American singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin is tickled to find himself at a better place later in his career than he expected.
“I’m 68. I should be on a porch in a rocking chair,” Tempchin chuckles down the line from his home in San Diego.
The force behind iconic Eagles hits like “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Tempchin is experiencing a renaissance in his long career—one that will, for the first time, bring him to Japan.
A native of San Diego, Tempchin launched his songwriting career amid the coffee house folk music scene of late-’60s Southern California, and then became a key songwriter for the Laurel Canyon community in Los Angeles that spawned the Eagles.
The intervening decades have been a mixed bag of concert hall stages and local bars and restaurants, but Tempchin now finds himself with a record contract and solo tour for the first time in years.
“I was very surprised to get a record deal, because I’m not in a commercial category these days,” he explains about his new album, Learning To Dance. “But a record company sought me out and were fans of my work. More than the money, what blew me away was the fact that somebody cared.”
The album is a kind of concept piece that traces the contours of love through a person’s life. “It begins with finding somebody and being euphorically in love, then the real world enters the picture, and later there’s a song called ‘What If We Should Fall in Love Again?’,” he relates. “I think everyone will hear themselves in it. It’s a mellow album, but I just tried to write meaningful songs. It harkens back to the days when people used to sit down and listen to a whole album.”
Learning To Dance ended up getting a fair bit of airplay and providing renewed attention for Tempchin, who’s also backed the likes of Hall and Oates and Ringo Starr as a warm-up act. He followed up the album with an EP that has a song about divorce, called “The High Cost of Hate.” “I wasn’t going to play it,” he deadpans, “but I got a gig that turned out to be for 200 of the country’s top divorce attorneys—they gave it a standing ovation.”
Tempchin’s long relationship with the Eagles came out of a chance meeting with Glenn Frey in San Diego in the early ’70s. Tempchin managed an open mic night at a coffee house, where Frey and another Eagles songwriter, JD Souther, appeared as a duo.
The chemistry was instantaneous. “Every time they came to town, they would stay at my hippie pad, and we got to be good friends,” Tempchin recalls. “So part of my advice to people is, get to be friends with a superstar about five years before they get famous.”
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” began as a country song. “Glenn heard ‘Peaceful’ and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a new band. Can I play it with them?’” Tempchin says. “So the next day, he played a cassette of the new band, which turned out to be the Eagles, doing the song. Then they went to England and recorded it. My wife and I were traveling in our Volkswagen bus around the States and heard the song coming out of a little radio.”
Being the author of the Eagles classics “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone” didn’t prevent Tempchin from encountering slow points in his career. But he always enjoyed playing music, and even to this day hits the streets of San Diego to busk unannounced.
“I do it when I feel like it,” he asserts. “I don’t tell anyone who I am, to get back into the spirit of the whole thing. I try to be a professional, so when people pay to see me, I play what they want to hear. But when I started out, I was a big fan of the blues; so when I go downtown I can play the blues all night.”
Jack’s irrepressible positivity has a way of winning audiences over quickly, a skill that will hold him in good stead in his first tour of Japan, courtesy of longtime roots music presenter Buffalo Records, run by American Doug Alsop.
“I never stopped writing songs and playing a thousand percent,” Tempchin concludes. “Some people go in and out; the ground changes under you; record companies weren’t supportive of a singer-songwriter like me. But even the times when I wasn’t as successful were fabulous.”
Yokohama Thumbs Up, Jan 18; Shimokitazawa Garden, Jan 26, and other venues. Info: