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Interview: Kiefer Sutherland on His New Country Album, TV and People Who Yell “24” Quotes


Kiefer Sutherland is performing at the Capital Ale House Music Hall on May 8. But don’t waste your breath on actor-turned-rocker jokes — he gets it. He’d probably make them himself, but he’s too busy enjoying music.

And don’t worry: This concert tour and the imminent release of his debut album, “Down in the Hole,” aren’t harbingers of a retirement from acting. Sutherland has a new series on the horizon, which he discussed with Style, along with the origins of his album, the sound of his music and how he handles hecklers.

Style: The word is that your debut album, “Down in the Hole,” came about as a result of your playing a couple of songs to your buddy Jude Cole (“Baby, It’s Tonight”).

Sutherland: Yeah, I had a couple of songs that I wanted to just make demos of and send to BMI and Sony and see if another artist would be interested in recording them. I had kind of a stack of songs and or ideas that I’d been working on, and I played a couple for Jude, and he was, like, “Wow, I actually really like that song!”

So we went to record them, and as we were recording them, Jude got into a sound that he was really liking for me, and after the first two songs, he said: “You know, I don’t think you should send these out. I think you should do them.” And a couple of drinks later, that sounded like a good idea. [Laughs.] So we did a couple more songs, and then a couple more. … It was around track five or six that I was really liking what we were doing.

When Rolling Stone did a preview piece on “Down in the Hole,” it used the adjective folk-tinge to describe the material. Is that a fair assessment?

I think it’s more country-tinged than anything. Old-school country, because Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson — I’m such a fan of their writing. Country music is really one of the last places where you can still tell a story.

I love acting because I get to tell stories, and the music that I’ve enjoyed playing has been real stories, and they’re stories from my life. That’s how I can connect to it. I listen to a wide variety of music where the lyrical content is maybe not as important, but for what I was interested in doing musically, that was a key factor.

It’s a difficult thing, because the idea of an actor doing a music thing, they get labeled vanity projects. … I really didn’t want to ever have to deal with that. But the truth was, I’m at a point in my life where I really don’t care [Laughs]. If someone wants to say something like that, I get it. I’d probably say it, too! But I’m really proud of these songs, I love the way the record sounds, and I love playing them out more than anything right now.

So have you worked up a collection of comebacks for when the inevitable drunken buffoons start yelling out “24” quotes?

You know, it’s so funny, but my adrenaline is going at such a high pitch that it’s hard for me to even pick them out sometimes. We’ve played 20 shows around California, and people yell stuff all the time, and I’ll actually ask them to repeat it sometimes! Because sometimes it’s really funny, but I just didn’t quite hear it the first time. You know, we’re there for a good night and to have fun. And if somebody wants to yell out, “Hey, Jack Bauer!” I’ve got no problem with that.

Speaking of “24,” the series is going on without you, but you’ve reportedly given the new incarnation your blessing.

Oh, my gosh, yeah — I’m an executive producer on it! You have to understand: I would’ve done “24” till death if I thought it was reasonable. But at some point, how many bad days can one guy have? [Laughs.] And I think it was starting to wear on the audience a bit, and I know it was starting to wear on the writers, but I’ve always said that I felt that the real star of “24” was the idea. They’ve got a phenomenal cast, and I’ve only read the first script, but it’s a really, really solid script. I think they’re going to do really, really well with it.

Meanwhile, you’ve got your own new series coming up, ABC’s “Designated Survivor.”

I do. You know, it’s very hard to say, after having had such a remarkable run on “24,” but I have to tell you, I love this show so much. I’ve been filming it, and then after I do the tour, we’ll start up again in early July. But I can’t wait for people to see the show. The writer, David Guggenheim, has just done such a beautiful job, not only within the context of the structure of telling the story, but the development of characters is almost immediate. So I really sincerely mean it: I can’t wait for people to see it. S

Kiefer Sutherland performs at Capital Alehouse on Sunday, May 8, with opener Austin Plane. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Tickets cost $22.50.