Kiefer Sutherland had no plans to release his first album, let alone a second project.
The actor-singer, who is set to drop his sophomore album Reckless & Me on Friday (April 26), says he’s all too familiar with the stereotype of actors trying their hand at music. “I was acutely aware of the stigma of an actor doing music,” Sutherland tells Billboard over the phone.
Known for playing Jack Bauer on the hit television series 24, as well as for his roles on current TV drama Designated Survivor and in countless films including Stand By Me, The Lost Boys and Phone Booth, Sutherland says it was friend and producer Jude Cole who pushed him to record the music he was writing. Cole convinced him to record several tracks off his first album before Sutherland came to the realization that he actually liked the music he was creating.
“If people are going to attack me for it, I can still stand tall knowing that I like the way this sounds, and I like these songs. The surprise of my life was that people were incredibly generous with their opinions on the first record,” he marvels. “I was incredibly grateful and humbled by that. The thing that I discovered along the way was how much I loved playing live. In many ways, the records were a way of justifying going back out on tour.”
For his second album, Sutherland tailored the record to his live show. Having played 300 shows over the past two years, the singer says many of the tracks featured on Reckless & Me were songs he thought would make for a more exciting set.
The rollicking “This Is How It’s Done” is a tune he wrote early in the process of his second album and is one of his favorite songs to play live. “It is a proper honky tonk, old school drinking song, in a fun sense,” he explains. “It gets people moving and it gets us moving. ‘Something You Love,’ which is the second track off the record, that too has a real backbeat energy.”
“Something You Love” holds a powerful statement as Sutherland sings, “Living ain’t living without the thrill of doing something you love.” Penned by Sutherland, Cole and Jason Wade of Lifehouse, the song has a universal message that he thinks listeners will relate to.
“The line in the chorus, ‘Sing the song loud or hit the ball hard/ Spend the night outside under the stars/ Catch one falling and you’ll go far/ Doing something, something you love,’ it's all about those dreams that we so clearly have when we are 17, 18, 19 years old. I think a lot of us, by the time we hit 35, we stop having them,” he admits. “We give in to this idea that the choices we have made have boxed us into our life. I have been really fortunate in mine to know that's not true. It's never easy to go left or right when you’re doing 50 miles down a straight road, but it is absolutely possible and that's really what that song is hoping to convey to other people.”
Sutherland had a hand in writing six of the album’s 10 tracks. Two of the cuts, “Song for a Daughter” and “Saskatchewan,” hold special meaning to the singer as he penned them for his daughter and mother, respectively. The latter Sutherland wrote on a plane while flying to visit his mother after her second stroke. “I didn't think she was going to make it. Thank God she did. I wrote the song sitting on a plane thinking that when I got there that my twin sister was going to tell me that our mom had passed,” he admits.
“‘Song for a Daughter’ was me walking through my house and I saw a picture of my daughter when she was a baby. My daughter is now 31 years old,” he explains. “I realized how much time had passed and as much as I wanted to make something for her and myself to tell her how much I love her. Certainly in the third verse where I sing, ‘When I'm over and done/ Know you were the one/ That made the love in my heart last,’ that's something for her to have for the rest of her life long after I’m gone.”
While Sutherland admits he hoped his career as an actor would have helped his foray into music, the opposite happened. Instead of playing a character in his music, he is writing things that are very personal and autobiographical to him. In turn, this honesty has allowed him to leave a little bit of himself in his acting roles.
“When I started touring, I felt a bit stiff and I think the reason was because unlike shows or television there was no character separating me and the audience. There was no Jack Bauer, there was no David from The Lost Boys, it was just me,” he confesses. “As soon as I accepted that, it go a lot easier. That conversation, storytelling with the audience, it felt like a huge weight off of my shoulders.”
He adds, “I have spent 35 years working as an actor out of the love of telling stories with other actors and that has helped me as a songwriter immensely. The thing that I never expected was how music would influence the acting, and that happened as I became more comfortable telling stories from my heart that were mine. I think certainly on Designated Survivor, as a character, I felt more comfortable leaving parts of myself in it. Instead of creating a blank character, I started finding parts of that character that represented me and I could express that within the character and I’ve never done that.”