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Don Henley: 'Let the chips fall where they may'

  • Story Highlights
  • Don Henley says "Long Road Out of Eden" may be Eagles' last album
  • Band "decided to just say whatever we felt like saying," Henley says
  • Adds that rumors of band fighting are just that: rumors
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By Denise Quan
CNN
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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- It may have been 28 years since the last Eagles studio album -- yes, "The Long Run" came out in 1979 -- but, in terms of sales, it's as if the famed band has never left.

Henley

Don Henley says the Eagles "got a lot things off our chest" in its new album, "Long Road Out of Eden."

The group's new CD, the double-disc set "Long Road Out of Eden," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts with more than 700,000 copies sold in its first week. This --despite its being available only at Wal-Mart.

That relationship with America's biggest merchant has also raised eyebrows. Wal-Mart's reputation does not seem to dovetail with the interests of the Eagles, particularly the band's Don Henley, an outspoken environmentalist.

In a rare interview on November 7, Henley addressed those concerns, along with the idea of patriotism, the changing music business, and why "Long Road" may be the group's last album. Video Watch the Eagles perform "How Long" »

CNN's Denise Quan spoke to Henley at the Country Music Association awards last week, and said that Henley was a "true Southern gentleman," ending the interview by sending the crew on its way with plates of mashed potatoes, corn and biscuits.

CNN: Don Henley, congratulations on the first-week sales of this album. I think it exceeded everyone's expectations.

DON HENLEY: More than 700,000 in this country. And I'm told it has sold 3 million worldwide. So we're delighted.

CNN: Somewhere, Kanye West is quaking in his boots, I would imagine.

HENLEY: I doubt it. (Laughs)

CNN: You made us wait 28 years for this new CD.

HENLEY: Yeah. Well, we don't like to rush into things.

CNN: I was surprised when it was announced you had gone with a Wal-Mart deal exclusively. Why did you do that?

HENLEY: Our deal with the major label expired several years ago, and we just decided we wanted to try something new. ... Everybody's been calling for a new paradigm in the record industry. Some people have gone to the Internet and haven't had a lot of success with that.

Some people have decided to go with the indie labels, who are mostly distributed by the major labels. Some people have signed with major coffee companies with varying degrees of success.

So Wal-Mart came to us, and they made us a really good offer. And they told us about their green initiative, and how they're trying to make their company more ecologically responsible. And we were impressed by their programs in that regard, and what they're trying to do. And a lot of our fans are customers of Wal-Mart, so we thought it was a good fit.

CNN: There are two discs in "Long Road Out of Eden." One disc is full of romantic ballads with those harmonies the Eagles are known for, and the other disc is full of satirical, witty, kind of biting --

HENLEY: (Interrupts) Thank you. Thank you for not using the word "cynical." (Laugh) Which has become a real cliche.

Protest songs are an old tradition that seems to be coming back now. People writing about government has been going on since the Middle Ages. ... But to hear some journalists tell it, this is like it's never been done before, and it's outrageous!

If people don't agree with us, they can hit the skip button. We are ticked off about some things, but we also do some of it with humor. People seem to miss our humor. A lot. It seems to go (brushes side of his head with his hand).

CNN: The Eagles have long been associated with the country sound -- only you brought the rock element to it when you first appeared on the scene.

HENLEY: Yeah, yeah.

CNN: But your politics are different than a lot of people in Nashville, who are more conservative than I would say you are.

HENLEY: Yeah. Well, Nashville is changing. Nashville is not nearly as conservative as it used to be.

CNN: People just don't talk about it, perhaps.

HENLEY: It's just like you don't talk about religion and politics. This country was founded on rebellion. We believe that we are patriotic. We believe that everyone has the right to speak out. In fact, we believe that it's unpatriotic not to speak out.

Lord knows, we've been criticized enough during our career. When we were younger, (adopts Tweety Bird voice) it hurt our widdle feewings. But now we have no feelings! We had them removed. Surgically. This is probably the last Eagles album that we'll ever make. So we decided to just say whatever we felt like saying. And let the chips fall where they may.

CNN: But doesn't the success of this album spur you to make more music? Obviously, people want to hear it.

HENLEY: I can't sit here and tell you for certain that there will never be another Eagles album, but we got 20 songs on this album. You know, we got a lot of things off our chest, so to speak.

I don't know if everybody's going to want to do another one. If we do a world tour, that'll take at least two years. We're all pushing 60. Well, some of us are 60. ...

Anyway, we'll see. But we all have some solo plans still. I still have a contract with a major label for a couple of solo albums. I think parenting is one of the highest things on our agenda right now. We all have young children. So making another album is not our first priority right now.

CNN: It seems like you've mellowed quite a bit. Is it fatherhood that's changed you, or perhaps just turning 60?

HENLEY: I think we've all mellowed in this group. I think having children was really good for all of us. And you supposedly get mellower with age. However, as some of the songs will indicate, we're not too mellow. (Pauses)

CNN: What are you thinking?

HENLEY: I hate that word "mellow," actually. We've been saddled with that word since the very beginning of our career, you know. It has something to do with Southern California. I wish they would find a new word. We're either "mellow" or we're "cynical." They can't make up their minds. It's sort of a contradiction.

CNN: But I think you've been sort of a contradiction. Certainly an enigma to a lot of people.

HENLEY: Well, good! (Laughs) Yeah, well, this band is a contradiction. This album is. But life is a contradiction, isn't it? There are good things, and there are bad things going on in the world simultaneously. There's love and hate. There's war and peace. There are all kinds of things happening at the same time. And so that's reflected on this album, I think.

CNN: So how are you guys all getting along these days?

HENLEY: The same. (Laughs)

CNN: For better or worse?

HENLEY: All that stuff has been exaggerated. You ask any band if they get along all the time, and they will tell you, "Of course not." But we get along, I'd say, as well as any band does.

There's something we've created called the Eagles that's more important than any one of us individually. And we serve that. You know, we call it "The Mothership." We can all do this, that and the other, but we always come back to the Mothership. It's something that we all built together.

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And all this stuff about fighting in the band, and brawling, and fistfights and all that stuff has been grossly exaggerated. When it gets reprinted, and our publicist says, "Well, where'd you get that information," they invariably say, "I read it on the Internet" -- as if the Internet were some source of truth! The Internet is no more accurate than the New York Post, you know.

(Looks straight into the camera lens) Put that in! (Laughs) E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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