Timothy B Schmit: “I knew what my place was in the Eagles. I had to fit in.”

Press shot of Timothy B Schmit

“Sorry I’m a little stammer-y, I’m packing,” explains Timothy B Schmit, who’s getting ready to leave for the airport for a visit to London. The Eagles bassist/vocalist (who replaced Randy Meisner in the band in 1977, after Hotel California) has a superb new solo album, Leap Of Faith, to promote. It’s a diverse record, ranging from country to reggae. “You’ve just got to throw it out there to the universe,” he says, justifying its title. “What’s the worst that can happen? I might have a record that people don’t like.”

In 2013 you beat cancer. How are you now?

I’m a little bit tired, but my health is great. I’m in great shape.

Leap Of Faith is a guest-fest, with cameos from Benmont Tench, Van Dyke Parks and Taylor Hawkins.

Van Dyke is one of my great eccentric friends. His whole perspective on life is unique and he brings that energy to the music. Taylor was a hoot. He’s innately wired – his personality is very up and positive. I texted him: “I’ve got something perfect for you.” He said yes in a heartbeat.

You’ve done a few guest sessions yourself, performing on Toto’s Africa and some Steely Dan albums. Were Dan men Donald Fagen and Walter Becker harder taskmasters than Don Henley and Glenn Frey in the Eagles?

They both strived for perfection, and both paid attention to every note and breath. Which was fine by me. I remember doing take after take [on Steely Dan’s 1974 album Pretzel Logic]. Finally I went: “Yes! I got it!” And they [Becker and Fagen] pressed the talkback button and went: “That was great, really good… [pause] One more time…” So I did it again.

You once said of your time with the Eagles: “I knew what my place was in that band.” What did you mean?

They’d already been rolling for six albums and just come off Hotel California. My role was to hop on board the train, simply add harmonies and contribute to the songwriting – and hopefully the daunting task of trying to keep things harmonious. I had no thoughts about trying to dominate anything. I had to fit in.

Could the Eagles do one final tour, with the late Glenn Frey’s son Deacon on board?

The future is still yet to be seen regarding Don, Joe [Walsh] and I getting together again. Nothing’s going on as far as I know right now. It’s only been a year since Glenn passed. We’ll see what happens.

What do you do outside music?

About ten to twelve years ago I started collecting Native American artefacts, mostly plain Indian leather beadwork from 1860 to 1900, and bags. Native Americans didn’t really have pockets, so they made a lot of bags. Sometimes I feel strange even having this stuff, but I do feel like a custodian. I’m keeping it safe and one day it will be passed on somewhere.

Would you say you’re a pivotal character in the development of country rock and Americana?

I don’t think about that kind of stuff. If I was ‘pivotal’ in any way, I’m happy to be of service. I’m just living my life. And it’s a very charmed life. There’s a lot of strife, even in the US, but it’s still better than being a Syrian refugee. I try to look at the whole picture, good and bad.

Leap Of Faith is available now via Man In The Moon.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.