Frey Just Another Guy With a Heart
It was a first for ex-Eagle Glenn Frey.
As Frey was doing an interview to promote tonight's "Art from the Heart" fund-raiser for the Grassroots Aspen Experience, a woman drove up to the home adjacent to his Aspen recording studio and tapped on the door.
"Is your wife home?" she asked a puzzled Frey, who didn't know the interloper.
"No, but can I help you?"
"Are you a rabbi?"
"Uh...no. No, I'm not."
The woman wasn't seeking spiritual counseling. She had recently met another woman married to a rabbi and believed her new acquaintance lived nearby.
Frey wasn't able to help her and she went on her way unaware that she was knocking on the door of a former denizen of the Hotel California. Frey, who has lived in Aspen since 1975, says he likes it that way.
"I consider myself to be Aspen's reluctant celebrity. I'm always relieved when Robin Leach or articles about the glitz of Aspen overlook me. Lemme just tell you, I love it that way. I like being a regular guy."
Well, "regular guy" is a relative term. Especially in Aspen (ask the residents down the road in Carbondale and Basalt who service the glitz)-and even more so when you are talking about the studio-residential digs that Frey calls the Mad Dog Ranch. Inspired by the late, great Caribou Ranch and recording complex (which burned down in 1985), the only evidence of the owner's Eagles past is a lone equipment crate stenciled wit the band's name resting outside the small, new studio.
There's also no evidence of Frey's solo career since the Eagles imploded in 1982. No reminders of "The Heat is On", "Partytown", "You Belong to the City", "Part of Me, Part of You" or any of the other Top 40 hits he's had since flying alone. No photos. Not even the painted buffalo skull that Frey bought to grace the cover of One of These Nights. There is a framed, vibrant red silkscreen of James Brown on the recording booth wall. "I figure that's all the inspiration someone needs for laying down lead vocal tracks," says Frey, who is recording and mixing his fourth solo album, Strange Weather, in the studio.
On Valentine's Day, Frey is putting his music and a significant portion of his extensive modern western art collection where his heart and mouth are. The Grassroots Experience is an Aspen-based nonprofit organization that reaches out to inner-city boys and girls more familiar with asphalt than Aspen.
Children 8-15 from Denver, New York and Santa Fe are selected through several urban aid organizations to spend an Outward Bound-style week in Colorado learning about the outdoors and, in the process getting insight about their own confidence and ability to interact with others.
"The thrust of my charity work for the last 15 years has had to do with kids anyway," said Frey, who became a father for the first time 11 months ago and last summer served with his wife, Cindy, as a volunteer counselor for the Grassroots Experience. "I've always supported a dozen kids through Children's Christian Fund. I give money to an organization that aids in the adoption of kids who are handicapped. But here's the thing that's so funny about any kind of service work: you never bargain for what it is going to do for you. I just felt so good after spending a week with those kids. They just took me at face value. The don't know about the Eagles, or Hotel California, or that I was on Miami Vice or Wiseguy. I was just 'Glenn Frey, another counselor' and I was a musician. They never bought any of my records. They just took me at face value as I did with them.
"This program just blew me away. It's one thing to worry about the California coastline and try to save Walden Woods and worry about the rain forest and the hole in the ozone. Those things are all important too, but I just like the fact that I'm dealing with human beings."
The Grassroots Experience was founded a year and a half ago by John Reid, a former Aspen city employee who grew up poor as one of 11 children born t to a single mother in San Francisco. A fellow high school friend from a wealthier background took the time to invite Reid on a trip to Europe. The experience changed Reid's life and inspired the idea to bring poor children and teen-agers to Aspen to ski, camp, river raft and rock climb. Reid also describes it as a "multicultural forum to learn to work together and to develop a sense of responsibility with the environment."
"It is a radical idea," says Reid. "I'm professing (that) you can change young people's lives through experiences they don't get in their home communities. Unfortunately, I think it'll be awhile before foundations and government agencies look at us as something viable with a track record. Our finding has been difficult." He estimated that 90% has come from private donors.
Frey continues: "The whole idea is to show kids that the courage and trust that they had to display in order to rappel off a 150-foot cliff can be applied to other challenges. If you can jump off a cliff and go down a gorge and pull yourself up, you can run for class president and bring up your grades."
As for his music, Frey states that rumors during the last several years regarding a reunion with former Eagles Don Henley, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit and / or Bernie Leadon are just that: only rumors.
"There is not going to be an Eagles reunion," Frey says flatly. "I could go into many, many reasons why, but...I see it as a step backwards in my life. I've worked very hard in the last 10 years in certain areas to direct my life away from rock and roll. I just feel like , except for the incredible amount of money that would be there to be made, there's nothing else about it that appeals to me. I looked into it but it just wasn't going to be any fun. I don't want to get into personalities, but they're not fun gusy. With the exemption of Timothy Schmit, who's a sweetheart, the rest of them, I just don't think they're fun guys."
On the other hand, he's excited about Strange Weather, his latest album, due out on MCA Records in June.
"Without a doubt this is the best record I've made since I left the Eagles. I'm back to playing guitar a lot and the songs are very topical. There aren't a lot of love songs on this album. Next year I'm going to go to Nashville and make a country album because I've been saving the Eagles-type acoustic guitar songs for that. but right now I'm back to being angry and playing guitar--something I'm getting better at."
IF YOU GO: Modern art from Glenn Frey's collection of artists including Andrew Wyeth and western artists Russell Chatham, Jim Gingerich, Boyd Elder and others, along with limited-edition prints of record album covers including Bob Dylan's Self Portrait, The Eagles' Hotel California and Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, will be sold and auctioned of f tonight at the Barney Wyckoff Gallery in Aspen from 6-9 p.m. A benefit concert by Frey and his Mad Dog Band will follow from 11:30 -1a.m. at the China Club.