NYU Alumni Magazine spoke with singer, actor, and guitarist Frey at the Beacon Theatre last November as he and the rest of the Eagles prepared to take the stage for the Steinhardt Vision Award Gala. Before the Eagles went on, three of Frey’s students performed original songs as the opening act. The crowd’s roar proved that the creativity that helped him pen 18 top-40 hits, and find magic in the recording studio, translates rather well to the classroom.
How’d you decide to come teach at Steinhardt?
I was at the Country Music Association Awards with the Eagles three years ago, and we went on last. So for the better part of three hours, I sat watching the show. And with no offense to any particular artist or songwriter, I sat through some of the most cliché, half-baked, boring songs. It was troubling to say the least.
As luck would have it, the very next morning [producer and engineer] Elliot Scheiner calls me up and says, “Would you talk to a buddy of mine, [songwriter-in-residence] Phil Galdston, and another guy over at NYU, [professor] Lawrence Ferrara? They’re talking about starting an elite songwriter program, and they want to pick your brain about curriculum.” So the timing couldn’t have been better. It was supposed to be a 15-minute conversation, and we wound up talking for an hour and 15 minutes, and only got started. And then this year, Phil asked if I would be interested in team-teaching a class with him.
Has the gig been
It’s different teaching songwriting than it is teaching how to write music. That you can teach a little more pragmatically. This is an elusive subject, but there are rules. Like, keep it interesting. Don’t have there be a place in your song where people are going to change the channel or tune out. So it’s been really exciting to share our insights. Phil and I are already thinking about what we’ll do next and how we’d tweak the program a little bit.
What’s been the best part of this experience?
Coming to New York and seeing my daughter, who’s a senior at Tisch [laughs]. She’s made it a good excuse to come do this. But the best part of it is how contagious the enthusiasm and the commitment of the students has been. That really gets me feeling like a songwriter again.