Gary James' Interview With Jason Manning Of
The Ultimate Eagles Experience
Jason Manning is Glenn Frey in 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience band. Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, the group has gained national recognition. Jason Manning talked with us about 7 Bridges.
Q - This group is based out of Nashville?
A - We are. Everybody in the band lives there except for me. I live in Ft. Worth, Texas, strictly because I have an original project, Manning Dixon, that is based in Texas. We have singles out in the Texas Red Dirt Radio Scene, so it allows me to be close by. Everybody else either bus or drives to shows and I'll fly in and they'll come pick me up.
Q - How do you guys rehearse?
A - We don't. We have the show down and we've played together so long. The beauty of it is, we do an exact replica of one of their concerts. It never changes. We do all the hits and we do it note for note, harmony for harmony, so it's just like second nature. We're all just ingrained with that music. We're all top-notch professional musicians. So, it just happens. Everybody knows their part. Everybody does their part the exact same way every show. That's how you get that preciseness, through playing it over and over all over the country. It just works.
Q - That's great for the audience, but how do you keep from getting bored?
A - The beauty of doing an Eagles show is that the music is so good, the songs are great and it's not like you're playing an entire Rock show. You're not playing an entire Country show. You're not playing a Disco show. It's all of those genres combined, so it never really gets old. The places we go and the scenarios are different and the venues are different, so that's what makes it fun. Taking that show to a different audience and projecting that portrayal of what we do with an exact replica of an Eagles concert. We're kind of feeding off their energy. It never, never gets boring.
Q - How long has this band been together?
A - In one form or fashion since about '04. I joined in '07. At that time we were called Tequila Sunrise. Our original band leader that started Tequila Sunrise is Taylor Swift's guitar player. So, he left to go play with Taylor in the beginning of '08. In order not to be a conflict of interest, we changed the name, changed the promotion, changed the website, changed everything so if for some reason his thing with Taylor didn't work out or she didn't work out, that he would have something to fall back to, which we know now, three and a half years later (laughs), it doesn't look like she's going down hill anytime soon. He's living it up! He went from portraying Joe Walsh in the world's greatest Eagles tribute to playing guitar for one of the top paid celebrities / entertainers in the world in any genre.
Q - How many members in 7 Bridges were part of Tequila Sunrise?
A - All but me, Vernon the keyboard player, the drummer Keith and our Don Felder, are all the same. So, there's four of the original six and then we added a bass player, a guy by the name of Bryan Graves and we've had a couple of Joe Walsh, but the other one that's been there since '08 up until now is Ray Neighbors. We're just starting out with a new Joe Walsh, a guy by the name of Race Godsnon. He's a wonderful guitar player as well.
Q - Are you the founder of 7 Bridges?
A - I'm not. Again, I came in '07 and the other three guys were original members of Tequila Sunrise. They were there longer than I was, but I became the band leader. I guess I had some of the most experience in the business of music, so I just became the band leader when the guitar player left. It's definitely a democracy. It's not like it's my band and everybody does what I say. I just take care of the business end of it as far as signing contracts, doing logistics and travel and all that stuff. It's just a lot easier to have one person take care of that stuff.
Q - How many dates are you doing a year?
A - We do between fifty to seventy-five shows a year. We have other projects as well. We're all singer / songwriters. Some of the guys play with other major label artists or do studio work, jingles. We each have careers outside of The Eagles tribute as well. So, it works out well.
Q - You bill your group as "The Ultimate Eagles Experience". Is that something you came up with or a critic came up with?
A - Someone from one of our shows said that and that's kind of why we labeled ourselves that. Someone mentioned that, so when we were coming up with a name, we wanted to come up with something that they could brand us as an Eagles tribute. The name that's branded the most is Hotel California, but there's already two of those, so in order not to compete or be confused with them, we kicked around different names; Heartache Tonight, Take It Easy, Take It To The Limit. We all liked the song 7 Bridges a lot, "7 Bridges Road", so we decided to call it 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience. As you get out there and play the same places, people stop calling you 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience, they just call you 7 Bridges, (laughs) which is flattering. Obviously it's not as brand worthy as Hotel California. If you say Hotel California, you immediately think Eagles.
Q - The fact that everyone sings in this band is your number one selling point, isn't it?
