The content of a 15-minute conversation with Joe Walsh pretty much mirrors the veteran rocker’s description of what his concerts are like these days - “a little of everything.”
In his self-deprecating, slightly befogged manner, the guitarist-singer-songwriter offers up a couple of tidbits about the Eagles’ first new album since 1979’s “The Long Run” (he’s been with the band since 1976, when he replaced Bernie Leadon); some nuts-and-bolts information about the makeup of his set list; a comment on his recent hookup with country star Kenny Chesney; a morsel of celebrity gossip about good buddy Drew Carey, and banter - lots of banter.
After a simple question designed to break the ice - “How are you doing today?” - Walsh pauses a moment, then answers in his droll, down-home drawl, “Well, I’m not sure. I never know until after noon.” (It is only 11 a.m. in Los Angeles at the time the question is posed.)
On his latest tour, which began last month, the 59-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is playing material from his days in the James Gang. The Cleveland-based power trio rose to fame in the late 1960s and early `70s thanks to Walsh’s sharp guitar work and songs such as “Walk Away” and “Funk #49.”
Fans can also expect “an Eagles thing or two I was responsible for” (likely an allusion to “Hotel California’s” “Pretty Maids All in a Row” and “The Long Run’s” “In The City” and “The Sad Cafe”), and, of course, his solo hits “Rocky Mountain Way” (from 1973’s “The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get”) and “Life’s Been Good” (from 1978’s “But Seriously Folks”).
Walsh also is planning a three- or four-song acoustic set. “It’s going to be fun, digging some stuff out - you know, deep album cuts, like `At the Station’ and `Indian Summer’ (from “But Seriously”) and `Life of Illusion’ (from 1981’s “There Goes The Neighborhood”). A third of the show will be unexpected stuff.”
In both the James Gang and the Eagles, Walsh works with people his own age. However, for this tour Walsh will be abetted by a group of “digital whiz kids,” including singers Gia Chamotti, Stacy Michelle and Ricky Washington; drummers Drew Hester and Rock Daedrick; bassist Don Boyette; guitarist Gannon Arnold, and keyboardist Bill Appleberry.
“I’ve surrounded myself with younger people, all from Southern California, who are really good musicians and really good with computers,” he says. “I’m an analog guy, and they’re really keeping me young.”
Walsh, a Wichita, Kan., native who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, New York City and Montclair, N.J., before attending Kent State University, has the time to do this tour because the finishing touches are still being put on the Eagles’ new disc. Walsh, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit have spent the last year recording it and will spend much of next year promoting it. “We’re finishing up the singing parts,” Walsh says.
A couple of weeks ago, Walsh told California’s Desert Post Weekly that he was “pretty sure” the album would be titled “Hard Road Out of Eden.” The Henley-penned title song, he added, is “written (from) the eyes of a U.S. serviceman and the way he sees the world.”
Walsh notes that each band member contributed songs, adding, “I’ve got two on the album.” Asked their titles, he responds: “I’d rather not say.”
Last week, however, Walsh told Billboard.com that his songwriting “went rock `n’ roll. ... I didn’t want us to be too ballad-y here. We need some stuff we can play live, so I made sure there was that element in the record.”
Overall, the album goes “in some really, really new, different directions. It’s hard to compare to anything that I hear out there now.”
A few months ago, Walsh was a surprise guest on Chesney’s Flip Flop Summer Tour, often performing a blistering “Rocky Mountain Way” with the country singer.
“My road manager knows all the Nashville road managers, and they keep in touch,” says Walsh, explaining how the two came to share the stage.
“He (Chesney) has been a fan since college, and I was a little horny to play. So he said, `Well, come on out.’ So I did maybe five of his shows and randomly played on a couple of his songs and a couple of my own, like `Life’s Been Good’ and `All Night Long.’ ...
“I just live to play in front of people,” Walsh continues. “I feel really comfortable on stage. When I’m at a party with people I don’t know, that’s where I feel awkward. I still like to rock `n’ roll, and when I get on stage, I usually end up leading the charge.”
With interview time almost gone, Walsh is asked if he might play “Moon Over Parma,” the occasional polka theme song of “The Drew Carey Show.” (Walsh made several appearances on his friend’s ABC sitcom.)
“No,” he replies, sounding a bit nonplussed.
However, with the next question - “Have you spoken to Drew since he was chosen to replace Bob Barker as host of `The Price Is Right?’” - Walsh rebounds.
“I called him and asked if I could audition to be the guy who says (screaming at the top of his lungs), `IT’S A NEW CAR ... COME ON DOWN!’
“We’ve e-mailed one another, but he’s been busy with soccer. He’s a soccer nut. Since (David) Beckham came to L.A., he’s been at all the practices. He even has press passes and a camera with a two-foot lens.”