Joe Walsh has come to the conclusion that he’s operating on borrowed time.
“I hadn’t really planned on being alive this long, the way I used to be,” says the Eagles guitarist, consummate badass rocker, and former alcoholic and cocaine addict. “But here I am.” And while he recognizes he’s not getting any younger, Walsh, 67, who spends much of the year on the road gigging arenas with his classic-rock institution of a band, is by no means content remaining static. “I just feel like I’m this kid in this body that’s starting to slow down,” he admits. “But the kid has a lot he still wants to do.”
Walsh is using the spare time he has away from Operation Eagles to flex his solo muscle: the blond longhair kicked off a solo tour in mid-September, and touches down at the Beacon Theatre on October 1. “I love to go out and play some smaller places,” the “Life’s Been Good” singer says. “I don’t get a chance to do that very much. I miss that. The interaction with the audience is a lot higher quality [than at Eagles shows] and everybody has a good seat and it sounds better and the energy is wonderful.”
Playing New York remains a reminder for Walsh of an adolescence spent soaking in the city’s seductive charm: A teenage Walsh would regularly take the bus into the city after school from Montclair, New Jersey, where he attended high school, if only to feel a part of the mid-Sixties Greenwich Village music scene. “I would walk around the Village and I would stand out in front of the Nite Owl and listen to the Lovin’ Spoonful,” he recalls. “And Zappa was in town all the time with the Mothers of Invention. And I’d go to the Peppermint Lounge and stand out front and listen to Joey Dee and the Starliters. And [Jimi] Hendrix was playing for him; I didn’t know it at the time. That was good enough: to be part of the scene — even though I really wasn’t old enough to get in anywhere.”
It’s a baffling notion, Walsh says, to now view himself — very much still that wide-eyed teenager — as a rock icon. “I guess I’m kind of a senior spokesman for the generation I represent,” he says. “But you know what? I’m not done.”
To that end, when not playing live shows, Walsh has kept himself busy writing new music. Typically, the massively respected guitarist says he’ll work around a new riff or run with no grand intention in mind. “If I sit down and I think, ‘OK, I have to write an album’ or ‘Let me try and write a hit,’ I’m doomed before I play note one. But if I try and get into a work ethic where I’m playing every day just to play, I’ll come up with a lot of stuff. And I just stumbled across it because I let my guard down.”
Does Walsh plan to release a follow-up solo album to 2012’s Analog Man, then? “I’m working on more music and I’m just trying to get a big pile of new recordings and put them together,” he says. “And whatever that is will be my next project. If it has to be available for free, that’s fine with me. I think you’ll agree the whole record infrastructure as we know it is pretty much gone.”
Walsh says a reunion with his first breakout band, the James Gang, is not off the table, either. “I don’t see why not,” he offers. “I’m in touch with Jimmy [Fox] and Dale [Peters]. They’re in Cleveland, alive and well. We got together a couple times. It’s kind of strange seeing a bunch of old men playing kick ass, but we can still do it. Maybe we’ll have to change our name, though, to the Dinosaurs.”
Above all else, Walsh says he’s keeping his options open going forward: “I had a wonderful little sit-down with B.B. King about six months before he died. We visited for a while and he said, ‘Joe, you know what? Don’t stop and just sit around, because you’ll be miserable. Take it from me.’ And so I’m taking those words.”
Joe Walsh plays the Beacon Theatre on October 1.