Songwriter, musician, and founding member of the Eagles Don Henley sits down for an interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, sharing stories from his career and insights into his 2015 album, “Cass County.” The album, named for the northeastern Texas county from which Henley hails, features contributions from Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, and Martina McBride.
Musician and educator Warren Zanes leads the interview, taped September 17, 2015, on the heels of Henley’s 2015 Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award.
Describing the area in which he grew up as a musical and cultural crossroads, Henley credits the variety of music he could pick up through his transistor radio as the basis for his musical education. After becoming a member of Linda Ronstadt’s band, Henley says he found a mentor and further teacher in her then-manager John Boylan.
Henley discusses many of the artists, albums, and songs he came to admire, including Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Ray Charles’s album “Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music,” and the narrative songwriting of Marty Robbins’s “El Paso.”
Of “Cass County,” Henley says the intent was to curate what he considers to be some of the best of the past, adding his own twist with original songs, co-written with friend and fellow drummer Stan Lynch. He also recounts discussions with Merle Haggard about the state of music while recording the track “The Cost of Living.”
The multiple Grammy winner—whose hits include “ Desperado,” “Hotel California,” and “The Boys of Summer,” among many others—credits a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote with giving him the courage to become a songwriter: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”
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