Exclusive: Kiefer Sutherland Feels at Home Playing Country Music on the Road

Kiefer Sutherland might be an award-winning actor, appearing in TV shows like 24, and blockbuster films like Flatliners and Where is Kyra?, but Sutherland is also a singer-songwriter. He released his freshman Down in a Hole album in 2016, and is spending much of this year on his Reckless Tour, performing songs from that album, and an upcoming new project, fitting performances in between his busy acting schedule.

"I started a television show called Designated Survivor, and we shoot 22 episodes a year, so that cut into a lot of time," Sutherland tells PopCulture.com. "So I had to find a way that I wasn’t going to lose momentum writing, and that took a minute to kind of get organized. And also I wanted to keep the momentum of touring, so I did one-off dates a lot. It was a juggle. But in the end, like anything, if it’s something you want badly enough, you find the time to do it."

Although it may seem a stretch for an actor to be a talented musician as well, the 51-year-old says in many ways, the two roles are actually very similar – a truth he didn't fully realize until the release of Down in a Hole.

"I had to finally understand the correlation," Sutherland says. "What is the combination between these two things that I love so much? And the truth is, what I’ve loved about acting is the story-telling. And it’s the same thing that I’ve loved about music, as a listener and as someone who plays."

Sutherland's favorite part about his tour, which is playing in both the United States and Europe, is his interaction with music lovers and fans in a way that he can't as an actor.

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(Photo: Beth Elliot)

"The easiest explanation is that in a theater, there are very specific rules," notes Sutherland. "Yes of course you can laugh, and you can cry. But we’d like like you to stay in your seats until the end of the performance, and then you stand up and show your appreciation, if you have any. From the first downbeat of a music show, we want you out of your seat. We want you to have a great time. We want you to move with us. We want to move with you. It’s just inverted. And that’s a very visceral and exciting feeling.

"Most of the shows we play are small bars or small theaters with 1000 people, 800 people.," he continues. "That’s still a very intimate experience, and you can feel them. You can feel them when the energy’s starting to pick up and you’re starting to wind that audience up, and in turn they wind you up. That’s an amazing experience."

For Sutherland, it's the opportunity to remember that, at least for a brief period of time, there are more similarities than differences with everyone in the room that makes it so meaningful to him.

"I love playing," says Sutherland. "And being able to have this shared dialogue of life experiences and that you’re not alone out there, going through hard times, good times, falling in love, falling out of love, they’re all shared things. We all go through this. And to be able to have a night together to celebrate that has been a really special thing."

One of Sutherland's favorite places to play is the Grand Ole Opry, an invitation that still both astounds and humbles him.

"The very first time I played at the Opry, we had a sound check, a really quick almost line check," Sutherland recalls. "One of the musicians in the Opry band, saw me standing outside the circle. And as he was walking by, he said, ‘Go ahead. Step in. It’s all right.’ And it was the kindest invite I possibly could have gotten. I remember putting my foot in there, and it was like I was putting my foot in water.

"I have such a great reverence for that place, and what that has meant to American music," he adds. "It is an incredible honor, and it means so much to me to be able to have that opportunity. But that very first time it was like walking into another world."

Sutherland's experience at the Opry makes him nostalgic for what the acting world used to resemble, while also hopeful for the community he finds in country music.

"When you think back to the days of Judy Garland and Jimmy Stewart, and all of them sitting around a piano, every Saturday night, and they would have their parties, that was a real community," says Sutherland. "And I think our industry has been kind of fragmented somewhat. But when I was at the Opry, I was really taken aback by the fact that every artist was rooting for every artist to do well. And I hadn’t felt that sense of community in a very, very long time."

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A list of all of Sutherland's upcoming shows can be found on his website.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Kiefer Sutherland