After nearly four decades on television and the big screen, Kiefer Sutherland is one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. He may be best-known as counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer on the Fox network’s 24, but before he started that gig he had already appeared in box-office hits like Stand By Me, Young Guns, and A Few Good Men.
While we mostly think of Sutherland as an actor, he’s been a musician since early childhood, and by the time he released his hard-driving, rootsy debut album in 2016, he was a noted guitar collector and part-owner of an independent Hollywood record label. He recently released his third album, Bloor Street, and is currently on tour, with a March 18 appearance coming up at the Franklin Theatre in Williamson County.
Sutherland called the Nashville Music Guide from Los Angeles, which wasn’t where he was supposed to have been at the time, but his scheduled tour dates in Europe in support of the album had been cancelled because of Covid restrictions.
“We’ve [still] got about 13 dates we’re doing in the US starting in Boston,” he said, “and we’re going to play the Franklin Theatre, one of my favorite venues. I have an interesting history with Franklin. The first American movie [Sutherland is Canadian] that I made was a film called At Close Range, with Sean Penn and Chris Walken. We shot At Close Range in Franklin, and it was a really exciting time for me, we shot that back in 1984, so I’ve been able to see Franklin change over the decades. I’ve always had sort of a soft spot in my heart for Franklin.”
“The Franklin Theatre is perfect for the kind of show we’ll be playing,” he continued. “It’s not a full-band show. I start off on acoustic guitar, and Marc Copley, a beautiful guitar player, will come out and play with me, and Rocco DeLuca will come out and play some pedal steel. It’s an intimate kind of show and the Franklin Theatre’s perfect for that.”
Where much of the material on Sutherland’s first two albums was written with musician/songwriter/producer Jude Cole (Travis Tritt, Jewel), several of the songs on Bloor Street were co-written on the band bus with Sutherland’s full-band touring guitarist/vocalist Austin Vallejo. “Austin and I played, I think, 125 shows before the pandemic,” he said, “we were on tour a lot. Austin’s such a beautiful guitar player and singer, I’m just such a fan of his, and we work well together.” The new album was produced and engineered by longtime industry boardmeister Chris Lord-Alge (Bruce Springsteen, Keith Urban).
Sutherland has collected guitars for years, but he doesn’t take a huge number of them on the road with him. “For my acoustic, I have a [Gibson] Hummingbird that I’ve played with, have recorded and toured with, for the last 10 years,” he said. “For electric, there’s a [Fender] Tele that I’ve used on the road, that’s been my main guitar. In Europe, I’ve started to leave a couple guitars overseas so I wouldn’t have to travel as much with them, given as much as we were playing there. I have a white Fano that I picked up at Carter’s in Nashville. It has some Telecaster characteristics from a pickup point of view, but it looks much more like a [Gibson] Les Paul, and I put a Seymour Duncan split-rail in the back, it’s a pretty hot pickup, and I can get a sound out of that guitar that I really want.”
Sutherland has performed at both the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry House, and the importance of both venues in the history of music isn’t lost on him. And neither is the significance of the circle of wood that was taken from the Ryman and installed in the Opry House stage. “The reverence I have personally for both the Ryman and the Opry House, both places are just extraordinary,” he said. “We were getting ready for sound check [at the Opry House] and I had my guitar on, and I’m looking down at the circle, and I’m standing outside of it, right? Because to me, I feel like it’s really reverent ground. I was looking down at it and thinking of everybody, from Hank Williams to Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, everybody who stood there and changed the landscape of American music.”
“The one thing they all had in common was that they stood on these planks of wood and delivered themselves, and how special that is,” he said. “I was having this incredibly deep reverence standing there, having a thing about the history of this circle of wood. And an electrician for the show walked by and said, ‘Go on, step in it, it won’t bite.’”
You can keep up with the tireless Sutherland’s musical and cinematic adventures at kiefersutherland.net.