Kiefer Sutherland’s upcoming debut album Down In A Hole partly stems from his long friendship with artist Jude Cole, who produced the project.
“He and I have been friends since I was about 20 years old. We became friends in about 20 minutes. He was an incredible guitar player — so good that I just kind of I hid my guitar for about three years, because I didn’t want to play around him,” Sutherland tells Billboard. “One of the great connectors for him and I both was music. He turned me on to a lot of music that I didn’t know about, and that became a real kind of avenue of communication for the both of us.”
The two would continue their friendship over the years, and work together on videos for artists that Cole was working with. Then, one day, the 24 star bought a building in California when he made quite the discovery — one that he had to share with his friend.
“There were some offices there that I was going to knock down. One of them had a long rectangular window that looked like a control booth window. I made the mistake of calling Jude up and said ‘You’ve gotta come over and look at this building. I’m thinking of turning it in to an art studio.’ He came over and looked at the room, and said ‘We could do some recording stuff there.’ So, we ended up building one of the most state-of-the-art studios, and we started a label called Ironworks.” The two worked with newer artists on the label, in most cases trying to set them up for deals with bigger labels. After a few years of this, Sutherland had finished his run as Jack Bauer and ended up moving to New York.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story. Cole found a disc of a song that Sutherland himself had recorded and called his friend to see if he had any other songs in his stable.
“I had been writing the whole time, and thought about getting some demos done, maybe send them to EMI and Sony and see if anybody would record them,” reflected Sutherland. “Jude talked me into coming into the studio and doing that, and then he said ‘I think you should keep these, and make a record.’ I just laughed at him. We had a couple of drinks, and the idea sounded smarter. Then, we had a couple more drinks, and it sounded even better. So, we agreed to record some stuff, and if we liked it, we would do something with it. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t.”
Before he went into the studio, Sutherland weighed the fact that actors weren’t typically successful as recording artists — and he knew there would be skepticism. However, he decided to roll the dice — and the results can be heard on Down In A Hole, out this summer.
“Something that made it much easier for me is the fact that I’m not trying to sell out stadiums, and I’m not trying to have a platinum record. I love these songs, but there’s no single thing out there that is for everybody, and I’m well aware of that.” Watch a behind-the-scenes look into the making of Down In A Hole, which Billboard is premiering exclusively.
Sutherland will give fans a taste of the music with a tour that begins on April 14 in Milwaukee. He will hit the road heavy for two months, and then will be working on the ABC series Designated Survivor, but he will be continuing to play shows during breaks in filming. “For the people that enjoy the music, if they want to come out and see a show, we’ve worked really hard, and I think we put on a really great show,” he explains. “I can’t promise anything more than that.”
At its heart, Sutherland thinks of his music as telling stories. “There’s a real country base to the record. It’s heavily country-influenced. I’m not from the south, so I don’t have a specific twang in my voice, so some have called it more of a singer-songwriter/Americana feel with a country kick. There’s some old-school country songs on there, and some of that stems from the fact that my interest as an actor and why I got involved in doing a play, film, or TV show, was that I really like the idea of telling a story,” he says. “Any role that I have ever picked as an actor has not been because of the character, but rather, ‘Man, that’s a cool story to tell.’ I don’t think there is another genre of music that does that. In rock and roll, the use of metaphor is really huge, from Pink Floyd on down the line, metaphor is a real strong concept. In country music, it’s not. It’s exactly what it is — ‘I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die,” he said quoting Johnny Cash‘s classic “Folsom Prison Blues.” “That’s very literal. I just naturally gravitate towards writing like that.”
Of course, never far from the minds of fans of the actor is the future of Jack Bauer and 24. Sutherland is involved in the production of the upcoming Fox revival of the series, but as far as his character goes, that’s unclear. “I have no idea what’s in store for Jack Bauer,” he says. “I certainly have learned to never say never. When we finished season 8, if you would have told me that I would have done season 9, I would have stabbed you in the heart with a pencil,” he said with a laugh.
What was it about the series that captivated audiences for so long? “There were a few factors that registered in the show’s success,” he says. “For me, Jack was a flawed character. He was someone who was trying to the right thing all the time, but as any human does, there are moments where he would fail. There were also moments where what they thought was the right thing might not have been the right thing. I thought there was a real humanity to the character.”
He also says that timing may have played a part. “I think after the events of 9/11, I as a citizen felt helpless. I was so angry and heartbroken to see people jumping out of those buildings, and 3,000 people dying that just simply went to work,” says Sutherland. “It’s still impossible to articulate the depth of that tragedy. You saw it unfold on television, and I think a lot of people were angry. All of a sudden, you saw this show — which we started before 9/11 — with this guy who was going to take on these insurmountable odds and do something good. For a lot of people who felt really frustrated, and there was nothing they could do — to watch someone do it in the context of this show was satisfying, I guess on some level.”