Last time we saw actor Kiefer Sutherland, he was portraying Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer and thwarting multiple terrorist plots in the Fox TV series “24.” But now Sutherland is trading his gun for a guitar as he launches a new branch to his career as a singer-songwriter. He plays a private gig for The Paramount’s members-only Founder’s Room May 25 in Huntington, followed by a public show at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett over the weekend.
“As an actor I’ve been able to hide behind a character. These songs are very personal and autobiographical,” says Sutherland, 49. “It’s not a character, it’s actually me.”
Sutherland is set to drop his debut album, “Down in a Hole,” featuring the single “Not Enough Whiskey,” midsummer. The Hollywood star originally had no intention of releasing anything.
“I had 25-30 songs that I’d written that I liked. I wanted to see if I could get an artist to do one of them,” he says. “I went to my oldest friend, Jude Cole, and asked him to record a couple of demo songs with me to send out. Jude said, ‘I really like the way these sound. You should do them yourself.’ I laughed at him and said, ‘Not a chance.’ ”
FROM SCREEN TO STAGE
Sutherland was apprehensive because he was conscious of the criticism he would face.
“I’m acutely aware of the stigma of an actor doing music and I certainly didn’t want to be that guy,” he says. “It always made my eyes roll, so I completely understand why anybody would feel that way.”
Still, Cole encouraged him to continuing recording, and Sutherland was not only enjoying the process but pleased with the results.
“We recorded one song at a time. If we hated it, we put it in the drawer,” he says. “By the fifth or sixth song, I had my come-to-Jesus moment and realized that I really do like this.”
The big surprise is that his music is country-tinged — a community that he connected with back in the early ’90s when he was competitively roping at rodeos across the country.
“The guys I was traveling with were listening to country and that’s how I started getting into it,” he says. “If you look at Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, they all tell amazing stories in the first-person narrative.”
When Sutherland was a child, music was always in his life.
“My mother made me play violin until I was 10 in order to get a guitar,” says Sutherland. “Once I got a hold of the guitar, I never really let it go.”
Influenced by his older brother, Thomas, Sutherland started listening to rock music.
“I was probably the only third-grader who was into Aerosmith,” he says. “I’d listen to a wide variety of things, but I do remember getting ahold of ‘The Best of Elton John.’ I always responded to Bernie Taupin’s [Elton John’s songwriting partner] lyrics. He could tell a story that would take you somewhere. It was always the lyrics that interested me the most.”
As his 50th birthday approaches, Sutherland is finally allowing his hobby to come to the forefront professionally. Not that he’s quitting his day job — he will be starring in ABC’s “Designated Survivor” in the fall, but he’s not scheduled to be in Fox’s reboot of “24.”
“I was comfortable enough with the music and myself that if people didn’t like it, it wasn’t going to stop me from doing it,” he says. “This album is the closest thing I’ve had to a journal.”
Now Sutherland is hitting the road and he’s finding it’s quite a different atmosphere than being on a movie or TV production set.
“Playing out live is the thing that probably scares me the most and the thing I’ve gotten the most satisfaction out of,” he says. “Talking one-on-one with an audience as me took a minute to get used to. That was a very different experience.”
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m., Saturday, May 28, The Stephen Talkhouse, 161 Main St., Amagansett. 21 and older
INFO 631-267-3117 (sold out, call for availability), stephentalkhouse.com