Kiefer Sutherland: Sharing A Song And A Drink
On June 26 Kiefer Sutherland brought his amazing live band to the Ardmore Music Hall for an 18-song set of rockin’ music. He played material from his new album, as well as his first, and more. In addition to being his guest for the evening, I got to hang out with the man himself after the show, which was a great honor.
Kiefer started off his show with “Rebel Wind,” kicking things into high gear right from the get-go. It was clear from this performance that we were in for an energetic show and a fun time.The third song Kiefer performed was “Something You Love” from his fantastic new album: Reckless & Me. This upbeat number is infectious and came off great live.
Speaking of Reckless & Me, the title track was the next song up, followed by “Shirley Jean,” a country-rock song inspired by Johnny Cash, and another favorite of mine from Kiefer’s new album: “Open Road.”
Kiefer told the crowd that the song “Faded Pair Of Blue Jeans” was written from the point of view of a couple that have been together many years and are still in love. A few songs later he played “I’ll Do Anything” from his first album, Down In A Hole, and explained that it was inspired by him watching the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary one Friday night. He said the scene where Mark tells Bridget, “I like you very much, just as you are” floored him and was the impetus for the song. Then he asked the crowd, “Why can’t I find someone who will say that to me?!”
Next up was “Saskatchewan,” which Kiefer explained was written for his mother, who, at one point, was fighting for her life and his family didn’t think she was going to make it through. He eventually played the song for her, which she loved, but said to him, “You know I don’t want to be buried in Saskatchewan, right?” Everyone smiled and chuckled at the heartwarming story and enjoyed this beautiful song.After the final song was played, I headed outside and received a text message from Kiefer’s assistant telling me where they were hanging out so I could come by. I headed over to the nondescript bar, walked through the door, and turned to my left. Seated behind me, up against the window, was Kiefer. He stuck out his hand, I shook it and introduced myself. At the end of the interview I recently conducted with him, he said, “Let’s hang out after the show and we’ll have a drink together.” He lived up to that promise by asking me, “Let me buy you a drink. What would you like to have?” I don’t drink alcohol so I said, “I’ll have a Coke and grenadine.” Kiefer generously bought me two of these as we spent the next 30 to 50 minutes hanging out and talking. It was just me, him, his assistant, and a couple friends of his, one of which he works with on Designated Survivor.Kiefer and I covered a lot of ground in our discussion. As he was sipping on whiskey and smoking cigarettes, I asked him about his black leather, studded guitar strap. I wanted to know if it was created by Eddie Carlino because it resembles the guitar straps that Eddie makes for Paul Stanley. Kiefer said it wasn’t and that his was inspired by Tom Petty’s guitar strap and that it was created by a leather maker he knows. I asked him about voice over work he’s done for video games and he told me about how he’d been doing voice work for many years, referencing The Land Before Time, Bank of America commercials, and other work. We also spoke about Kris Kristofferson and I referenced my recent interview with Kris’ former wife, Rita Coolidge. Kiefer said how he thinks Kris is an underrated actor and a great musician. Speaking of music, I told him about Neil Diamond’s two brilliant albums produced by Rick Rubin, 12 Songs and Home Before Dark, and how excellent they are. Kiefer hadn’t heard them but seemed very interested in checking them out, noting the amazing work Rick did with Johnny Cash.Before forgetting to do so, I pulled out a copy of my interview with Kiefer, which he graciously autographed for me. I asked Kiefer if there was anyone he’d like to work with in music or acting that he hasn’t with yet. He said, “There’s so many people I could name but I’d say Gene Hackman, but he’s no longer acting at this point.” We also talked about how some TV interviewers, and those in other mediums, go into an interview knowing nothing about the person they’re speaking with. I cited an example where a CNBC interviewer asked Barry Manilow if he’d ever consider performing in Vegas to which Barry replied, “I spent seven years in Vegas.” Kiefer said, “I know Barry would’ve handled a question like that well.” He went on to say that, “Barry is one of the greatest performers out there and of all time. He’s incredible!” While on the topic of Manilow, I shared with Kiefer the story about how my wife and I received an all-expenses paid trip (hotel, airfare, concert tickets, and meet and greet) to see him in Vegas and how generous it was of Barry and his husband to do that. While talking about how amazing Barry’s voice still sounds, I asked Kiefer if he has a voice coach. He said, “I used to but I don’t currently. I’m familiar with what my range is. I’ve got an octave-and-a-half, and I don’t do a lot of technical signing. But it’s really cool to see how my voice has gotten stronger over time, especially between my first and second album.” I said, “Well, it’s clear that you’re having a blast up there. And I love the song ‘Open Road,’ especially the part at the end where you riff,” which I then briefly sang to him at the bar. Kiefer responded, “Yeah, that’s a fantastic song and the first track I released from the new album.” I told him he should really consider releasing a live album with his band, since they put on such a tight performance. He replied, “We’re thinking about doing that.”
