The Bacon Brothers Will Rock and Then Cut "Footloose"
The morning after shaving his City On A Hill moustache on Late Night With Seth Meyers, actor and musician Kevin Bacon was working the phones with his brother Michael to discuss their upcoming music tour. For the past two decades, the Bacons have barnstormed the country, hauling their seasoned band from city clubs to county fairs to suburban amphitheaters, playing to a mix of already-converted fans and curious onlookers.
Not that they necessarily need to hit the road. Kevin has over 80 film appearances to his credit and Michael is constantly in-demand for television and film scores. But they seem to genuinely enjoy the process of making a record, self-releasing it and then touring to support it. Usually when a well-known actor decides to make music, he does his level best to separate his well-honed screen image from the unadorned "artist," hopefully transforming from A-List star to the simple guy with a guitar, some songs and a dream.
But these days, the Bacons aren't even trying to draw the lines between personas. They willingly embrace the public's curiosity factor with a rootsy live set comprised of solid musicianship, a few good stories and, of course, genuine star-power. At The Fred, the Bacon Brothers will play at twilight, basically opening the show before an early-evening screening of Kevin's 1984 film "Footloose." Why? Well, why not! Come for the movie, see the band as a bonus. Or just come for the rock'n'roll show and leave. Either way seems to suit the soft-spoken Philly-born duo just¬†fine.
In concert, both Bacons sing and play guitars with able backing from Paul Guzzone (bass), Joe Mennonna (keyboards, accordion), Tim Quick (guitar, mandolin) and Frank Vilardi (drums). Their ever-expanding catalog continues to grow with a new single slated for release this summer.
INsite spoke with the duo by phone as the brothers planned a band rehearsal
Kevin, how's your moustache? Colbert made a big deal about it a few nights ago on his¬†show.
KB: It's gone. I took it off on Seth Meyers last night. I actually shaved it off on there. I wrapped yesterday and I pitched it to the segment producer. I said, 'What would you think about actually taking it off on the air?' he said, 'All right!'
You wrapped City On A Hill just a couple of days after the premiere episode aired. It's a well-done series and it's such a cool throw-back to the gritty, '70s-style school of filmmaking. I grew up with films like "French Connection" and "Serpico" and even the Robert Altman¬†stuff.
KB: Me too. Those are the kind of movies that really made me want to be an actor. That was the kind of thing I was just drawn to - and those kind of New York actors like Di Nero, Pacino and Hackman - and even Meryl¬†Streep.
The self-titled Bacon Brothers album was released a year ago and it's got that same sort of gritty '70s-record feel to it. From the production to the playing, even down to the lyrical content.
KB: Listen, I think we just write and play the songs the way we hear 'em. I'd love to say we try to go for something specific but really all we do, our whole MO, is to write a songs, do a demo, play it for each other, play it for our wives and then get with the band and see how it ends up. Even our new single is kinda reflective of the '70s too, in that it's got a funk kind of vibe. I loved that stuff when I was a kid. That's when I got hip to things like Parliament, Earth, Wind and Fire and even Stevie Wonder and later on,¬†Chic.
Michael, you are very well-tuned to the '70s because you were a working musician in Nashville in those days, well before the corporate pop influences really kicked¬†in.
MB: Yeah, Kevin and I grew up in Philadelphia and we weren't exposed to that much pure country music as kids. But Chet Atkins was big in our house and I saw Dolly and Porter's show on TV and I remember looking at it and going, 'What the heck is that?' It was Dolly Parton, so you knew it was good. But then when my wife and I got married in 1972, I went to Nashville and I saw a writer's night at the Exit In. Guy Clark was playing and I was like, 'Oh man, these people are doing something I didn't even know existed.' I'm a trained musician but most of the guys in Nashville that I respected didn't even really read music. It was just a real¬†connection.
That 'real' vibe resonates in the Bacon Brothers'¬†music.
MB: Yeah but it's funny, some people look at us and go, 'Oh, you've gone retro.' But it's not retro, it's the way we work. I think after all these years of playing, we both have a sense of what we do best. The longer you have a band together, you get better and better at finding that thing.
The last time we talked, we got into the creative process a bit and it's interesting to know that you both bring in songs separately rather than work them up as a band.
KB: Yeah, what we tend to do now - and probably for the last ten years or so - is just write the songs separately and then demo them with an idea of how it would be played. Then we start playing it with the band. Sometimes it ends up being really close to the demo but sometimes it morphs into something else. That's one of the fun things about putting a song out there or sharing it. You can go, 'Wow, that's so cool, I never heard it that way, that's great.' Or 'Wow, I never heard it that way, please don't play it that way!' It can go either way.
You released the latest album last June and you already have a new single on the¬†horizon.
MB: Yeah, now we have about six or seven new songs already. What happens with songwriters is you get what I call a "bloom" where you just can't stop writing. And then you go into a drought where you just don't write at all. But in the last two months, I've written more songs than in the past¬†year.
Kevin are you in bloom now, too?
MB: Well I'll say Kevin just wrote a song for me called "Picker," which in Nashville is a guy who plays guitar. The cool thing about it is that in the song, I play guitar but my real talent is, I pick this girl. And we just turned our guitarist Tim Quick loose on it, and he came up with this great Telecaster country sound. I can't wait to play it live.
Will these new songs make it into the current¬†set?
MB: I'm sure that by the end of the summer, we'll have all the new songs in the set and probably even more new stuff by then. We're a songwriter-driven band and we live and die by¬†that.
You are very lucky in that you don't have to play your hit singles because you don't have the burden of having any big hit records.
KB: (Laughs) That's true. We were just talking about that.
MB: It would be nice to have that big hit single that we have to play.
In Atlanta, you're playing before a screening of "Footloose." Are you doing that in every city this¬†summer?
KB: No, actually Atlanta is the only city where we're doing that.
MB: You don't want to go to a city and suddenly find a Kevin Bacon film festival, because that would be uncomfortable, but we've always balanced his film career on our own terms. If it adds to the audience, then we'll do it.
Will you stick around for the movie?
KB: (Laughs) Well, to be totally honest‚Ä¶
MB: Oh, you don't want to see "Footloose,"¬†Kev?
KB: Um, I think we'll be rolling off to the next town by then.
MB: Maybe we'll put it on in the bus. We'll be heading to Florida and that's a long drive.
Obviously some people will come to the show just to see the "movie star."
KB: That's true and we've never pretended that wasn't going to be the case. But the upside is, sometimes we can get more people in the seats than if we were just a band that nobody's ever heard of. But the flip side is getting people to take the music seriously. We put on a good show and we have a good band.
MB: Ultimately, I think that's really our job, to turn 'em into music fans.
The Bacon Brothers play Saturday, July 27 at The Frederick Brown, Jr. Amphitheater. The evening begins at 6:30 pm. Kevin's City On A Hill airs Sundays on Showtime. For more information, please visit ampitheater.org.