Kiefer Sutherland knows what you’re thinking. “Actors doing music? I know the stigma!” But he’s been quietly building up a discography over the past couple of years, and this week, he releases his third LP, Bloor Street. He’s not new to music, having played guitar for most of his life: “I played violin from the time I was four. But by the time I was seven, I really wanted a guitar. And my mom said, ‘If you play the violin until you’re ten, I’ll get your guitar.’ And she was true to her word and got me a guitar. And I never played the violin again.”
He’s been acting professionally since he was 15, with iconic roles in movies and TV shows spanning decades including Stand By Me (1986), A Few Good Men (1992), Dark City (1998) and of course the hit shows from the 2000s, 24 and Designated Survivor. But he has a long friendship with singer/songwriter Jude Cole, who ultimately convinced him to start recording songs.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he notes. But about eight years ago, he was hanging in the studio with Cole, messing around on guitar. And he played a lick that — apparently — he had played often. “Jude looked at me and he said, ‘If you play that lick one more time, I swear to God we’re going to take that guitar and bash it over your head!’ And he said, ‘You’ve been playing that for like eight years. You need to do something with it. You need to get a band to get it right. You know what you need to know. Put some guys together and play.’ And so I did.”
That led to some small gigs. “The three other guys that I was playing with, it’s how they made their living. So they booked a show.” He’s been touring quite a bit during breaks in his schedule over the years. In fact, the new album started taking shape after a tour that took place right as the world was starting to change. “We’d been on tour up until the very end of February, beginning of March, 2020. And COVID was kind of following us all across Europe, and we got back to Los Angeles and everything went to s—.”
“So we just got on the bus and went out to the desert and just kind of lived out there for about four or five weeks. And I was writing a lot. We were staying together and we’d been isolating together. We wrote a song a night. [Road manager] Gary Briggs was staying at my house and said, ‘I think you really need to write a waltz.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ And he played me a couple different songs that he liked and we’d had a couple of drinks. And I picked up the guitar and I just started playing. And then the words I was coming up with didn’t really work as a waltz. So it’s not really a waltz.” But that song became “Two-Stepping In Time,” one of the album’s highlights.
Another highlight is “So Full Of Love,” a song that Sutherland said surprised him. “I have a tendency to be kind of pessimistic, sarcastic. But something about the pandemic and the isolation made me very grateful for everything that I have. For my friends, for my family, for the career that I’ve been allowed to have. ‘So Full of Love’… if you told me a few years that I’d write that, I would have told you to ‘Go f— yourself,’ you know?”
But as well all do, Sutherland has changed over the years. “I love my girlfriend and I love my house and I love my dogs. I’ve got friends that are in real trouble living in small apartments here in New York City. And I just woke up and as I sang in the shower, ‘So full of love, I can’t hold it down.’ And I was laughing at myself. My girlfriend looked around the corner and was like, ‘Are you all right?'”
But, he says, the song and the album reflect where he is right now. “I think this is kind of the most hopeful and positive record that I’ve made.” Sutherland is about to kick off a European tour, but check back with his website for U.S. dates.