In addition to a long run as one of America’s favorite television stars, Katey Sagal also has another passion: music. Actually, it was her first love. Long before “Sons Of Anarchy” or “Married…With Children,” the California native was performing on stage — even singing behind such acts as Bob Dylan and Tanya Tucker. This week, Sagal releases “Covered,” a collection of songs that have inspired her in her musical life. The set, which includes tracks like Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” and Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” is her first full-length disc in nine years. Why so long a wait?
“Probably a lot of writers’ block, and a real busy schedule,” she tells Billboard. “I love to play music, and I was playing gigs and doing a lot of songs off my other records. I thought ‘I really need to have some new songs.’ I’ve been trying to write, but I realized that I like the process of recording song and finding songs. It kind of came out of necessity of wanting to get to it. I couldn’t wait on myself anymore,” she said of her back-to-the-well approach.
When asked about the song selection for the album, she said “A few of them are songs that inspired me as a kid. I listened to lots of Joni Mitchell, so I wanted to include music from her, and also I listened to a lot of rock and roll, so I really liked Tom Petty.”
In addition to performing a Browne song, she also gets to perform with him, on Steve Earle’s “Goodbye.” Of the collaboration, she says “It’s great. I love that song. It’s a Steve Earle song. My producer put the Spanish guitar on there, as well as the violin. They were players that played with Jackson sometimes. It was thrilling for me because I grew up listening to him. I sort of know him casually, so when I asked him if he would sing, he said yes. I think that’s a beautiful track.”
She also tips the covers hat to Ryan Adams on “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say.” She said it made an impact on her the first time she heard it. “It was so good. I started listening to it as we were finding material for the record. We wanted to put a Memphis feel to it.”
Her role as Gemma Teller Morrow on “Sons Of Anarchy” has given her a chance to combine her love of music and acting. “It’s really been awesome. Every season I sing at least one song in the soundtrack. My husband, who writes the show, and Bob, who does the music, came up with great covers for me to do. I was on that track, doing covers on the show, so I thought I would continue that. It’s been great. I’ve been playing these gigs around, and there’s a really great response. It’s not what I thought would happen, but it’s kind of like everything in my life – that seems to be the pattern. I just have to keep getting out of the way, and stuff just happens.”
She credits the audience of the FX series as being very loyal, and also feels there’s more to the appeal of the show than the obvious. “I believe that as violent as the show tends to be, and gritty as it tends to be, it’s also got a lot of heart. It’s about a group of outsiders. I think that anarchists are trying to make their way going against the grain. I think everybody has that side of them. I think it speaks to that. I think it’s got a big ‘real people’ following. Not only is it entertainment, but people invest in it.”
She even says that she gets more noticed for her current role than the famous “Wife From Hell” she played in Peg Bundy. “Now, it’s more about Gemma. I did used to get it all the time, but no so much anymore,” she says.