Joe Walsh Twists Off on the State of Music Today

March 15, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  50 Comments

joe-walshDuring the back half of the oughts, regardless of what you thought about the quality of mainstream country music, one thing you had to give the genre credit for was being the last bastion of guitar-based and instrument-based music that relied on humans and not electronic accoutrements to accomplish. As one of America’s most traditional genres, drum machines, purposely Auto-tuned lyrics, and other such elements were treated with a very negative stigma, and stayed mostly buried on the fringes of the genre in experimental projects.

But now as rap and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) have become very influential in popular country. They are almost required to have a hit song. Some will argue this is all part of music evolution. Though rap, Electronic Dance Music, and other electronic-based music certainly has its place in the world, the question is if that place is country music.

So to illustrate why country should be careful in how far it relies on 1’s and 0’s to carry the weight of there genre, here’s Joe Walsh—former frontman of The James Gang, guitar player for The Eagles, and solo rock performer—-someone on the outside looking in to country, and what he feels about electronic music, and the sate of music in general, taken from a recent appearance on Live At Daryl’s House.

Records, record stores, record sales, it’s all gone. And it’s up to the young musicians to try and figure it out. There’s no money in it, no record companies. It’s free, you can download it. Nobody gets paid, so they can’t afford to make music. That’s what’s happening.

And they’re just cranking out music that is just a recipe. You know, nobody is playing at the same time. Everybody’s adding on virtual instruments that don’t exist on to a drum machine that somebody programmed. And you can tell in the music that’s out now. It’s all been programmed. There’s no mojo. There’s nobody testifying. There’s not the magic of a human performance, which is never perfect. And the magic of a human performance is what we all know and love in the old records, by the way they were made. And it’s all gone.

So we’ll see what the digital age has in store.


50 Comments to “Joe Walsh Twists Off on the State of Music Today”

  • I wholeheartedly agree that the human element is what gives music life, hence why I personally have trouble appreciating any type of music that is overly digitized. It’s interesting how lifeless a “perfect” performance can seem in comparison to one with mistakes. I’d even go so far as to say that little mistakes add character, such as with the Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson performance on VH1 Storytellers.


  • So, that video is from a year ago and six months after he was on CMT Crossroads singing with Luke Bryan. I really liked that crossroads episode though (had a lot of people on it). His lawnmower story cracked me up.

    The other side of the coin is that with electronic music and studio vocal enhancements, no one can play live anymore. The best example is the Black Eyed Peas. They had some really cool songs but seeing them play live was painful and embarrassing.

    I thought of country for a long time as the last main stream section of music where people could play and sing live. It’s sad that’s slipping away.


    • When Black Eyes Peas was a hiphop band, they used to have a live band backing them up in live performance. Even those songs that were actually programmed on the record were being played live in concert. Then discovered EDM and it all went to hell…


  • Your first sentence is wrong. Heavy Metal and hard rock, even the mainstream crap had/has kept instrumentation in the hands of humans for the most part. The limp bizkit era had a few exceptions but that was late 90s early 00s. Lamb of God brought the real deal back to mainstream. And metal has long been the genre where the real instrumental talent has been on display… never really mainstream country, not even when it was good.


    • “And metal has long been the genre where the real instrumental talent has been on display… never really mainstream country, not even when it was good.”

      I would argue that gracefully playing acoustic string instruments in a manner that produces a touching melody takes much more talent than banging a drum and shredding an electric guitar as loudly as possible.


      • You’re both wrong.


        • Classical pieces are the hardest to play on guitar.


          • Oooo time to go watch some Sharon Isbin videos. And actually classical music has been keeping instrumentation and “skill” alive to some degree but even there it is all about the prodigy.

            Jazz has some cool cats doing cool things on real instruments, assuming one can dodge the “smooth jazz (which TBF has some stellar players). Also I think Bluegrass is pretty same from the clutches of technical enhancements but as with any genre people will fawn over the younguns with amazement. With so many prodigies and young talents I’ve stopped being amazed.


    • Most or all genre’s of music have plenty of instrumental talent. Personally I think bluegrass has the deepest talent pool, but that might just be my tastes.

