Life Advice from Joe Walsh

Andrew MacPherson

What's the best advice you ever received?
It was from my grandfather Floyd. When I wanted to be a musician, my family didn't particularly think that was a good idea, but my grand­father took me aside and said, "Never mind everybody. You go ahead and go for it. Instead of regretting that you didn't, go ahead and see where it goes." He gave me permission to be me. When I showed my uncle my first gold album, he said, "When are you going to stop this foolishness and go back to college?" I thought, "I like my grandfather better."

How can a man learn to negotiate difficult personalities?
Keep your head down, and go about your business. When people are really difficult, it triggers a feeling in you, and that feeling can end up owning you. So I just try to not react. If somebody is aggressive toward you, let it bounce off. It's about them. It has nothing to do with you.

Do you have any scars?
On my left arm, I have a pretty good scar. When I was about three years old, I pulled over a pot of split-pea soup from the stove, and I got third-degree burns. It healed amazingly, but it always reminds me when I think I'm immortal – which I did until I was about 35 – how much we take our health for granted and how quickly that can change. All of a sudden, you go, "Why did I even pick up that knife?"

What was your greatest personal challenge?
Getting sober. I had to relearn everything. I had to learn how to write music, to play in front of people sober. I got so damn dependent on drugs and alcohol that I wouldn't even consider going out and playing in front of people without a buzz. When I got sober, I had to go up and plug in and play and feel all those feelings I had neutralized by being high. I had to get through them and get to the other side. If you don't deal with the fear, you're damaged goods.

What should every man know about being famous?
People tend to think you're something you're not, and it's important that you don't think you're somebody you're not. Don't think that you are who everybody thinks you are. You ain't him, you ain't shit, really.

How should a man handle getting old?
With acceptance. When I was young, old people were like dinosaurs, and I didn't want to get too close to them. Now that I'm 64, I want to go to the bookstore and get 64 for Dummies, because I'm like this kid in this body that's starting to slow down, and there's all this stuff I still want to do. But there's a way to accept that your body's slowing down and stay young in your head. You can be sad about it and walk around all humped over and stuff, but I have to stand up tall because I'm not done yet.

What's the one piece of music everyone should experience?
"Adagio for Strings," by Samuel Barber, is my favorite piece of music. My mother was a musicologist and played it on the record player when I was nine. It just takes me to a place of complete calm and joy and sadness all at the same time. It puts me in a trance, and I can't really move until the piece is over. Fuck. It shatters me every time.

Trashing hotel rooms – is there a preferred method?
Two things: superglue and a chain saw. You can superglue a toilet seat down or glue stuff to the ceiling. You can superglue somebody in their room, and they're there for at least a day. I had a chain saw for a while. You find if you have a chain saw, you really don't need to use it very often – just walking up to the front desk holding it will usually get a lot done. One of the most terrifying things that ever happened to me was that Keith Moon decided he liked me. He taught me the finer arts of hotel damage. He took me to a hardware store and got some charcoal and lawn fertilizer. He'd mix them up, put them in a condom, and flush it down the toilet. It would go down two or three floors and blow somebody's toilet out of the wall. At checkout time, it comes in handy when a record company is footing the bill.

What role does courage play in a man's life?
Huge. Every time I've had the courage to make a change, it's been terrifying but always for the better. A philosopher said as we live life, it looks like random anarchy, one event smashing into another. But when you look back, life looks like a finely crafted novel.

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