Another topic covered was physical fitness. I asked Kiefer how he stays in shape while on the road. He says, “I run, one or two miles, whenever I can.” I told him how I do DDP Yoga and that I’m training to be a certified instructor. I explained how part of the reason for me doing that is because being an instructor will hold me accountable and force me to stay on track, since the people I’m teaching will be dependent on me doing so. He said, “That’s a really great way to approach it.”
Kiefer showed me photos on his phone from a recent trip to Europe where he played an open-air arena for 75,000 people. I asked him, “What’s it like playing a huge venue like that compared to a smaller one?” He zoomed in on the fans having a great time at the large arena and said, “That’s what I try and achieve at these kinds of shows. If I can get people to react like that, it’s perfect.” He told me that a large venue compared to a small one doesn’t make a difference when it comes to what he and the band hears because of their in-ear monitors. But he did say that the stage at the Ardmore Music Hall was small so he had to be careful where he was stepping.We also spoke about the opening act, Raye Zaragoza, and how incredible she is. Kiefer said that they have the same agent and that’s how he heard about her and decided for her to fill the opener spot on the tour. I told him that I appreciated her folk singer style and that she reminded me of Janis Ian. I went on to mention that I got into Janis Ian because of her audiobook, in which Janis weaves music between chapters. I suggested that Kiefer should write an autobiography of his own and do the same thing for the audiobook version, especially since he has such a distinct voice and great music.
Kiefer mentioned that he recorded his new album at Studio A at Capitol Records and showed us a photo of himself pointing to a photo of Frank Sinatra hanging up on the wall at the studio. He went on to tell me how he thought Frank was a much better actor than he got credit for, to which I agreed. I mentioned to him that I interviewed Paul Anka and shared the story that Frank was considering retiring when Anka brought him “My Way” and that song helped rejuvenate his career.
In addition to our terrific, lengthy one-on-one discussion, the whole group talked about Kiefer’s new album and he revealed an interesting story. He said that “Song For A Daughter” was written for his daughter as something she can cherish and listen to as a way to remember Kiefer in the future when he, eventually, passes away. It was a moving story and he went on to describe what it was like holding his daughter after she was born. He said, “I don’t have big hands but I held her so carefully because I was afraid I was going to hurt her in some way. You go into parenting thinking you’re really prepared. Then the baby is born and you realize you don’t know a damn thing.”I also spent time getting to know Kiefer’s assistant, Beth, who was the Second Assistant Director for 24: Live Another Day. Beth is a delightful person and we bonded over discussions about photography, fans, TV, movies, music, traveling on the road, workplace culture, and much more. Without her assistance, this wonderful evening wouldn’t have happened. So, I’m forever grateful to her for that.Before leaving, I, once again, thanked Beth and Kiefer for allowing me to be their guest and for taking the time to hang out with me after the show. They both said they hope to see me again soon. As I shook their hands, I returned the sentiment. I said “nice to meet you” to Kiefer’s two friends and bounded through the door of the bar, where I was met with a beautiful summer breeze and Kiefer’s music playing on an endless loop in my head. With a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart, I stepped into the car waiting for me and took off on the open road.