Kiefer Sutherland (yes, the actor) is going on tour: 'I'm writing very personal songs'
Kiefer Sutherland knows that actors releasing music don't always have a stellar track record, and says he was dragged into it kicking and screaming.
"I'm clearly aware of actors doing music and all of that. And when I hear about people in my profession doing music, I'll roll my eyes, too," he said.
But sometimes magic happens. Enter country rocker Kiefer Sutherland, a singer-songwriter embarking on a tour.
Sutherland, known for his television and film roles such as "Stand by Me" and "24," released his third studio album, "Bloor Street," in January. The record is picking up steam, charting and garnering radio play for the first time.
He wrote eight of the album's 11 songs during the pandemic, and says he was surprised the songs, like "Two Stepping in Time," "So Full of Love" and "Lean Into Me," are among the most positive he's ever written.
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"I tend to be kind of sarcastic and pessimistic, that's the sense of humor that I have," Sutherland said. "So I find it ironic that during one of the most difficult times in most people's lives these last few years, I ended up writing songs that are really positive."
He credits that to the time to reflect on his life that the world grinding to a halt afforded.
"During these last two years, it's slowed down enough to look around and go 'Oh my gosh, I really do love my girlfriend,' and 'Oh my gosh, I really do love my dogs.' 'Oh my gosh, I'm so grateful that my family is safe. And that my friends are all right,' " he says.
The sweet nature of the music can still be a little hard to adjust to, though.
"'So Full of Love' was an interesting song. If you had told me five years ago that I had written that song, I would have stabbed you. I woke up singing the melody, the lines for the chorus and I was dancing in the shower singing the song ... It was a real transitional kind of moment."
The title track, "Bloor Street," also came to Sutherland in a quick moment.
"Bloor Street is the main street in Toronto, Canada," he said, "That goes east and west through the city. I was at the main intersection of Bloor and Yonge while I was shooting 'Designated Survivor' and I was nostalgically looking at the four corners, waiting on the light and I realized all my firsts happened there. My first job was at Hudson's Bay on the northwest corner. My first kiss was on the same corner, in front of the subway. My first fight, the first time I ever busked with a guitar. It was a nostalgic look back on how lucky I felt to have been raised in that city, and that's where I was allowed to grow up."
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The decision to release his music came to him in a flash.
Working with longtime friend Jude Cole and their small record label, Sutherland had recorded a few songs and Cole wanted to play them back for him.
"I really loved the way he made them sound," Sutherland said. "Five seconds earlier it was 'Oh gosh, now I need to listen to this.' And five seconds later, it was 'so this is what we're doing.' It became personal. It was interesting because I was so not fine with doing it up until that moment. It wasn't something that was gradual. That was an absolute moment."
Songwriting is like a puzzle, he said.
"If you find a line that you really like for a melody line, whether it's a verse or chorus, it starts you off and in most cases it starts you off on a kind of a journey," he said. "And there's an inherent challenge about whether you can finish it, make it good."
His music career has allowed him to show more of himself.
"I'm writing very personal songs like 'Calling Out Your Name,' which was about the first major breakup in my life," he said. "Those were really private stories, so I felt incredibly vulnerable."
Ultimately, sharing those parts of himself had a positive impact on his acting career, Sutherland says.
"When I went to do a show like 'Designated Survivor,' I felt comfortable about putting more of my own personality in that character than I would probably have," he said.
Sutherland is featured alongside Chris Pine and Ben Foster in the upcoming film "The Contractor," and will play Franklin D. Roosevelt in the limited series "The First Lady" alongside a cast that also features Viola Davis and Gillian Anderson.
Sutherland performed on Broadway in the 2011 revival of "That Championship Season," and said he would welcome the chance to return.
"It's a huge commitment. There have been three different moments in my career where I've taken a year or more to go on stage, and you just kind of have to work yourself up to it. But I'm certainly open to it. My experience on Broadway was extraordinary. It was one of the great treats of my life."
As one might expect, his mother Shirley Douglas, a stage actor who died in 2020, and his father, film actor Donald Sutherland, made an impression.
"It was just night and day," he said. "It was a completely different lifestyle. I was fortunate enough as a young person to see both of those experiences."
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Sutherland is playing The Vogel at the Count Basie Center for the Performing Arts in Red Bank at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9, with special guests Marc Copely and Rocco DeLuca. Tickets are $20 to $79. More information is available at thebasie.org/events/an-evening-with-kiefer-sutherland.
At 8 p.m. Friday, March 11, the trio play City Winery, 25 11th Ave. in Manhattan. For tickets, $35 to $60, visit citywinery.com. On Saturday, March 12, Sutherland, Copely and DeLuca hit Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, Pa., for a show at 8 p.m. For tickets, $30 to $69, and more information, visit ardmoremusichall.com.
Additional United States tour dates include:
March 14:- Washington, D.C., City Winery
March 15: Annapolis, Md., Ram's Head
March 17 - Atlanta, Eddie's Attic
March 18 - Franklin, Tenn., Franklin Theatre
March 20 - St. Charles, Ill., Arcada Theatre
March 30 - San Juan Capistrano, Calif., The Coach House
April 2 - Los Angeles, Hotel Cafe
April 3 - Los Angeles, Hotel Cafe
For more on Sutherland's music and television/film projects, visit kiefersutherland.net.