Eagles Songwriter Jack Tempchin Returns to His Roots With New Solo Album, Preps Glenn Frey Tribute: Exclusive Interview
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Songwriting has been very good to Jack Tempchin, who wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” – a future classic for the Eagles – nearly 45 years ago. The well might run dry for some, but he continues to find plenty of inspiration to create new songs.
“I’ve been doing it a long time,” Tempchin told Ultimate Classic Rock during a recent conversation from his California home. “I used to write four or five a year and now every day or two, I write one. Somehow, I guess I’m having even more fun now.”
Tempchin’s latest album, One More Song, finds the veteran singer/songwriter looking back inspirationally to his earliest days, mixing new material with a few choice cuts from his songbook, including some that he has never recorded.
“I was thinking about the coffeehouse days where I got started around 1970 or ‘68. Where I met Jackson Browne and JD Souther and Glenn Frey. You know, you would go in and it was what you would now call a listening room,” he says. “People would actually listen to what you were doing and they were drinking apple cider and coffee, and songs were a big deal. You got on stage and communicated with the audience and that’s what I tried to recapture with this album. I even went back and recorded some songs that I had written back then that I’d never recorded before. I tried to make it like you went into a coffeehouse, and you kind of heard a set like you would have back then.”
“Singing in the Streets” is one of a couple of tracks on the album that Tempchin first recorded as a member of the Funky Kings, his short-lived band with singer/songwriters Jules Shear and Richard Stekol. Signed to Arista by Clive Davis, the group survived long enough to release a single album in 1976 before later going their separate ways.
“The Funky Kings band that I was in with Jules was really a high point. He’s such a fantastic writer, but also an incredible singer and harmony singer. [He] puts all of his energy into everything. It was great that I was able to work with him,” Tempchin says now.
“I wrote [“Singing in the Streets”] about my friend Robin Lent,” he adds, “who actually did spend many years singing in the street all over the world. He said, ‘Jack, you left out the part where I got thrown in jail a lot of times for singing on the street!’ I still go downtown and I still go every day or two to the beaches around here where I live in California, and I just sing for people on the street. It’s important to me.”
Listen to Jack Tempchin Perform ‘I Got Her Right Where She Wants Me’
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As Tempchin recalls, the deal with Davis was something that came about in a really surprising fashion.
“We had been together for about a month. We got a rehearsal space and then the other three guys in the band, bass, drums and another guitar, we had just rehearsed with them the day before,” he recalls. “Clive Davis called me that night and said, ‘I’m coming to town, do you have anything?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this new band.’ I showed up at the rehearsal place in the morning and I said, ‘We’ve got to learn these three songs, because Clive’s coming to see us.’ He came and sat there and we played him the three songs and much to his credit, he goes, ‘I like it!’ And I go, ‘Well, should I get a lawyer and contact your lawyer and do a record deal?’ He goes, ‘No, no, no. I like it. You’re signed. You have a deal. Make a record.’ [Laughs.] Nobody else in the business does that. They always have to ask everybody what they’re doing. We were produced by Paul Rothchild, who produced the Doors and Janis Joplin, so it was a fabulous experience. And then we went on tour opening for Hall and Oates and it was really great.”
When it came to choosing the material that he wanted to record for the album that became One More Song, Tempchin had plenty of options.
“I went through all of the songs I hadn’t recorded and then I wrote a new song called “Song For You” with my new buddy, Keith Harkin,” he says. “He’s an Irish guy and has an incredible facility melodically. And, also, he made up the guitar part for that – and that was so strong, I put it on there. I had other songs I had just written that I thought would fit on here that I would play by myself for people. I had a song that I wrote with the amazing Bobby Whitlock, who was in Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton, a song called “I Got Her Right Where She Wants Me.” So, I just had to put that one on there. It just kind of came together.”
There seems to be a colorful story connected to each of Tempchin’s collaborators and his initial meeting with Whitlock is no exception.