      As far as mainstream country goes, Vince Gill is a bad A guitar player and has the respect of other players, most notably Clapton. Paisley has got a lot of talent but personally, I find his style too technical. Country has always had tons of great pickers and players who dodged the spotlight. Guitar, mandolin, lap steel, fiddle, you name it. Drummers and bass-guitar on the other hand… country just doesn’t put those guys to much of a test. The waylors played in the pocket but compared to genres like heavy rock or funk it doesn’t compare imo.


    • Obviously I was painting in broad brush strokes. Lamb of God was never “mainstream”, and hard rock ceased to be a mainstream genre a decade ago. Right now relevant “rock” music is Imagine Dragons and Arcade Fire.

      ” And metal has long been the genre where the real instrumental talent has been on display… never really mainstream country, not even when it was good. “

      I wasn’t talking about what genre had the best instrumentation on display. I was saying country music, even in the mainstream, was the last bastion where electronic accoutrements were discouraged.


      • I know that LOG isnt now and never was a mainstream band but they were at the forefront of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal which ushered out nu-metal and they have had some high charting albums over the years. Must just be where I live and what I do but everyone I work with and all the subs at our jobsites listen to rock. Obviously this isn’t the norm nationwide cause alot of bands have given up on touring the states… Though I still believe it is a big enough genre even in the mainstream that it shoulnt be ignored out right. Also, my comment about the talent in metal was just taking up for the genre against so many who dismiss it. Th


        • Didnt mean to sound like an elitest cause i mostly hate technical metal and i mostly love doom which is very easy to play…


    • No instrumentation in Country “even when it was good”?
      See: Waylon Jennings , Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner…

      Just to name a few.


      • Can we add Roni & DOnna SToneman, Barbara Mandrell, Sally Van Meter, and Cindy Cashdollar? I don’t mean to be snarky but I just wanted to give a shout to some of the great women cause it is WHM afterall.


        • Oh of course. I love all those, Particularly Donna Stoneman and Cindy Cashdollar. I suppose for the most part I was just naming some of the more well-known guitarists. But all the musicians you mentioned definitely deserve recognition.


  • I’ve never really been a fan of the Eagles, and I can’t explain exactly why that is. I suppose if I had to put my finger on it, I just felt when sized up to some of their contemporaries, they appeared much more middle-of-the-road for my tastes. The Band, Wet Willie and the Allman Brothers Band had more instrumental depth to my ears. The Ramones and The Clash had more pulse and impact. You had better lyricists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Al Stewart and Elvis Costello to name a few.

    Granted they were effective in that they had a well-rounded mix of all of the above often, but The Eagles just weren’t a band that has ever excited me. Even as a vocalist, Don Henley’s better stuff was mostly from his solo albums in my opinion.

    That said, I can absolutely respect that The Eagles were a band that tried, and were fully immersed in their craft as an honest-to-Jove band. So Joe Walsh’s remarks speak fullest reason here.


    • This song is pretty hard to beat instrumentally:


    • I’ve been a lifelong Eagles fan, but I completely get the criticism that their music is sort of dumbed down or safe compared to contemporaries.

      Even though they moved away from country, I’ve always preferred the Joe Walsh days to the boring pre-Walsh sound. Walsh brought an edge and real talent.


      • Eagles favorites, “Those Shoes” and “Already Gone”.


      • I really liked Joe’s contributions to ‘Hotel California’ and ‘The Long Run.’ (My favorite tracks of theirs, though, are probably “The Last Resort” and “Desperado.”)


        • As The Eagles will tell you themselves, they were not musicians. Joe Walsh was a musician. Joe Walsh and The Eagles had the same producer, and Joe Walsh was brought on board to bring more depth to the project. Even before then he was playing all of the solos on the recordings. He performed arguably the most well-known guitar solo in the history of American music on “Hotel California” whether you like it or not. Honestly, I don’t see why why The Eagles are relevant to this topic, aside from being an everlasting hot button issue whenever anyone brings up their name and their potential impact.


          • If the Eagles will tell us they “were not musicians,” they are pretty clueless about their own abilities. And I’ve heard those guys interviewed a LOT, never heard them say anything that modest about themselves.


