Wednesday night (Nov. 7) marks the Eagles’ first appearance on the CMA Awards show, but drummer-vocalist Don Henley performed there 15 years ago and an album of their songs won album of the year honors two years later.
“We have a lot of friends in Nashville,” Henley said during a recent interview in Los Angeles with CMT Insider. “A lot of our buddies from California have moved there … and a lot of music being made there is very akin to what we do.”
One of those transplants is John David Souther, a longtime ally who co-wrote one of the band’s biggest hits, “New Kid in Town,” with Henley and fellow Eagles founder Glenn Frey. Souther also wrote the band’s current single, “How Long,” which has already climbed to No. 26 on Billboard‘s country chart. Wal-Mart announced Tuesday (Nov. 6) that the band’s new album, Long Road Out of Eden, sold more than 700,000 copies in its first week of release. (Wal-Mart and its Sam’s Clubs are the exclusive retailers of the project.)
Henley performed “Walkaway Joe” with Trisha Yearwood during the 1992 awards show, but the band’s country connection became even stronger when the tribute album, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, played a major role in getting the band back together. The album, which was named the CMA’s album of the year in 1994, featured songs performed by Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Yearwood and several others. One of the tracks, Travis Tritt’s cover of “Take It Easy,” reunited the Eagles for a memorable music video.
“So we don’t feel like carpetbaggers or anything,” Henley said. “We feel like we have a very deep connection. We really started out as a country band. We had a banjo in our first single — actually in the tag of ‘Take It Easy’ — so we feel right at home doing the CMAs.”
The Eagles blend of country and rock has become a major influence on modern country music.
“Yeah, we hear it sometimes,” Henley said. “I’m not sure it’s just us. There were a lot of groups. Timothy [Eagles bassist Timothy B. Schmit] was in a group called Poco that was around before we were, and they had a big influence, I think, on it. You know, the Flying Burrito Brothers, of course, and Buffalo Springfield and groups like that. So I think we influenced them and they influenced us. I think it’s reciprocal. I think it goes back and forth.”
The Eagles are just one of the acts appearing when the 41st annual CMA Awards airs live Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The show from the Sommet Center in downtown Nashville will also feature actor-musician Jamie Foxx performing with Rascal Flatts. Other performers include Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Reba McEntire will perform a duet with LeAnn Rimes.
Award presenters will include Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Jason Michael Carroll, Bucky Covington, Jewel with Ty Murray, Kid Rock, Montgomery Gentry and Dwight Yoakam. Emerson Drive will present CMA Awards in pre-telecast festivities. Segment hosts for the three-hour broadcast include Sara Evans, LeAnn Rimes, actor James Denton and actresses Kate Walsh and Kimberly Williams-Paisley.