at least once, if not twice a year, there was a guy down there that wore a big cowboy hat and he either had a station wagon or a pickup truck or a suburban. Every time he had a different car. He went all around through Texas and the South and found these great old collectible guitars. Gibsons, Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters, old Telecasters, Broadcasters, Pre-war Martin acoustic guitars, Everly Brothers acoustic guitars; things you just never found. In every town that we went through he would show-up with his station wagon full of guitars, knowing that I was the sucker I was at that time. I would buy nearly everything he had in his car. Amongst them was a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst. I recorded nearly everything on the Eagles records with it, including Hotel California. I still use it today. A couple of years ago, the Gibson Company contacted me. They took that guitar and made an exact replica and duplicated it three hundred times as the Don Felder Hotel California Guitar. Then they went to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and took my White Double Neck guitar and made one hundred and fifty exact replicas. All four hundred and fifty guitars sold within two weeks. I think out of all the guitars I own, I have nearly three hundred, the 59 Les Paul is probably closest to my heart and my favorite guitar.
DM: What is the most gratifying experience you took from your time with The Eagles, and which one was the most difficult?
DF: Like in any relationship you can think back and have wonderful times, wonderful memories, laughs, and then there’s also the really hard work,and the difficulty in all the travel, and all the stuff on both sides of it. We all poured a great amount of hard work into the songwriting, the touring, and the recording. We spent many days, weeks, months and years working to perfect a project. It would take us over a year to make an album that had only ten songs on it because we cared so much about making it really great. Then there’s the feeling that you get from the appreciation of the millions of fans around the world that grew up with these songs and know every lyric. This appreciation that you get from the result of your hard work is really what’s probably the most gratifying. I would say as far as the difficult times, there’s nothing that really outweighs the positive outcome of all of our efforts and successes. At the end of 1999, the RIAA, which is the Recording Industry Association of America, presented us with an award that really surpassed any other awards that I’ve ever received. It was a plaque for the largest selling album of the twentieth century. If you think of all the other artists of the twentieth century, Elvis, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, there are so many great artists. One of our records had sold more than any other album in the twentieth century. You go to many peoples homes and you see all these platinum records and Grammys®. I have only one displayed. I guess you can imagine which one it is.
DM: Your musical repertoire includes many different songs. Which style of set list can guests anticipate for New Years at Desperados to welcome in 2015?
DF: I will do a lot of the songs that I co-wrote, recorded and played on tour with the Eagles during the twenty-seven years that I was in the band. That’s pretty much what I’m most known for. I will do some of my solo material like “Heavy Metal,” which I wrote for an animated film in the mid-eighties and that so many people now remember, as well as a couple of songs from my new solo CD titled “The Road to Forever. Great rock ‘n roll tracks. I will also do a tip-of-the-hat to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It will be a great night of rock ‘n roll, everybody knows just about every song. It will be a great time and a fun New Year’s Eve.*