          • I’d have to dig to find the specific quote, but I remember reading this a while back. Obviously there was some exaggeration there, but the long and short is Joe Walsh was brought in to give the band some gravitas.


          • I would rank HC guitar solo number 2 behind Free Bird for most well known. Pretty close though. Most well known guitar riff….. sweet home Alabama.


          • They weren’t musicians? Glen Frey and Don Henley were Studio Musicians in the seventies playing behind the likes of Linda Rondstadt. Bernie Leadon was from the Flying Burrito Brothers. Randy Meisner played for Rondstatdt, Poco, Ricky Nelson.


          • Again, this is a quote I heard from one of the band members, being extra self-deprecating to be complimentary of Joe Walsh’s abilities. The only reason I even brought it up here is because the whole tired Eagles thread got brought up, and I wanted to illustrate Walsh had a life before The Eagles, and is a well-respected guitarist. And it think it is pretty well-documented that Walsh played the famous Hotel California solo.


        • And Don Felder wrote and played all the parts on the original Hotel California


  • I didn’t watch the video, so this is directed to his quote in the article.

    On one hand, I absolutely love The Eagles. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent listening to just “Hell Freezes Over”, and a lot of my favorite places from my childhood were my favorite places because I’d listen to The Eagles’ music there.

    That said, Joe Walsh comes off here as just one of those old farts that Blake “Sh-ellout” criticizes. He seems to be just behind on the times. For a little history lesson, The Eagles (or at least Don Henley, I don’t know about Mr Walsh) used to be radically against Napster, because they didn’t get their due millions. But at the same time as them losing out, others greatly benefitted. The jam-folk-college-rock band Dispatch got famous through Napster and was able to have a free concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston that drew over 100,000 people; they’re all about giving away their music for free so as to get people to come to their concerts, and their concerts are legendary (they sold out 3 days of shows at madison square garden all in under one hour (look up Dispatch: Zimbabwe from 2007) and gave away all proceeds to charity).

    Now Joe Walsh is criticizing EDM as a genre, but I guarantee that he’s probably only heard the trash EDM that gets played on the radio. There are some producers out there who make absolutely beautiful pieces (such as Above&Beyond and John O’Callaghan), songs that could never be made by just people with guitars and drums and such. And on top of that, there actually are some really good non-EDM bands out there who still play with instruments and show their hearts through human performance (look up Charles Bradley for instance, he just oozes soul).

    Yeah I’ll be the first to admit that EDM is one of those things that you either get or don’t, because I used to not “get it” at all, but to me this rant seems like it’s just the lamentations of a musician who feels he isn’t wanted anymore, because if he actually did research and looked into what he’s talking about, he’d find there are some amazing musicians, both EDM and non-EDM out there. Even though he’s biased because he was a mainstream musician, he just has to quit listening to mainstream music.


    • “Now Joe Walsh is criticizing EDM as a genre, but I guarantee that he’s probably only heard the trash EDM that gets played on the radio.”

      The difference may be subtle, but I don’t think Joe criticized EDM as a genre, he just criticized the use of non-human elements in music.

      I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with EDM on face value. If someone is behind a keyboard and a MIDI controller, inspired by a life event and puts together an amazing composition, that’s great. But there’s a time and place for that, as there is everything. I don’t want to turn on a country station and hear an EDM song, just as I’m sure most EDM fans don’t want to hear Jason Aldean on their station.


      • Well, at least I’ve got one thing in common with EDM fans.


  • “During the back half of the oughts, regardless of what you thought about the quality of mainstream country music, one thing you had to give the genre credit for was being the last bastion of guitar-based and instrument-based music that relied on humans and not electronic accoutrements to accomplish.”

    I would argue that this paradigm dominated country music through the entirety of the oughts, and even in the first 1.5 years of this decade. Even in early 2011, the most popular Jason Aldean song was a highly instrumental duet with Kelly Clarkson.

    It is only in late 2011 that country rap started emerging in mainstream country.


    • To be more accurate, I’d say instrumentals were more the rule than the exception during the timeframe that Trigger offers in this broader radio genre.

