Flight seems to be a theme running through Don Felder’s life. He was a member of The Eagles from 1974 to 2001 (though the band was on hiatus from 1981 to 1993) and titled his 1983 solo album Airborne. He is also a licensed pilot.
He has never taken a ride in a balloon, but may do so at this weekend’s QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, where he is scheduled to perform Friday night.
“I may, if I get my courage up, venture up in one,” he says. “It would be a really exciting thing to do.”
Getting back to the performance … Felder and his four-piece band will play some of Felder’s solo material, but stick mostly to Eagles songs, including hits originally recorded before Felder was in the band.
He has played those songs countless times in concert, though. “Although I did not play on the original records of songs like ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise,’ I still like the songs, and I think people really enjoy them. So I put them in the show, kind of for the crowd’s satisfaction, more so than me being attached to those songs.
“It’s generally a rock ‘n’ roll show. Most of the stronger stuff that I played on when I was in the Eagles was rock ‘n’ roll, like ‘Already Gone,’ ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ ‘Heartache Tonight.’ Those kind of rock songs, along with ‘Hotel California.’ So it all works out to be more of an upbeat-tempo, rocking festival setlist, instead of your sit-down, ballad-heavy, slower setlist. At the end of the show, everybody’s up and dancing and rocking and having a great time.”
A disagreement over money led to Felder’s dismissal from The Eagles, which was followed by much legal tussling and then the publication of a brutally honest 2008 memoir, “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles.”
In other words, it doesn’t look likely that Felder will be asked back at any point. But he doesn’t mind.
“The thing I really appreciate the most is that now, being kind of the pilot of my own ship” — there’s that theme again — “I can decide how much I want to work, and how much I don’t want to work. And the thing I’ve discovered in my life is that I have to have a very balanced life, between my personal life — meaning the friends and family and kids and everything I have in my personal life — and my professional life. If I do too much of one and not enough of the other, it suffers.
“So I’m able now to balance how much I work and how much time I spend off the road, playing golf with my friends, seeing my kids, seeing the woman that I love, and spending time together, maintaining those relationships. And then I go on the road for five days or 10 days, and then I came back for a week or 10 days.”
One of his children is Leah Jenner, who forms, with her husband Brandon Jenner (son of Caitlyn Jenner and Linda Thompson), the pop duo Brandon and Leah.
“Leah showed signs of musical gifts starting at the age of 8,” says Felder. “I first noticed then that she had almost perfect pitch when she sang, and for a kid of that age, that’s pretty unusual.
“So I took her to one of the leading vocal coaches in Los Angeles (Joel Ewing) and had him give me his professional opinion of Leah’s voice. And he said, ‘I don’t work with kids.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, I don’t want you to work with her, I just want you to listen to her and tell me if there’s something there.’ So we go in to see this guy, and he starts playing for her, and she’s singing, and he turns to me after 15 minutes and says, ‘I want her here every week.’ I said, “You don’t take kids.’ He says, ‘No, no, no, I want her here every week,’ and he worked with her from 8 till about 17. Every week she’d go to this guy, and he built her voice into something that’s just spectacular.”
Felder performs at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, which takes place at the Solberg Airport in Readington, at 8 p.m. Friday. Other musical attractions at the festival include Sabrina Carpenter at 1 p.m. Saturday; Kansas at 8 p.m. Saturday and the Wheels of Soul Tour, featuring the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Doyle Bramhall II, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. To buy tickets or get more information, visit balloonfestival.com.
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