Don Felder Shares Woodstock Memories, Thoughts On Placing a Guitar In the Met Museum

Michael Helms
Don Felder

Now that he's released his first new solo album in seven years, Don Felder is hoping it won't take quite as long to get his next one out.

"I would say I'm already, right now, writing for another record that I'd like to try to get out in the next two, two and a half years," says the former Eagles guitarist, who released his third solo album, American Rock 'n' Roll, in April. Felder talks extensively about the new set in the video interview below.

Felder adds that a busy touring schedule, including both regular concerts and private charitable and corporate events, has long been the speed bump for getting more material out. "I wish I had the time to actually spend more time every month at home in the studio, writing and recording," he explains. "Unless I stop touring for a year, it takes me years to write and record and produce a record. With my touring schedule the only way I can write is sitting backstage on a little iPhone or on a plane writing lyrics or driving down the 405 singing something into my phone...It's really not until I can be home and settled that I can do anything with any of that. And I promise you that when I'm home I'm not lying out by my pool; I'm actually in the studio working. So I try, I really do."

More than his first two releases, 1983's Airborne and 2012's Road To Forever (as well as soundtrack work including Heavy Metal and Fast Times at Ridgemont High), American Rock 'n' Roll is a demonstration on how nice Felder plays, literally, with others. The 11-track set features guest appearances by musical pals such as Sammy Hagar, Peter Frampton, Slash, Joe Satriani, Bob Weir, Rush's Alex Lifeson, Richie Sambora and Orianthi, Mick Fleetwood, the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Chad Smith and Toto's David Paich and Steve Porcaro. "On Road To Forever I played everything on the record, every guitar part, anything that had strings on it," Felder says. "I was really happy with it but the thing I felt it really lacked was the excitement and enthusiasm and the intensity and the spontaneous creativity of sitting in a room with people. Usually that's the most exciting part of recording, so this time I was writing songs and figuring out who I would have come in and play with me. I just wanted to have kind of a rock n' roll string party in my studio."

The party actually kicked off with the album's title track, which features Slash on guitar and drums by both Mick Fleetwood and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith and was inspired by Felder's trip to the first Woodstock festival in 1969. "I wanted to write a song which was kind of, I guess, a musical rockumentary, going back to being one of the 400,000 soaking wet, mud-covered people there for three days, listening to these just incredible performances," recalls Felder, a Florida native who was living in New York at the time and traveled to the site with friends in an SUV that doubled as a tent.

"I saw Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Janis Joplin...To me that was the biggest explosion in the history of rock n' roll. I thought it really propelled rock n' roll to a whole other level, worldwide. A lot of the people who played on this record were inspired by those artists. So the song goes from verse to verse to verse through the decades about how all the people continued to carry the torch from there."

Another poignant moment on the album is Frampton's appearance on "The Way Things Have To Be," which was recorded before he told Felder, and subsequently the world, about his battle with inclusion body myositis. "He kept that diagnosis very close to the breast," says Felder, who was part of Frampton's Guitar Circus Tour and was told of Frampton's condition about six months before he made it public. "I thought it was just amazing he was dealing with that and you never knew. He was in such great spirits, smiled ear to ear, played great. I never suspected anything was wrong. And I thought it was ironic he wound up being chosen to play on a song called 'The Way Things Have to Be,' which really was about a different concept but is also really an appropriate title for his situation."

Felder has a lineup of shows into the summer promoting American Rock 'n' Roll. And those who can't see him live can hit the new Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the double neck Gibson Felder played on Eagles' "Hotel California" is on display. "That's something no one ever dreams of when starting out," Felder gushes. "Thinking back to when I was walking around starving on the streets (in New York), never would I imagine anything I had anything to do with would be hanging on exhibit at the Met. That's a really, really wonderful thing that happened."

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