Songwriter Profile: Jack Tempchin (The Eagles)

jack tempchin_MusicConnection-photo Henry DiltzHe avows that he is a notoriously nocturnal creature who has witnessed the passing of thousands of midnights over the decades. And in these tranquil hours his creative spirit arises. “Everyone else’s brains are working so hard during the day that their brainwaves en masse are crowding out my thoughts,” laughs Jack Tempchin. As a hit songwriter best known for his era defining co-writes for the Eagles, “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and “Already Gone,” Tempchin could probably sleep as late as he wishes. But he is a creative man of action. “Some people don’t need a scene. They can sit in their houses and do it, but I thrive on the night life and the music and meeting people and discovering things,” he professes.

This year Tempchin is on the “Peaceful Easy Feeling 40th Anniversary Tour.” His most recent DVD/CD is titled Live at the Tales from The Tavern, and was filmed at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, CA, by legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz. He has also given his best-known title to a delectable California cabernet, Peaceful Easy Feeling wine available at Whole Foods and select retailers.

Intimate house concerts are among Tempchin’s favorite performance venues. “The business model assumes one of the legs of the business will be done for free—it’s a wonderful thing for the people putting on the concerts and their friends. Playing solo is 100 percent communication. I play most of my hits, and a couple of new songs that I’m excited about.” In Los Angeles, he performs at the Hotel Cafe or The Piano Bar, and he is priming a secret Hollywood locale for invitation-only after-hours confabs. In Nashville, he commands the stage at the fabled Bluebird Cafe. “It’s been the number one place of a certain kind in Nashville for many years, the venue that tells the customers to be quiet if they’re not listening—they are expected to respect the songwriters.”

Tempchin also maximizes his Nashville visits with co-writing sessions. Among his collaborators is Song Biz Profile subject Carey Ott. “We go down into his little basement room to write, and while we do he’s recording it and playing every instrument, and when we’re done it’s a master. That guy is going to be heard from a lot more—he’s a genius and a great music guy,” marvels Tempchin.

Co-writing appeals to Tempchin, but while he admires the Nashville system of scheduled collaborations, it is not his preferred creative method. “I asked one guy who’d had some hits, ‘How long have you been in this this little room writing two to three songs a day?’ And he said, ‘Seven years.’ What they have to do is write 40 songs a month, have six demoed, and the rest are gone. I couldn’t do it. When I write a song I want it to live, and I need to baby it.” Such progeny possess enduring legacies. The classic “Slow Dancin’ (Swaying to the Music)” by Johnny Rivers is one among hundreds of songs interpreted by marquee artists from George Jones to Linda Ronstadt. Co-writes with Glenn Frey for the Eagle’s solo projects include “Smuggler’s Blues” and “You Belong to the City,” tracks sampled by Coolio and Jay-Z, respectively.

YouTube viewers can enjoy a Tempchin project from a couple of years back, when he challenged his creativity by writing and recording one song a day. “You have to play tricks on yourself,” he says. “If you drift away and aren’t doing it for a while it starts to fade out. I go months or years without doing it, and then get excited about a project.”

Across a panoramic historic perspective, Tempchin believes that this is a flourishing creative era. “The times change with the technology, which is causing a lot of economic upheaval that has nothing to do with the music or people’s desire for it. This is one of the greatest times for music, except for the financial reward, but that’s going to turn around. The common person has access to follow whatever they like. It bodes well for the future.”

-By Dan Kimpel

Contact Bradshaw Lambert, GBL, [email protected]