'Leap of Faith': Timothy B. Schmit Talks Past, Present, Future and New Album
Timothy B. Schmit first experienced commercial success as a teenager, when his band the New Breed had a hit in 1965 with “Green Eyed Woman.”
A few years later, he joined Poco, which led to his joining the Eagles in 1977. Schmit co-wrote and sang lead on the Eagles hit “I Can’t Tell You Why” and remained with the Eagles through the group’s hiatus in 1980.
What many people might not realize about Schmit is that he’s had an amazing career beyond his work with Poco and the Eagles. He has sung and/or played on hundreds of other artists’ releases, including Steely Dan, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Toto, Spinal Tap and Poison. He’s also been a featured touring sideman with Toto, Jimmy Buffett, Dan Fogelberg and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.
Schmit has released six full-length solo releases. Leap of Faith—released late last year—is Schmit’s latest studio album. In support of the new album, Schmit is on the road with a full backing band, and you can check out the dates below. This summer, he’ll perform with the Eagles for a pair of stadium shows as part of the Classic East and Classic West festivals at New York’s Citi Field and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium.
GuitarWorld.com caught up with Schmit to learn more about his past, present and future. More on the legendary bassist can be found at timothybschmit.com.
When did you first perform in New York?
It might be 1969; if not, very early 1970. Probably early 1970, and I played with Poco at the old World’s Fair location in Flushing, Queens. I remember it really well because we played in that, I don’t know what it’s called; it’s sort of an outdoor sort of Grecian circular structure that’s still there. We had to play there like third-bill, I believe the opener. The headliner was somebody like Albert King, and that was the first time I had ever gone to New York at all, and that was my first concert.
You’ve sung backup on so many albums, for so many artists. Beyond Poco, was Steely Dan your first backup-singing gig?
I don’t think so. That was among the first, I think. I’m not sure, actually. I know I met Gary Katz, the producer, prior to singing with Steely Dan. I actually sang for another artist, Thomas Jefferson Kaye, and Gary Katz had me and Richie Furay sing on that.
How did word get out that you were such a great singer?
You know what, back then I was having a great time and I loved singing, I still do. I would meet people from time to time, like I met Gary Katz at ABC Records; a friend casually mentioned to him, “If you ever need any singing help, let me know.” I would say that same thing to other people, and they would start taking me up on it. A lot of people, they would go, “Really? You would? You’d do that?” And I’d thought, “Hell yeah, why not?”
Were you a “ghost singer” on a number of albums? As in, were there times when you weren’t credited?
Only a few, a handful. Maybe less than a handful.
When that was happening, were you bound to a non-disclosure or confidentiality? Or did you get paid and wouldn’t see your name in the credits?
Sometimes that would happen, and actually a couple of times it didn’t bother me at all. I did a lot singing for one album for Crosby, Stills & Nash, and at the time they didn’t want anyone to know it wasn’t Crosby. They had to keep that scene under wraps. Darren, are we going to talk about my new album?
Do you have a favorite song on your album, Leap of Faith?
I suppose I’m partial to some more than others, but I wouldn’t put anything on this album that I didn’t really think was worthy of putting on. I’m kind of partial to a song called “All Those Faces.” I like the song “Slow Down.” I can’t say these are my favorites; they just came into my mind [as songs] I really like.
On this tour, are you playing a lot of material from your new album or just weaving in one or two songs?
Oh no, my stage show has a lot to do with my last couple of records especially, and then a few things from my past. Of course, it includes some Eagles and Poco.
Who’s in your band at the moment?
Well, Hank Linderman, who I’ve credited as co-producer for this album. I have a drummer named Herman Matthews, who has a long list of credits. A man from Orange County who toured with the Beach Boys for many years named Chris Farmer. My tech from the Eagles, who also goes out and techs with me and is an excellent musician, his name is Bobby Carlos. And then I have three singers that come out for most of the show, and their names are Marlena Jeter, Lynne Fivmont and Mortenette Stephens.
How do you feel about the process of making an album these days? Is it still exciting? Do you record mostly at home?
Yeah, I’m actually talking to you from my home studio, and I do record here. It’s a lot more relaxed for many reasons. There’s not a record company breathing down your back. There’s no pressure on any level. I’m writing it all, and Hank and I come in here and record things at a very relaxed pace because I don’t have any deadlines. It’s nice, it’s a luxury, actually.
For you to feel like the album is “successful,” does anything specific have to happen? Or is it just the joy of making it?
You mean “have to happen” as far as my career, or financial—or, what do you mean?
Some people say, “My album isn’t successful unless it sells 50,000 units.” Others might say, “The songs represent the way I feel, and the fact that I released it and people are paying to hear the songs live, that’s the goal.”
Well, the chances of me selling that many records so far have been very slim, and so I try and keep writing and growing as a writer and recording and growing as a recording artist. It really is sort of an internal, personal kind of thing. I love doing it, and if I should get lucky and be all over the radio, great, but I have no expectations.
Do you know what’s next for you when this tour wraps up?
I started planning this forthcoming tour during the wrapup of my last tour, which was in January, which was mostly California and Nevada and Arizona. But I don’t know. Like I said, I have the luxury and the time in most cases to kind of do what I want to do. The only thing I would need to do, I have to really figure it out and think about it, if I want to do a lot of touring, it might be wise for me to pair down the band, because this is not about the money.
When you’re not busy with music, do you have a main hobby or something you like to do in your free time?
I have an interest in Native American artifacts, mainly Plains Indians from the 1840s to the 1900s, and I go in and out of that. I get really into it and then I put it down, but it’s surrounding me. I’m looking at it right now. It’s in my studio. I do have that interest, but I would say that’s a quarter or a fifth of what I spend my time doing.
I’m curious how you think of being viewed as one of the pioneers of the “yacht rock” genre.
Of what rock?
Have you ever heard of the term “yacht rock?”
Oh yeah, I guess I did. I don’t know, I don’t think about that. I just want to keep going as long as I can. I’m getting older and I want to keep growing, and I feel pretty excited about what I do. Whether it’s true or not, I believe I’m doing better as a writer, which is really nice. It’s like a lot of writers have their heyday in their 20s and their 30s, and I feel like personally in a way that I’m actually just starting to get on it, which is nice.
Any last words for the kids?
The kids … I say this a lot. Wherever your musical interest takes you, whether it’s just in your garage or in your shower, never forget why you started. Keep that first and foremost in your mind.
NOW ON TOUR:
FRI 4/28 Hartford, CT – Infinity Hall
SUN 4/30 Jim Thorpe, PA – Penns Peak
TUE 5/2 Annapolis, MD – Ramshead
WED 5/3 Annapolis, MD -Ramshead
FRI 5/5 Hopewell, VA – The Beacon
SUN 5/7 New York, NY- BB Kings
TUE 5/9 South Orange, NJ – South Orange PAC
THU 5/11 New Hope, PA – Havana New Hope
SAT 5/13 Newton, NJ – Newton Theatre
SUN 5/14 Ridgefield, CT- Ridgefield Playhouse
SAT 7/15 Los Angeles, CA – Dodger Stadium (with the Eagles)
SAT 7/29 Queens, NY Citi Field (with the Eagles)