Throughout a nearly 50-year career as a key member of legendary rock bands Poco and the Eagles, Timothy B Schmit has had an incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time. Thus, it was perfect that he named his first album in seven years “Leap of Faith.”
A vibrant mix of rock, country, Americana, R&B and even a hint of reggae, “Leap” reflects the impressive singer-songwriter skills Schmit has developed since joining country-rock pioneers Poco at the age of 21 in 1970. He’ll be spotlighting the release Sunday night when he performs at The Rose nightclub in Pasadena in a show that’s sure to feature an entertaining mix of his past band hits and solo efforts with the best of his current tunes.
“The different genres of music just come out of me,” says Schmit, speaking with the Pasadena Weekly from a tour stop in Tempe, Arizona. “I can’t give you a reason why one starts out as a country song, then something comes along that gives a reggae feel. I listen to classical, jazz, what comes out today. In fact, it all comes together. And we have some really great guest players on the CD.”
Indeed, Schmit was able to draw on his stellar array of connections to bring “Leap” to life, including keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, veteran jazz vibraphone ace Gary Burton, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Jim Keltner, who, as Schmit says, “has played with everybody from The Beatles on up.” But Schmit is particularly proud of the fact that his oldest daughter sings on a few of the songs.
That kind of personal touch fit the album perfectly, as Schmit’s lyrics and soaring vocals make his lyrical reflections on life shine. The reason it took seven years for all the magic to come together is that Schmit was often busy touring with the Eagles on multiple worldwide tours. He would record during his breaks from that musical juggernaut, but after the tragic passing of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey following a lengthy illness last year, there was finally time to finish.
Schmit, 69, was born in Oakland and raised in Sacramento. At 15 he co-founded the folk music group Tim, Tom & Ron before the group morphed into a surf band called The Contenders. When that group rebranded itself New Breed, the resulting tune “Green Eyed Woman” gave him a big radio hit at the age of 17 — and soon Schmit was getting noticed as someone who knew how to merge country and rock together into a popular new sound.
“I don’t think anybody knows anything,” Schmit says, while reflecting on how he developed that sonic fusion. “I think creative people, and in this case songwriters, go in a direction they’re drawn to and love. My Sacramento band started getting into country-rock stuff just before I joined Poco, so that was perfect for me. You don’t know — if you actually knew what would be paid attention to on a large level it would be a whole different ballgame. We’re not fortune tellers. You do what sounds good to you and hope people like it.”
The music world certainly did like Schmit’s songwriting prowess, as Poco hired him for what became a successful five-year run after original bassist Randy Meisner quit. In a strange twist of fate, Schmit struck gold again in 1977 when he also replaced Meisner after he quit the Eagles. Despite the fact that that band is credited with defining the Southern California rock sound of that era, Schmit is the only member to actually be a native of the state.
“It came at a perfect time in my career, because I was actually getting a little disenchanted with the flat-lining status Poco had reached,” recalls Schmit. “When Glenn Frey called me up one morning and asked if I was interested, there was no question, it was a hundred percent yes. I didn’t audition for them and they knew they wanted me, which was my good fortune. It was fairly seamless. I knew it would work, and they knew it would work, so there you have it. “
Schmit’s impressive high-end vocal range quickly made a mark on the band, as he helped the band score a Top 10 hit with “I Can’t Tell You Why” off their next album, “The Long Run.” His other big moment to shine on vocals for the band — which featured the blockbuster talent combo of Frey, Don Henley and Joe Walsh on vocals as well — came with the 1994 song “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” the band’s first hit after a 14-year hiatus.
“I went into the band after they had already had some incredibly wonderful, memorable music, and I got to join in on that to create some more,” says Schmit. “The success of the Eagles totally has to do with the quality of the songs themselves. They’re solid, great, well-crafted radio songs. That’s what these guys were good at and a lot of what they taught me.”
With his current tour bringing him out before fans again, Schmit notes that he’s on the road these days simply because he loves it.
“Let’s just say it’s not something I have to do, but something I choose to do,” says Schmit. “I believe if I keep working at it, I keep getting a little bit better. It’s just an ongoing process.”
Timothy B. Schmit performs at 9 p.m. Sunday (opening act at 8 p.m.) at The Rose, 245 E. Green St., Pasadena. Tickets are $38 to $54. Call (888) 645-5006 or visit roseconcerts.com. To buy “Leap of Faith,” visit timothybschmit.com