If all goes as he hopes and plans, Joe Walsh will be holding VetsAid concerts annually for the foreseeable future.
The inaugural concert — taking place Sept. 20 with Walsh, the Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and Gary Clark Jr. at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va. — will help launch VetsAid, Walsh’s new nonprofit organization designed to help military veterans and their families. “I looked at Willie Nelson and Farm Aid as a role model; they do it every year and it draws people together, and drawing people together where they realize they’re not alone, to me, is strategic in healing,” Walsh tells Billboard. “I would like it to be annual. I don’t see any way that this cannot be a great concert. It’s a real guitar gunslingers battle, and I think after everybody’s played, we’ll get onstage and have a go at each other. It really feels great to me, and hopefully we’ll do this every year.”
Walsh says reaction to VetsAid, which he announced earlier this month, has been “just what I hoped it would be,” with support coming from military channels as well as the government — in particular Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran herself, who’s been active in Veteran Affairs. He plans for VetsAid and particularly its website — which is being “executive produced” by Walsh’s stepson — to be a one-stop resource for veterans and their families, collating services to help with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological and emotional issues, as well as medical and financial needs.
“There’s a bunch of smaller organizations around the country, and some of them are vet-operated, and they’re really in the trenches and they’re doing a great job,” says Walsh, whose father, a test pilot, was killed in active duty when Walsh was just 20 months old. He’s also been active with Gold Star families and made regular visits to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “I wanted to help these little individual pockets of veterans-related organizations and get them together and also help fund them so they can keep going. I think it’s sorely needed in the country because it’s an ongoing war with no end in sight, and kids continue to come home fairly shattered, and the transition to civilian life is quite a journey. I want to be involved in all of that.”
Walsh’s continuing musical pursuits will certainly allow him to keep VetsAid visible — particularly the revived Eagles, which plays its second show since group co-founder Glenn Frey‘s death on Saturday at the Classic East concert in New York with another, Classic Northwest on Sept. 30 at Seattle’s Safeco Field, just announced. Walsh says he and cohorts Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit “spent a long time” discussing how the Eagles could continue without Frey, but he says the Classic West concert on July 15 in Los Angeles, with Frey’s son Deacon and Vince Gill in the lineup, proved to be the right move.
“We figured we would at least try it and see where it went, and it was magic. It really was,” Walsh says. “It was received wonderfully, and the energy that we all have is very, very healing. I think Glenn would be proud of this, and we decided to do it some more.”
But Walsh — who also plays on his brother-in-law Ringo Starr’s new album Give More Love (out Sept. 15) and has a three-show residency at the Las Vegas House of Blues in September — adds that the Eagles are proceeding gently into the future.
“We’re not booking a huge tour and saying ‘Hey, we’re back’ and all that,” he says. “We’re very cautiously trying to get an environment where it will all work and people can come and we can play our music and continue to keep going. Based on Los Angeles, we got a real nibble here, and so we’re just going to take it slow and make sure it’s the highest amount of quality and production, and that’s where we’re at with it at this point.”