- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kiefer Sutherland says fans who come to his music show expecting to see Jack Bauer-style action theatrics are in for disappointment.

“I’m definitely not doing that,” the star told The Washington Times with a hearty laugh that counters the rather dark characters — such as his perpetually hard-to-kill agent Bauer on “24,” whom he has played on TV since 2001 — he is often associated with in his acting career.

Mr. Sutherland’s first album, “Down in a Hole,” is due for release this summer. Its first single, “Not Enough Whiskey,” bears the mark of his many influences: Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Jackson Browne and many others. The song, with its regrets and second guessing by the narrator, bears a kinship with Mr. Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” — which was most famously covered by Cash.

Unlike “Sunday Morning,” however, “Not Enough Whiskey” is far from celebratory in its decrepitude.

“‘Not Enough Whiskey’ is a serious song to me,” Mr. Sutherland said of its narrator crying for a departed lover and his intentions to drown such loss in distilled liquids, saying the song takes on “something that’s really heavy and needs to be dealt with.”

The album’s titular track, he added, “is about a good friend of mine who made unfortunate choices and didn’t make it.”

Such downtrodden themes seem to have more in common with Jack Bauer’s considerable demons than the rather jocular personality Mr. Sutherland affects in conversation and, indeed, during this interview. The scion of Hollywood legend Donald Sutherland, the younger Mr. Sutherland has over 90 films and TV shows to his credit, from the bully Ace Merrill in 1986’s “Stand by Me” to the Billy the Kid “Young Gun” films and now “Designated Survivor,” a new TV show currently in production in Toronto.

(Sutherland father and son appeared together in a film for the first time last year in the Western “The Forsaken.” While they were both cast in the John Grisham court drama “A Time to Kill” in 1996, they in fact shared no scenes.)

So with such a successful and lengthy acting career, why try his hand at music? Mr. Sutherland, 49, admits that actors who release albums are typically engaging in a vanity project.

“I’ll be honest with you, if I hear an actor making a record, it’s not that I don’t wish them the best, but I’d probably be the first to roll my eyes too,” Mr. Sutherland said. “Even if they make a really good record, they haven’t carved out the time to tour and support it.”

When Mr. Sutherland is not on set in Canada, he is touring incessantly to support “Down in a Hole,” which includes a stop at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland, Monday evening, along with his five-piece band.

“When I’m not doing [‘Designated Survivor’], I’m not going on a ski vacation, I’m not golfing, I’m going out to play,” Mr. Sutherland said of his work ethic. “We’re going to support it one bar at a time across Canada and the U.S.”

The thespian/musician has been pleasantly surprised that fans of his acting, who have come to his live shows out of curiosity, have stuck around throughout the entire concert.

“I’ve been quite amazed when talking to someone after a show, and they’ll talk about a lyric that really hit them,” he said.

“I’ve been doing one thing for 30 years. It makes sense that my interest in acting and my interest in performing on stage and film and television is to tell a story,” Mr. Sutherland said. “And music, at least the way I’m approaching it, is not very different. And when you’re playing in an environment with 200 or 300 people, that can be a really kind of intimate show.”

Mr. Sutherland owns Ironworks Studio with best friend Jude Cole, who is also his musical collaborator. It was his older brother’s record collection, he says, that first got him into the classic rock catalogue and introduced him to his influences. His mother enforced violin lessons on him as a child, promising he could get a guitar when he turned 10 if he kept up with the violin.

When it came time for him to record his own album, Mr. Sutherland underwent vocal coaching to get his typically gravelly, gruff stage voice up to snuff as a musician.

“It wasn’t something that I was really comfortable with at all [so] it was amazing for me, the training,” he said. “I’m not the guy you come to hear hit a high-C for five seconds, but I’ve become so much more comfortable within the range of my voice.”

His record has the feel of what Mr. Sutherland calls “Americana with a country kick.”

“In all fairness, the songs are not complicated. I mean they’re complicated to me on an emotional level, but they’re not complicated structurally,” he said.

While believing firmly in his album, Mr. Sutherland says that it will be up to the public to decide on whether he should again pick up the six-string.

“If everybody in the world says ‘please, don’t ever do that again,’ I would listen,” he said with a laugh.

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