      However, let’s make no mistake here: there were already drum machines, Pro-Tools and more selective uses of Auto-Tune and voice-echoing that permeated country radio within the past twenty years. One of the most grating recurrents on country radio to this day to my ears is Faith Hill’s “The Way You Love Me”. That song personifies everything toxic about “country”-pop: lazy lyrics, Auto-Tune (more selectively), processed beats and overproduction. “Mississippi Girl” still rates among the worst “country” hits of all time too.

      Keith Urban would have been a monstrosity for the genre himself if he wasn’t such an emotionally committed vocalist and guitar hero. Dan Huff rose into prominence as a producer off of him and Rascal Flatts: who you can source the explosion of drum machine and Pro-Tools usage to in part.


  • This is not a criticism, but that’s a fairly old clip. I agree wholeheartedly with what he’s saying. I don’t think you get the same mojo when separate parts are brought together that you get with a real band, who has jammed together, failed together, grown together etc.

    I’ve always loved that Joe Walsh slide guitar sound. Although he’s played a harder edged style of music, he has a lot of appreciation for country music. On an unrelated note, he credits Dottie West’s husband and Nashville session steel guitarist Bill West for inventing the talk box he used in the Rocky Mountain Way days.


  • Right now is not the time to be looking at mainstream country for authentic instrumentation. And that’s a shame.

    Everyone here probably knows where to find it under the country umbrella, but if you really want to find people playing, and I mean actually playing, instruments, right now it’s in hard rock as ShadeGrown pointed out.

    You’ve got excellent players like Richie Kotzen, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan, Mike Portnoy, Glenn Hughes, Doug Pinnick, Jason Bonham, etc. forming bands and actually playing.

    Check out the Winery Dogs, KXM and California Breed if you want to hear actual musicians playing actual music. Three kickin’ power trios. (since Rush was FINALLY let into the R&R HOF, coincidence?)


  • Even mainstream metal has been raped by modern technology. Joey Sturgis and others sell the guitar tones and drum tones of bands that they produce. They record the drum track then replace all the sounds with samples. They also re-amp the guitars and basses and use their own tones. There’s no soul in that.


  • Rename this page. Not saving country music, but saving MUSIC.


  • […] is what we all know and love in the old records, by the way they were made. And it’s all gone. ● – – Joe Walsh on the state of music today. (h/t Saving Country […]


  • Thought you’d like to know, Ronnie Dunn posted this article on his Facebook page, which has 378,000 sets of eyes. Congrats!


  • This morning I was channel flipping and stopped on CMT because they were showing a Kacey Musgraves video (those dang blue shorty shorts get me every time). Right after that they played a video from some dude named Thomas Rhett that I had never heard of. The song was called “Get Me Some of That” and (just like Luke Bryan or Cole Swindell) it had the same idiotic beer party and skirt chasing lyrics. If anyone looks up they lyrics they’ll see what I mean. He’s also doing that same crap of walking toward the camera (surrounded by hot girls) making hand gestures. Sure enough Cole Swindell co-wrote that song. That guy is a disease.

    I really want to see the childish frat boy (beer party, jacked up truck, hey hot girl) music go away first. EDM and fake music would be #2 on my list.

    Using Taylor Swift as an example, even her EDM infused pop tracks have lyrics that have soul to them. I’ve never liked that Taylor Swift slaps country music stickers on pop songs but she also doesn’t make me embarrassed to say that I’m a fan of country music. People like Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan make me embarrassed to say I’m a fan of country music.


    • I see what you’re getting at, Phil, but it strikes me that it all goes together — that if you got rid of one bad thing, all the rest would follow in relatively short order. You hear the worst of the frat-boy BS — all of it — and it all seems to be set to a hip-hop or EDM beat. I don’t remember any of those songs from the beginning sounding even remotely country. I think the vapid lyrical content and the blatantly non-country sounds are pretty much a package deal, Taylor Swift and her ilk notwithstanding.


  • Just a little context, Walsh was promoting his album “Analog Man” which contains a song of the same name and the lyric, “I’m an analog man in a digital world.” He was explaining what he meant, and his best quote was actually about Beyonce saying that she made a record with five writers, three producers and eight words in the song. That cracked me up.

