Yesterday was just another Monday afternoon for Tiger Darrow, currently living in New York after growing up in Austin and going to Booker T. Washington in Dallas. But right before she left for work, she got the news that Glenn Frey had passed away at the age of 67. Frey wasn't just a solo artist and member of the Eagles for Darrow: He helped her (and many other students) at NYU's Steinhardt Department of Music. "I knew he was not in good health, but I didn't know how serious it was," Darrow says. "So it was just a complete shock. I was gutted."
The widely seen and fully authorized documentary History of the Eagles paints Frey in a not-so-kind light. Unafraid to air the personal issues, and financial and songwriting disagreements that led Eagles members such as Randy Meisner and Don Felder to leave, Frey comes across as an intimidating prick. This is not the way Darrow describes working with Frey in songwriting classes at NYU.
She can't remember exactly when she saw him last year, but she remembers it being an enjoyable lunch chat with fellow professors. "We all had some good chats," Darrow says. "Just all super-casual catching up because we hadn't seen each other since the year before. He was very perky. Very excited about his new place in New York, getting to spend time with his daughter who had just graduated."
Darrow was a composition major as the school developed its songwriting department. Frey was brought in to the department to teach classes. "He was just the most warm, welcoming person," she says. "He would make sure to stick around and talk to students after the class. He wanted to get to know the students better and be really involved. We'd talk about songwriting and the importance of being able to get big ideas into small places. That was his whole philosophy behind songwriting: tell an entire story in such a small amount of time."
She says Frey's technique was much more a discussion and conversation than a lecture. "It felt like we were collaborators, even though we weren't writing songs together," she says. "It was never like he was telling us how to do things. He was trying to open a dialogue with us, which was pretty amazing."
Working with Frey had a tremendous impact on Darrow's solo material. Her first two albums were heavy on the acoustics, but her third, Aqua Vitae, was more electronic-focused. That influence came from working with Frey even though Frey's own music sounded nothing like it. As Darrow started work on what became Aqua Vitae, Frey asked her in an elevator one day to write a love song. Wanting to rebel, she wrote an anti-love song. He responded in kind and accepted her take on a love song.
Frey had received helpful advice when he got the Eagles together with Don Henley: Keep writing songs and don't fuss if they aren't great. The more you write, the better the songs, to a degree. That was roughly the same advice Frey gave to his students. "You have to write the crappy songs to get to the good ones," Darrow says. "It's practice. You practice it just like you practice an instrument."
As a teacher and a mentor, Darrow and her classmates were not turned off by the way Frey gave feedback. "He was blunt when he would talk to us, but it was never used in a malicious thing," she says. "He realized who his 'audience' was and we were really into that sense of humor. And the best way to get to us was being blunt and straightforward."
Showcasing the talent in the department, Darrow, along with two other students, got to open for the Eagles at the Beacon Theatre back in 2012. "It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time," she says. Darrow treasures the memory of playing for faculty and people they respected.
Darrow is still involved with the NYU music community now that she's a graduate and working on various collaborative projects like Tiger + Man and MINK as well as her solo material. Prior to moving to New York, she made music all by herself. Now she has broadened her horizons by working with other musicians. None of that would have happened had she not taken the path she's taken. And a lot of where she is now is because of Frey's encouragement and teaching.