“To me, country with a little rock ‘n’ roll sprinkled on top of it is really powerful,” he told CMT Insider , “and I absolutely approve of everybody that signed up.”
That all-star list includes Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Sara Evans, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Hunter Hayes and Brad Paisley. CMT Crossroads: Joe Walsh & Friends airs Saturday (June 23) at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET/PT.
“It makes me feel great that [these artists] are going to play my music and it makes me feel humble,” Walsh noted before the taping in Nashville in May. “And right now, the only person I’m worried about is me — holding up my end of it.”
Of course, Walsh has held his own as a guitarist, singer and songwriter since gaining national prominence in the late ’60s as a member of the James Gang. Solo success followed, and he later became a member of the Eagles, often heralded as heroes for country’s current generation. Their landmark 1976 album Hotel California has sold more than 16 million copies. Walsh co-wrote one of its most enduring tracks, “Life in the Fast Lane.”
Asked if he had an inkling about the influence the Eagles would have on future generations of country artists, Walsh said he never thought about it back then.
“I’m still kind of getting used to it,” he said. “We knew that Hotel California was good … but it affected more people on the planet than we ever dreamed of. In retrospect, it’s good that we didn’t know any of that because we were in a very creative phase and we managed to get that recorded.”
Although he tours with the Eagles during their reunion shows, Walsh is also focused on his solo career. His new album, Analog Man, is his first one in 20 years. His solo hits include “Rocky Mountain Way,” “All Night Long” and “A Life of Illusion.”
Bryan said he remembers hearing Walsh’s clever 1978 solo hit “Life’s Been Good” in high school. “And I don’t even know in Georgia if we knew what a Maserati was,” Bryan joked.
“I think what works with he and I is, I like to have that little bit of humor leak over into my songs,” Bryan added. “Even with ‘Life’s Been Good,’ he’s not really taking himself that seriously. I think that’s what makes him endearing to his fans. He’s having fun with his music, and I think fans want that in an artist. I think you have to be serious and have that side of you, but I think you have to let your hair down and have fun with it, too.”
Evans said she ranks the Eagles in her Top 5 among the “all-time most incredible bands or artists.” She also spoke about the “huge, huge influence” of their music on the country genre as well as her own music.
“Essentially they are country music because they are all about that beautiful three-part harmony, incredible lyrics and beautiful love songs,” she said.
Gibbons said he’s been waiting a long time to share the stage with Walsh and spoke highly of Walsh’s prowess on all types of guitars.
“I like his delivery, his tone,” he said. “It sits in a sweet spot. And for a guy that has played Les Pauls to Fenders and everything in between, it doesn’t really matter what he picks up, he manages to make it his own,” he said.
Hayes noted, “I hear a lot of Eagles stuff in country music. I think they pioneered a sound that a lot of people have tried to duplicate since then. I think in the attempt we’ve come out with a lot of different results, never quite like it. And, of course, there never will be.”
He added, “They found a new territory that I think no one had really tapped into yet — with the harmonies, huge soaring acoustic parts and these iconic rifts and cool vibey songs that everybody loves to listen to. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like, it definitely translates over different genres.”
Paisley praised Walsh’s unique perspective, both musically and personally.
“Joe is one of those guys with signature in his sound, in his playing, his singing, his writing,” he said. “People try for years to sound unique, and Joe Walsh does it without trying. I think he is one of the most stylistic, gifted artists that we’ve ever had in rock ‘n’ roll, and he’s a big influence on me that way. I love his writing, his sarcastic sense humor in a few of his songs and in life, as well. It’s really fun to combine that influence with what else I grew up listening to.”
He added, “The Eagles are probably as responsible for influencing country’s current generation as any country artist ever has been. And in some ways, they were every bit a country act. … Some of those records couldn’t have been more in our wheelhouse. And it’s really neat to see them stick their foot in from time to time and go, ‘Yeah, we believe in this world, and we’re going to show up and hang out in country music a little bit.’”
Naturally, Walsh put his best foot forward while jamming with his new friends and admirers.
“Some people tell me I’m an influence for them and they might have grown up listening to me. If I had anything to do with steering them in that direction, it’s a great feeling,” Walsh said.
“With heroes, the people that took a couple of minutes and spent a little time with me and said hello — for the rest of my life they’ve been an influence,” he added. “And the people who were real rude or didn’t have time or were in a bad mood, it can be crushing to find out that a hero was a jerk. I’ve got to remember that, and I want to give everybody the chance to relax.”