    For my money, Live from Daryl’s House is one of the best music shows on TV. A guest comes and hangs out and jams with Daryl Hall (from Hall & Oates), they record what follows. Sometimes it is awful. Sometimes it is awesome. It is always interesting. The Shelby Lynne, Butch Walker, and Smokey Robinson episodes were standouts for me.


  • As a songwriter/guitar slinger I agree with much of what Joe Walsh said. However, tailgates, beer and chasin’ skirts is a phase of life that’s gonna find a legitimate home on pop country radio. Publishers want us to write songs for 34 year old women, but they want us to write about what the girl was doing when she was 18 years old. Things are moving fast in country radio right now – Rascal Flats has had one of my “back country mud/beer” songs for nearly a year, but if it gets cut it will be a miracle. The song and production are already outdated IMO.

    Last year I said “to heck with trying to crack pop country radio” and instead just wrote from the heart about my personal experiences – an anthology of sorts – most Nashville publishers won’t touch any of the songs – but a band called the “North Country Flyers” cut ten of them, so there you go.


    • Keep writing from the heart Brian. In the past, Nashville publishers have been wrong about what would “hit it big” and there’s always hope it’ll happen again. They were wrong about Willie Nelson’s ideas, they were wrong about Randy Travis’ Storms of Life and The Judds self titled, which came out the same year and both were traditional for the time. They were wrong about Travis Tritt. There’s probably a million examples I’m not aware of.

      I’m skeptical that it will happen again in the internet age but! that has probably been said before for other mediums.


  • I agree with Joe’s overall points music should be musicans playing intruments and singers singing songs free from computerized electronic add on’s. That is why I love intiamte accoustic shows so much because there is nothing to hide behind. You get a real perfomance warts and all.Even at a full band gig i prefer theaters and clubs in a spot close to the speakers were you here the gutiar riff’s the base line the lyrics the kick drum and you hear it raw and live, glitches and all. That is what music should be all about.


  • I’ve always felt that for a song itself to truly be great it needs to have impact when peeled back to a single voice accompanied by a single instrument. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with additional instrumentation, harmony vocals, and even EDM instrumentation in some cases can’t enhance the value of a song, but if there’s nothing there when you peel it back to the basics there’s, well, nothing there. For years country was the last mainstream genre that was still consistantly putting out music that fits that standard, but those days appear to be gone.


  • Joe Walsh – The Confessor album. Electronic drum machines. Even back then, I was like, “WTF. Why not use real drums?”

    Sobriety. It can change a man…


  • I remember that album. My best friend had it. I thought the title track was fantastic. Probably the heaviest thing I’d ever heard from Joe Walsh. The rest was kind of boring.


  • Where is Ronnie Dunn? I’ve been waiting and waiting….


  • No money in it? Is that why the Eagles are among the highest concert ticket prices? Love the music and respect Walsh as a great guitarist but I think his comment and the article are a bit jaded on about what constitutes ‘real music’. Just because it is created with or uses electronic/digital sources in its composition doesn’t necessarily take away from the creative aspect of the composer. Yes, it is easier today than in Joe’s time to “correct” imperfections but that doesn’t have to result in a loss of ‘mojo’. There are many great bands out there playing without the benefit of auto tune and digitized instrumentation.However, you mentioned Arcade Fire in one comment above and while they are not in my Top 10 I certainly can see that there is great musicianship in all of their albums. Same for Radiohead. Both make great use of digitization but still maintain musical integrity. IMO.


  • “And the magic of a human performance is what we all know and love in the old records, by the way they were made. And it’s all gone.”

    Not at every level.

    Blackberry Smoke (thanks, SCM) went in to the studio and recorded their album whippoorwill, (a very fine album)

    in around a week. Along with the tracks on the album, they recorded other tracks that weren’t released.

    That means the album was probably mostly recorded live. it has lots of feel, its an outstanding album, up tunes, down tunes, and not one bad tune.

    There are still people doing good music.

    On the other hand, I saw a video of a studio guitar player in Los Angeles. His studio was at his home. It was set up for nobody but him to play. He was surrounded by a bunch of different amp heads, effects and guitars. all of the heads were hooked up to a speaker cabinet set up in a different room. People would email him a bed track, he puts on his guitar tracks, and emails it back.


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