Jeff Bridges: In music, I'm finally able to realize my teenage dreams
Photo by Danny Clinch
Jeff Bridges and the Abiders| Pantages Theatre| Sunday, August 24
The week before his new sci-fi film The Giver is set to come out, actor Jeff Bridges exits a plane that has just touched down in New York. His assistant warns, "We are heading towards a tunnel, so if we lose you, we'll call back," before handing the phone off to the 64-year-old star. His deep, booming voice -- one that we've all come to know as it's filled out so many characters over the years -- carries across the miles between Minneapolis and New York. In those characters, Bridges is a man who has lived a hundred lives in his one. He laughs, "Isn't that weird? Isn't that funny? Making movies, I feel each movie is a little lifetime in itself -- a little incarnation of a different person."
This time the character he is looking to redefine is himself -- as a musician. It was surprising to see Bridges fill the role onstage after his Academy Award-winning role as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, yet those who are close to the actor saw it coming, since he's been performing music since his teenage years. In the veins of country/folk-rock, Bridges's songs communicate as sagaciously as the characters he plays on camera.
In a pragmatic tone, Jeff talks about his parents and growing up in a household dedicated to acting. "It's a hand that's been dealt. My parents loved showbiz and making movies and acting so much, they really wanted me to get into that field. As a teenager, I questioned that," he says. "What teenager wants to do what their parents want? So I got into music when I was a young teen. I feel very gratified that now -- this late in the game -- I'm finally able to realize my teenage dream." Music was something that Bridges started doing with his friends, and he's always had some sort of studio set up in his home to allow him to experiment.
His movies, though, would eventually be what connected him and his audience. Roles in movies like Tron, The Fisher King, The Big Lebowski, and, of course, Crazy Heart, proved his talent and that he could stand on his own two feet in the business.
Yet music and acting run very parallel lines in Bridges's life. He shares, "In a way, they have more similarities than differences. They're both very collaborative. Making movies, you have directors and writers and actors. Music, you have producers and writers and musicians."
Bridges weaves as many of his friends into his musical career as possible. He is selfless as he lists names for me to turn my ear to, names like Jeff Brown, who wrote "Blue Car," a piece Bridges often performs, and Stephen Bruton, a musical contributor on Crazy Heart, and John Goodwin, a friend he's known since the fourth grade. When pushed why he feels more comfortable talking about his collaborators than his own contribution to the sound, he humbly laughs.
"John and I have been friends so long, we're extensions of each other," he says. "We don't even think about it. He's a dear friend whose music I love. You ask me that question, and that's what pops into my head." Along with his friends, Jeff's older brother Beau gave him advice on life, taught him the basics of acting, and helped shape his musical tastes, introducing him to James Brown and Chuck Berry, which eventually led Jeff to his heroes Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
For all of the things he's had turn out well, Bridges is just like any other creative who feels it's important to have the bad along with the good. He continues, "Last night, my brother and I were at an Academy event where they were talking about our careers. They showed some film clips of my early work back to Sea Hunt, the television series my father [Lloyd Bridges] had -- I was about eight years old. It had some pretty bad acting. You gotta start somewhere. Watching those clips, I winced, and I laughed."
Expect some nerves when he comes through the Pantages Theatre on Sunday evening for his show with the Abiders. The performer admits to apprehension before any big project. "It's the human condition. I get anxious before I get in front of a camera or onstage. I still get butterflies, but once I get out there, I feel pretty relaxed. It's like jumping in the ocean. That first wave, you have to let it go over you and swim around." Ruminating on that for a few seconds, he adds, "You were asking me about advice a little bit ago. Don't worry about mistakes; there are none."
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