“I met Bobby out here. He came out and he’s amazing. He looked on the Billboard chart and he says, ‘Who has the No. 1 record? I’m going to call him and write with him.’ Fortunately, they weren’t home! I had the No. 2 record with ‘You Belong To The City,’ so he called and came over and that’s how we started writing. In Nashville, I’ve written with all kinds of people. My friend Gary Nicholson, I wrote with and then one year, I just wanted to write with all people who had Top 10 hits that year and I was able to do that. So, I’ve written with a lot of people. It’s quite different in Nashville. That’s where most of the super musical talent is in the country right now. Not just country music, but all genres of music. They just go there and there’s so many people there. It’s pretty great.”
Tempchin’s 46-year friendship with Glenn Frey is one of his best stories. Turns out, it took almost a decade before they officially became collaborators. (“I like to know a guy for about 10 years before I start to write with him,” Tempchin says, with a hearty laugh.) Finally, the pair found themselves in the right place at exactly the right time when Frey stopped by and heard his friend working on a new track. Frey liked what he was hearing, and asked if he could take the song to his new group – the Eagles were barely a week old – to see what they could do with it. The next day, Frey returned with a cassette of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” which would become a standout tune on the debut Eagles album in 1972.
Listen to Jack Tempchin Perform ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’
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“I was so fortunate,” Tempchin says now, recalling his friendship with Frey. “How great for me to be friends with a guy who is one of the greatest writers, one of the greatest singers and an incredible arranger. They called him the Lone Arranger. You know, he took the song ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ – which I wrote myself and it was finished – but then the way that he made the record of it made it a classic. Because you just got the feel of the desert, and it felt like the times we were in. He did that with every song. And then as a singer, he’s irreplaceable, you know? I miss him a lot.”
He’ll pay tribute to the memory of his old friend with his next record, which Tempchin is planning to release in early 2017.
“My record label had asked me to do a record of all of the hits I had written, most of which were co-writes with Glenn Frey,” he says. “I was about halfway finished with that record with Glenn’s blessing, and then he died. I’m finishing that record and turning it in right now. It’s got some songs that Glenn and I wrote that have never been recorded. It’s got a couple of those and I found a bunch more of them. So, I may do another record, because there’s nobody to do them now except me. Even though he’s not here to sing them, at least I can [do something with them]. I don’t want them to just end up being a piece of paper. The record I’m doing is going to come out probably in March. It has really all of the things that I did with Glenn, some of which I wanted to do the way we wrote them – which is the way he recorded them. Other ones, I’m doing in a completely different way. This week, I’m going to go up and record two songs with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen. They’re a couple of my idols of music, so I’m really thrilled to be able to do that. It’s a good project and I’m really looking forward to that coming out.”
Tempchin will play a series of concerts in support of One More Song, including a weekly residency at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles in January and February and a pair of shows with Eagles alum Timothy B. Schmit. If you can’t make the gigs, chances are good that you’ll still find the veteran songwriter in the midst of something interesting on his Facebook page; he also offers up a songwriting tip or two.
“Everybody always said, write a book about songwriting, but I didn’t want to. Finally, I did a series of lectures for songwriters. They’re each less than two minutes long and they don’t tell you how to write the song, they just tell you how to get in the mood,” he chuckles. “So those are up there [on his website] for people and that’s kind of interesting. And then I’m [also] doing quite a bit of Facebook Live, which just started very recently. If [you visit] my Facebook page, suddenly, I’m on there singing a song. I’m usually down at the beach or sometimes I’m making a song or I’m singing some old song. It turns out, like 20 thousand people will hop on and watch, so I’m kind of going, hey, this is bigger than any gig I ever had! It’s really fun, so I’m looking forward to doing a lot of that. You know, the internet makes everything new. Every month there’s a different new way that you can reach the public and the public can reach you. It’s pretty exciting times.”
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