A - That's correct. Six guys. Six people singing. We don't use harmonizers of any kind. It's all authentic. We're the only one of the top Eagles tributes in the world that can say that. All the other ones use harmonizers. We're also the only one that each one in the band portrays that member in the band and does everything exactly like that person. For instance, I'm Glenn Frey, so everything Glenn Frey would do onstage, whether it be an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar part, harmony, lead vocal, I do. A lot of the other tributes have one guy that sings everything. As far as our show goes, our drummer is our Don Henley who does everything Don Henley does onstage. So, we're the most authentic when it comes to that, for sure.
Q - I'm assuming you had to watch hours of video and concert footage to get each member's mannerisms down pat, and the way they dressed.
A - That's right. For The Eagles it's easy. They never dressed in a particular style. A lot of tributes are look-a-likes. With The Eagles you don't really look like them because they're not really known for having a certain look or a certain style or whatever. So, that's easy. We can just be ourselves and wear what we would normally wear onstage. As far as sounding, yeah, you watch DVDs and take old recordings and just pick it out. It's tedious in the beginning, but once you get down it just kind of blends together. The Eagles were so great at putting parts together that alone don't really make any sense, but when you put them all together in the same content, it just really comes off the page and makes their sound, their sound. The twelve string acoustic, three guitar parts, maybe three electrics on a song, an acoustic with a twelve string and a mando(lin). They were really thoughtful in the process of recording those songs. That's why it's so much fun to play.
Q - Do any of the guys in The Eagles know about you?
A - You know, the two guys that would matter the most don't for sure. (laughs) But I'm not really sure. People ask us that all the time. We've met a few of 'em here and there. If I were them it would be the ultimate form of flattery, but who knows? They could get upset about it. I don't know how they would react. Surely they know there's people doing tributes to their music, which if someone did a tribute to my music I would be completely flattered by that.
Q - If they were upset with what you're doing, could they in fact shut you down?
A - I don't think so. We go through the proper channels. We recorded some of their songs that we do in our concert in the studio and we pay mechanical royalties just like everybody else does. I mean, I guess they could. They could try. I don't know the legalities of all that.
Q - Who have you met in The Eagles?
A - Bernie Leadon, who was one of the original members. He's been out forever and ever. And then a couple of other guys in the band have met Don Felder. I don't think anyone's ever had any connection with Joe Walsh. His guitar tech is a friend of mine, a guy named Mark Reese. Some of those guys have met them, but neither Glenn or Don, who basically are The Eagles now. It's the Don Henley and Glenn Frey Show.
Q - I'm just wondering if those guys would go out to a club to see an Eagles tribute.
A - I doubt it. (laughs) They're family guys. They did all that stuff in the '70s and '80s. They do their thing. Don's got a young family and lives in Dallas. They're involved in a lot of other things. Probably going out and listening to a tribute to themselves in not one of them. (laughs). Don is saving the woods. He's very active in his causes. Those guys still record I'm sure, and write, and figure out ways to spend money. They've got a lot of mailbox money. They really tour a lot too, still, world-wide. They do their thing for sure.
Q - This band of yours doesn't play bars, does it?
A - We don't. I won't say we don't play the occasional bar or club, or I should say, but we do mostly festivals. We headline anywhere from 500 to 15,000 and we also play theatres, especially in the winter months. We do theatres all over the country. We don't play a lot of bars and a lot of clubs. We do one from time to time if we know the people or we played there before. We do some casino showrooms from time to time, which is fun, especially if you like to gamble, and we have a couple of gamblers in the band. (laughs)
Q - Uh-oh.
A - No, we don't do it to win. We just do it for fun. It works out perfectly.
Q - What size theatres are you performing in?
A - Typically 500 to 1,500. The last theatre we played was in Jackson, Michigan. We played there a week or so ago and it was a great show. I think they had about 750 to 800. It was a performing arts center at Jackson Community College. A great, great show and a great venue and everyone there was just over the top. It's really nice to play places that have great venues. We're trying to get back into, in the past we've played a lot of House Of Blues. They're great music venues. I guess you could call that a club per se, but it's more of a 'live' music venue.
Q - Isn't it strange that in a tribute band you can perform in these large venues, but in an all original band you could not.
A - Yeah, well it definitely takes a lot longer. We all have other projects that are moving in that direction. From the beginning of putting a band together to when you're able to play those kind of shows is sometimes years, depending on the rapidness of your success or lack of. So, it's a way of keep playing music, get your stuff out there, meeting people all over the country and kind of networking that way. We just go do our thing and meet people everywhere we go and hopefully we mention our original music and they'll pick up on it, like it and we'll make a friend and a fan at the same time. So, it works out great.