Henley: Eagles in step with contemporary country


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Eagles turned down an offer to perform at Super Bowl XLII, but they'd probably accept one to play on the Grand Ole Opry, singer Don Henley says.

"That would be an honor," Henley told the Associated Press recently.

And why not? The group that once epitomized the excesses of '70s rock stardom have the biggest-selling country album of the year so far with "Long Road Out of Eden."

The double-disc set, their first studio album in 28 years, has sold 2 million in the U.S. and topped Billboard's country album chart for four weeks since its Oct. 30 release, edging out Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift.

While the Eagles have always had a kinship with country music, they've mostly been thought of as a rock band with country influences. Today, they're placed squarely in the country camp, but Henley's not complaining.

"As long as we're on the charts. Any chart will do," he joked from his Dallas home.

"I'm sort of proud of that," he continued. "I'm glad that we've been accepted because there is some rather pointed political commentary on this album. Others have found the going to be difficult. I think we've been around for so long that people know what to expect from us and just take what they like."

Henley, 60, can't totally explain the success of "Long Road Out of Eden." While some of it may be Baby Boomer nostalgia, he believes it comes down to the quality of the work.

"People ask 'Why are you still doing this? You've accomplished everything. There's nothing left.' I never hear painters being asked why they still want to paint after 60 or novelists why they want to write after age 60," he said. "It's insulting, as if we're only doing it for the money and the glory and not for the creative and spiritual aspect. Writing songs and performing for people is my life. It's what keeps me young and interested and curious and vital."

The album's first single, "How Long," is a sturdy country rocker that recalls early hits like "Take it Easy." The song reached No. 24 on the country singles chart, their best showing since "Lyin' Eyes" went to No. 8 in 1975.

The second single, "Busy Being Fabulous," is due out next month and feels more pop than country, but Henley says the Eagles have always been a "musical mutt," influenced by all forms of American music.

"We don't sit down and calculate or target anything," he said. "It's hard enough just to write songs, and they come out in various ways. We've always done that. 'Hotel California' had a lot of different material, and so did 'One of These Nights.' So it's not like this album is radically different."

What is different, though, is country music. There's been a lot of cross-pollination between rock and pop and country, and "country music is now akin to what my generation was listening to in the '60s and '70s," Henley said.

"Certainly, country is one of the last bastions of good songwriting -- and of singing in tune," he added.

Though they're most closely identified with Los Angeles, the Eagles have strong ties to Nashville. Henley has sung duets with Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers. It was Rogers who brought Henley and his then-band Shiloh from Texas to California in the late '60s to produce their album.

More recently, guitarist Joe Walsh joined Kenny Chesney for some shows, and all of the Eagles -- Henley, Walsh, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit -- performed together at last month's CMA Awards.

All of this is gratifying, Henley says, but these days the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has other things to think about.

"Frankly, right now I'm more focused on my daughter's 12th birthday coming up," he said.