It's always a little jarring when an iconic rock star dials you up himself. It's downright otherworldly, intimate even, when an iconic rock star dials you up himself — at 5:30 a.m. his time.
"Hey Sean," a sleepy, slightly weathered voice says. "It's Glenn Frey." During his glory days, the Eagles co-frontman and solo star would have been hitting the sack 'round sunrise. Now? "I'm on the bike from 5 to 6 in the morning. I have a few minutes to talk."
Frey, who had a birthday this week, says he's feeling good at 64. He's currently alternating touring with the Eagles and playing solo gigs to support After Hours, a "pretty romantic" covers LP he'll highlight at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday.
"The fun thing with the Eagles is that I'll sing a song, then Don [Henley] sings a song, and I can play guitar, sing backup, have a good time," he says. "Doing a solo show is more physically demanding, because I'm the only one singing. I have to hydrate my voice, drink water, drink tea. But you know, your body gets used to playing music. My body has been doing this for a long time."
The Eagles hooked up in 1971, broke up in 1980, then reconciled in '94 and have been selling out arenas pretty much since. Part of the reason they're now chummy is their health. "I'm lucky, the guys in the Eagles are lucky," he says. "We managed to get off the party train pretty early." Even guitarist/madman Joe "Life's Been Good" Walsh? "Hey, Joe's the leader of the pack these days. It's always been fun playing with Joe, but it's even better now."
The Eagles' shaggy '70s romp through the wilds of Southern California is the stuff of bawdy rock legend (mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice...), but Frey says a lot of that is merely myth — for the most part. "Listen, we weren't the Osmonds," he says with a chuckle. "But we weren't the Rolling Stones, either. We fall somewhere south of the Stones. You know, we were young and it was the lifestyle then."
Two of Frey's children are in college now, and he says it'd be hypocritical to tell them to fly straight when he used to be a high-soaring Eagle. "I know they're going to have fun at school," he says. "I just tell them that they have to show up. You have to get your work done."
That's a motto Frey knows well: Besides contributing such Eagles hits as Lyin' Eyes, Heartache Tonight and New Kid in Town, he's had a fruitful solo career too: Smuggler's Blues, The Heat Is On, You Belong to the City. He's also had a slyly successful acting run, which started on Miami Vice and peaked in 1996's Jerry Maguire. He's a natural onscreen, but it's not his focus.
"I [act] when people call me up and say I think you'd be great at this," he says. "[Jerry Maguire writer-director] Cameron Crowe called me up and said he needed someone who wasn't going to take any c--- from Tom Cruise. I always come back from a movie feeling invigorated, but also feeling back where I really belong."
Frey says the Eagles "trump everything but family," which, in a way, explains his first solo album since 1995. After Hours — which covers songs from the 1940s (Nat King Cole's For Sentimental Reasons) to the '60s (the Beach Boys' Caroline, No) to the '80s (Randy Newman's Same Girl) — is dedicated to his parents. His dad is 91; his mom 87.
"I played this album for my parents all along the way," he says. "They've always loved everything I do. But this album they love more than anything else because they can identify with it. This is really a tip of the tam to my mom and dad."
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.