Performing songs from his 4 decade career
It’s been seven years since TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT released his last album. The standard opening question is: “Why did it take so long?”
The standard SCHMIT answer to most questions is funny in a self-deprecating way and rooted in simple truths. So of course he answers, “I wasn’t ready until now!”
Patience is a virtue. And with a career that unfolds back to the halcyon 1960s, patience has served this storied artist well. He was in his teens when he charted for the first time. At the turn of the decade he joined POCO and helped steer the band into its pioneering fusions of country, rock and folk. In 1977 he became a member of the legendary EAGLES, an association that would continue on and off for decades.
At the same time, SCHMIT also collaborated with other artists. His talents enhanced Toto’s “Africa,” Richard Marx’s “Don’t Mean Nothin’,” Bob Seger’s “Fire Lake,” Crosby Stills and Nash’s “Wasted On The Way” and multiple tracks by Steely Dan. He’s played internationally as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band and Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.
All the while SCHMIT absorbed what he played and heard, weaving it strand by strand into his musical fabric. Now and then he stepped out with a solo album. The most recent, Expando, dropped in 2009 and triggered praise from Allmusic.com (“his strongest-ever collection of songs, songs that are tuneful, knowing, reflective and occasionally funny”), BBC (“satisfyingly complete”) and other cultural arbiters.
Then, with patience, he settled back into his busy routine, appearing on recordings with artists as diverse as Wynonna Judd, Diana Krall and The Blind Boys of Alabama. But he also kept listening, writing, filing ideas and edging closer to his next individual project.
Illuminated by an array of fine musicians and singers, LEAP OF FAITH–a strong mix of rock, country, Americana, R&B and even a bit of reggae–plays like a multicolored corona around SCHMIT’s distinctive artistry. From the jaunty opening track “My Hat” to the soaring harmonies and heartfelt reflections of “This Waltz,” this is more than another album in a great artist’s catalog. It is a milestone effort, looking back at all that brought him to where he stands today and ahead to a future full of both mystery and promise.
LEAP OF FAITH marks the culmination of SCHMIT’s unhurried, yet inspired reflections of life. On his new album, he goes further up the path he began to explore on Expando. “Again, I wanted to write this album on my own,” he says “In any collaboration one has to make a series of compromises. That’s not a bad thing, it’s simply not what I’ve chosen to do with this project. I’m just putting it out there, and maybe some of these ideas might resonate with listeners.”
Often writing and recording between touring with the EAGLES, this project took a little time, so the songs on LEAP OF FAITH have a broad compass. “Slow Down” is a note to self on escaping life’s pressures coasting along on a reggae pulse sweetened by jazz giant Gary Burton’s vibraphone. “What Should I Do,” has a Muscle Shoals feel; steamy, funky, and sensual. On “Goodbye, My Love,” he takes us deep down into traditional country, with Paul Franklin’s glistening steel guitar layered over the changes. And on “It’s Alright,” his most intimate song, SCHMIT needs only his own acoustic guitar to express profound love.
For all their diversity, these songs are bound by a candor and craftsmanship that are rare in today’s music. SCHMIT says, “I don’t feel confined by any outside perceptions about what I do. I just try to pull songs out of the ethers and shape them as they come, whatever the genre.” LEAP OF FAITH is co-produced by TIMOTHY and multi-talented friend Hank Linderman. “I hired Hank Linderman quite a few years ago to help me learn how to maneuver through my then new demo studio. But as the studio grew I eventually chose to concentrate on my craft, so I put him in charge of the technical part, among other things. He is an excellent engineer, musician and singer.” Linderman has also worked both on the EAGLES’ last studio album, as well as Don Henley’s recent solo project. Hank is essential to how LEAP OF FAITH sounds and feels. “For instance, on ‘My Hat,’ I told him I wanted him to play the solo, but to do so in a very simple manner. He ended up playing something I would never have dreamed of, and yes, it’s simple and beautiful.”
“Over the last ten years or so, I’ve felt like I’m finally getting the hang what it is I do best,” SCHMIT sums up with his knack for wry understatement. “Although this project took some time to complete, this is what I came up with … This is who I am. This is a LEAP OF FAITH.”
Patience pays off: LEAP OF FAITH is well worth the wait.