Kiefer Sutherland finds positive vibes on ‘Bloor Street’
The singer and actor has a concert Sunday in St. Charles. He talks about making his latest album during the pandemic while isolating with his band.
On the phone, actor and singer-songwriter Kiefer Sutherland suggested he believes that sarcasm is a fantastic form of humor.
He says his tendency to “kind of be cynical at moments” has often crept into his songwriting. But, during COVID-19 lockdowns, he was surprised by how upbeat his songwriting was.
He began writing songs that were much more positive than his usual style. On his third album, “Bloor Street,” which came out earlier this year, Sutherland strikes a more hopeful and joyful tone lyrically. He wrote eight of the 11 album’s songs while isolating at home.
“Songs like ‘So Full of Love,’ ‘Two Stepping in Time,’ ‘Lean into Me,’ were songs that I probably would not have thought of writing,” Sutherland says, “and certainly not in the joyful way that I believe they are, before the pandemic.”
For the first time in over a decade, Sutherland was off the road and at home for an extended time. He couldn’t help but feel gratitude for his career and everyone in his life.
“The pandemic kind of makes you slow down and take a look at how many things that you value and that you cherish,” he says. “For me, friends and family being at the front of that list.”
With: Marc Copely and Rocco DeLuca
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Arcada Theater, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles
On “Bloor Street,” Sutherland reflects on growing up in Toronto. The idea came while filming “Designated Survivor” in there for three years — the longest he’d been there since he was about 15. As he walked to the intersection of Bloor Street and Yonge Street, “I realized all of my firsts happened on those four corners,” he says. “Like the first job I ever had was in the food court at the Hudson Bay Center. The first time I kissed a girl was in front of the Bloor Street subway stop. The first time I busked with a guitar was on one of those corners. I was just kind of hit with a wave of nostalgia, and I just wrote about those things.
“I wrote about how lucky I felt to have grown up in Toronto, which I think is just an amazing city and incredibly diverse. I also was writing about a time. In 1977, it was not unusual for an 11-year-old and his friend to be on the subway and going exploring in the city. Now, if I saw an 11-year-old on the subway, I would think something was really wrong.”
It took him a few weeks to arrive at a version of the recording he was satisfied with.
Most of the time, writing songs comes quickly for Sutherland. He astounded his guitar player Austin Vallejo with how he could come up with lyrics on the spot. Looking at the Thames River and its surroundings a few years ago, he rattled off lyrics, some that would become “Down the Line.” Vallejo couldn’t believe it was as simple as “just writing what’s right in front of you.”
“We laughed about it, and we finished that song together that night,” he says. “One of the joys of writing with somebody else is you can bounce ideas on each other, and it happens very quickly.”
Sutherland also looked at the not-so-flattering parts of his life. “County Jail Gate” was influenced by his experience.
“I’ve made mistakes in my life, and I had to pay for some of those mistakes by going to jail,” says Sutherland, who has spent time in jail for DUI.
Unlike his previous two albums, he recorded “Bloor Street” solely with the band he’s toured with for a decade. They isolated together.
“It wasn’t like we would finish recording and then go hang out with some friends and play them what we did,” he says. “We made a promise to self-isolate and hang out with each other and make the record until it was finished.”
While he didn’t try to be genre-specific on the material, Sutherland says it’s much an Americana record that draws on the long lineage of great storyteller-songwriters such as Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.
“For us to just kind of sit down and play the song the way we would like to hear it was a lot of fun for me,” he says. “I hope that translates to the people that listen to the record.”
Sutherland also stars in an upcoming 10-part limited series on Showtime called “The First Lady” and co-stars with Chris Pine and Ben Foster in the movie “The Contractor.”
He says he’s open to taking a musical role if the right opportunity came along.
“It would depend on the script and how well that idea was executed,” he says. “‘Crazy Heart,’ with Jeff Bridges, is one of my favorite films of that year. And if I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to do something like that, I would take that in a heartbeat.”