Inside Don Henley

JANE STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:57 PM ET

HOLLYWOOD -- Inside Job, the title of Don Henley's first solo album in 11 years, would seem to indicate the veteran musician-activist has returned in full rant mode.

But that's really only half true.

Sure, he has tunes that rip into corporate greed (Workin' It), environmental polluters (Goodbye To A River) and developers (Inside Job). But Henley's latest solo release -- out Tuesday -- also reflects the 52-year-old's current state of domestic bliss.

Just check out songs such as Taking You Home, For My Wedding, Everything Is Different Now, and My Thanksgiving.

"There is joy and anger on this album, and I think that's a nice balance," says Henley, a founding member of seminal '70s California rock-country group The Eagles.

"I was one of those people for a while that thought creativity could only come out of unhappiness and turmoil and drama. I lived like that in my youth. Then one day I woke up and said, 'I can't live like this anymore.' "

Charming

A voracious reader with keen intellect and innate charm, Henley is a tall, thin, handsome man with short, red hair and intense blue eyes. He was once thought of as The Eagles' hard-living playboy.

Among the women he dated was Stevie Nicks, who wound up pregnant by him and had an abortion. (She sang about their unborn child on the Fleetwood Mac track Sara.)

Along the way, there was plenty of booze, cocaine and, eventually, an ulcer.

According to the 1998 unauthorized biography Take It To The Limit, Henley was known as "Nikon Don" because he carried around a movie camera to film home movies of young girl groupies. (Henley calls bio author Marc Eliot, with whom he cooperated briefly, "not only a bad writer but an evil person. He was a sick person who had some kind of axe to grind.")

There was also an ugly incident in 1980, when Henley called paramedics to his home after an under-age hooker had drug-related seizures during an Eagles farewell bash. Henley was arrested after coke and marijuana were found.

"I've always had a certain amount of insight. Even when I was running off the rails, I knew where I was going," says Henley, chatting away for 90 minutes in a tiny, white bungalow on the Culver Studios lot during a break in rehearsals for his tour, which pulls into the Molson Amphitheatre on June 11.

"So when some people act surprised that there's happiness on the album, I like to tell them that I've always been basically an optimistic and happy person. If I weren't, I couldn't have continued this long and I couldn't have been successful for this amount of time.

Destructive

"I have a great appetite for life, which has been expressed in many ways, some of them constructive and some of them destructive. I feel like I've reached a point in my life where I've been able to bring all those elements of my life -- both the light and the shadow -- into focus and into consolidation, into reconciliation. And I've never been in a 12-step program."

Since 1989's Grammy-winning The End Of The Innocence, Henley has married, had three children and relocated from California to his native Texas, where he realized his longtime goal of building a recording studio.

The move, he says, was prompted by the 1994 earthquake that destroyed his L.A. home, and by a desire to raise his kids outside of Los Angeles and have them closer to their grandparents.

"I have very mixed emotions about it because there are things about the culture that I don't care for and, on the other hand, things that I admire greatly. But I remember why I left (Texas) 30 years ago. Politically speaking, I am to the left of most of the folks in Dallas."

Let's not forget that Henley has spent the past 11 years heavily involved in environmental projects. He founded the Walden Woods project 10 years ago and co-edited the 1992 environmental book of celebrity essays, Heaven Is Under Our Feet.

"Yeah, I'm a fighter, I'm a trouble-maker," Henley says with a smile. "Well, I'm part Irish, you know. I have a thing about small guys getting bullied by big guys."

Henley's latest battle is for artists' rights. He has formed an artists coalition with Sheryl Crow, to fight threats caused by Internet piracy, MP3 and Napster.

Intense

"I'm too aware of everything. I wish I wasn't sometimes. It makes for a pretty intense existence, but it helps with the writing."

The new album, which features guest appearances by fellow Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Felder, along with Stevie Wonder and Randy Newman, was co-produced by Henley and former Heartbreaker Stan Lynch.

Henley is optimistic about how the new CD will be received.

"I'm greatly encouraged by the feedback I've gotten thus far. I think there's a big void out there right now in music, and I hope that I can at least partially fill that void.

"A lot of my peers are silent at the moment. I don't know about younger people, but I think there are 78 million baby boomers who don't have anything to listen to."

The DON HENLEY File

Some quips from the ever-quotable Don Henley:

"Besides being kind of slimy and mean-spirited, it wasn't particularly funny. It didn't have any redeeming qualities. I know Ben Stiller a bit and I intend to ask him the next time I see him, 'What the hell was that supposed to be?' "

-- On a recent SNL short film featuring Will Farrell as Glenn Frey sexually torturing Stiller during a one-night stand

"I think that's overkill. I don't want to see anybody for that long. I don't care who it is. If Beethoven came back from the dead, I wouldn't want to see him for four hours. But you know, more power to them."

-- On CSNY's marathon reunion shows

"Everybody's a golfer but me. I'm the last guy. I can't stand the clothes."

-- On staying off the links


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