Bassist Tim Schmit talks on band's past & present
Country-rock has been one word in our music vocabularies which has been so often abused. We called bands such as The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Eagles and Commander Cody, to mention only a few, that type of group. However, The Byrds and Burritos were playing real country for a time. The Eagles are a rock and roll band. Commander Cody is a take-off of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys' western swing.
As for country-rock, there is always Poco. And Poco is one of the only true bands who fuse country with rock and roll - not to be confused with country-pop or country-soul bands. There was a special magic about Poco tunes like "Good Feelin' To Know" and "Pickin' Up The Pieces."
From their not so humble start in 1968, Poco has been a haven and starting point for Jim Messina (Loggins & Messina), Randy Meisner (Eagles), and long-time leader Richie Furay (Souther, Hillman, Furay Band). Through all of those personnel changes, Poco as a band has gotten tighter and more determined to gain the success that so many of it's peers and ex-members have found.
Poco is now a foursome. Tim Schmit has been bassist with the group since the second album. Paul Cotton, who replaced Jim Messina some years back, is on lead guitar and vocals. George Grantham on drums and pedal steel player Rusty Young remain the core of the group, being the only original members.
Many of the bands most ardent fans feared that Richie Furay's departure, after leading the band for 6 years, would lead to the demise of Poco. However, as time has told, nothing could be further from the truth. For immediately after Furay left the band, Poco released their first album as a foursome. Entitled Poco 7, it showed a band trying to adjust with one less member.
Now Poco has just put out CANTAMOS, their second album as a quartet, and their finest album as Poco in any form. Presently on tour of the United States, a busier-than-ever Poco found time to do the following "up-date" interview from their hotel room in Virginia. Bassist Tim Schmit revealed some interesting facts, as the conversation covered the band, old and new
SCENE: Obviously Poco was the original country-rock band. How does it feel to still by trying to get the success that has so often come to many of your lesser friends?
SCHMIT: It's really simple. We enjoy playing so much and although we know we were first, it doesn't frustrate us too much. See, we're confident in the band and we know if we stick it out, it'll just bust wide open for us. We all have an attitude that we know it will happen and it'll be better because we'll be ready for it. Poco knows it's potential now.
SCENE: The lyrics of the CANTAMOS album seem to be less good-timey and more serious-which is good. The songs are better and the lyrics more profound.
SCHMIT: It that's true, which it might be, this would be an indication of our growth. As for me, I'm a songwriter myself. Whatever comes out as a writer is what Poco eventually does as a band. Of course, all of us hope to get continually better and more meaningful when it fits.
SCENE: Was POCO 7 hard to record after Richie Furay left - with one less vocalist and all?
SCHMIT: No, I wouldn't say it was hard to record. George had to start singing more, but with one less man there was no big gap or anything. POCO 7 was a transistional album: we were experimenting a lot with what we could do. Still, having one less man never hindered us at all.
SCENE: What sort of musical and psychological re-evaluation did Poco have to go through when Richie and the band decided to part company?
SCHMIT: Well, Richie left us. One day we had a meeting at our old manager's office. When Richie announced he was leaving, it was nothing heavy at all. Within five minutes of the time Richie announced it, we knew we were going to go on as four. We didn't feel sorry for ourselves.
SCENE: What about the fact that Richie was the figurehead of the group? SCHMIT: Yeah, it was true that Richie had an aura about him which made people identify with him pretty much. He was already well-known before Poco. But I guess people didn't realize that Poco was always such a group effort that no one person could make or break the band.
SCENE: I'm sure it was rough at first-getting used to the idea. SCHMIT: We rehearsed for six weeks as a four-piece group. Then we went on tour. And during the first part of the tour a lot of kids didn't know Richie had left the band; POCO 7 wasn't out yet. So, people would start shouting "where's Richie" and all kinds of stuff like that. We chose to ignore it for the most part - figuring that as long as the music was good, things would be cool. Usually by the end of the show when they were all dancing in the aisles, everyone knew Poco was still Poco-even without Richie.
SCENE: The harmonies on CANTAMOS are really tight. You must have prepared the album really well.
SCHMIT: We had the whole album rehearsed before we went into the studio. That saves time and money. In the past we rehearsed in the studio, but that doesn't give you any reference to work from. And the title CANTAMOS means "we sing". Rusty thought that one up: it fits the artwork and it fits Poco. So, I think the entire project is together.
SCENE: Rusty Young has emerged on CANTAMOS as a major songwriter for the band; his tunes are the best on the album. I thought you had written "Sagebrush Serenade" and "High and Dry".
SCHMIT: That's because Rusty gives me his songs to sing. But Rusty is stepping out and we're glad. And with Rusty's songs, Poco gets back to playing what we know best.
SCENE: You produced CANTAMOS yourself, the band that is.
SCHMIT: Well, it came out the way we wanted to. We had the bulk of everything up to us this time. And although we were paranoid at first, we decided we needed a change from Jack (Richardson). It's something every band wants to eventually do.
SCENE: Which Poco album is your favorite?
SCHMIT: That's a hard one; it's usually the one we've just finished. I liked Crazy Eyes a lot. And I love the music on FROM THE INSIDE, but the production is really bad. So, for now, CANTAMOS stands as my favorite.
SCENE: Paul Cotton's songs are really different.
SCHMIT: Paul writes constantly; he makes me envious of his output. He must have 100 tunes he's written; his output is great.
SCENE: Another member in Poco; is that future a possibility?
SCHMIT: No. We really like the way it works with just us four.
SCENE: Does Poco's present stage show include an acoustic portion?
SCHMIT: Yes. The first section is acoustic. We play all familiar material; people want to hear our "oldies". Everything we play has been recorded. It's even rough playing things from CANTAMOS in places where the album is just getting off.
SCENE: What's it like to be in Poco? Do you get any time off?
SCHMIT: We get very little time off. Well, let's take if from the start of the cycle. First we rehearse for the album. Then we record it. Then comes rehearsal for the tour. Then comes the tour itself; then the cycle begins all again.
SCENE: You do some session work, though. You yourself played on Linda Ronstadt's new album.
SCHMIT: Yeah, I'm masochistic, I guess. When I get a night or two off and someone asks me to play a session, I'll do it. It gives me new perspectives and ideas. Playing with other people helps me grow with Poco-not that I steal ideas, but I pick up things along the way. But I would only do whatever I can between Poco things.
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