Kiefer Sutherland released his second album, Reckless & Me, in April — and yes, he knows what you’re about to say.
“I think the reason why I never even entertained the idea — even though I was writing quite a lot — of ever making another record was the stigma of an actor doing music,” he tells CMT Hot 20 Countdown.
“And I understand it on some level. It can be perceived like you’re cutting the line, or a lot of things, if you’re trading your successes of celebrity in one area for another. I got to a point in my life where if someone is going to make fun of you for something and you can’t take it, you got the problem.”
Known for dozens of movie roles and especially the TV series 24, Sutherland has been an on-screen presence for more than 30 years. Along with his gravely voice and obvious swagger, his songwriting is a cornerstone of the new album (although there’s a pretty cool cover of Patty Loveless’ “Blame It on Your Heart” in there, too).
“The last four years I’ve been touring a great deal with this band and it’s been one of the great joys of my life,” he says. “And the truth is I really like the songs. So you put it out there. If someone doesn’t want to listen to it, don’t. But for the people that have, and the generosity I’ve experienced to this point, it has really taken me back. It’s something I was surprised by, and so it’s something I’ll try to keep doing as long as I’m allowed.”
Editor’s Note: CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs at 9/8c Saturday and Sunday mornings.
CMT: How would you describe your new album, Reckless & Me?
Sutherland: What was interesting about writing the second record for me was I wasn’t trying to make a better record than the first one. I was trying to fill in songs that I thought would work well for our live set and so a song like “This is How It’s Done” with that uptempo beat — and “Something You Love” and a lot more uptempo songs for this record.
There is a real connective tissue. I came from a time when there were great albums. There weren’t three or four singles on a record, then some filler tracks. So I wanted to make something that told a story in itself. I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of with this record. I think it’s a good listen from the first track to the 10th and then the throughline is, it’s personal.
Both of these records are the closest things I’ve come to a diary. If you get a chance to listen to it you’ll get some insight into me and I think you’ll realize that a lot of things I’ve gone through in my life, you’ve gone through, or are going through, as well.
CMT: What’s it like to have something so authentically you?
KS: I think it’s a great question and I’ll have to tell you, I thought that 35 years of working on stage and in front of a camera would help me go do a live show. There was a huge miscalculation in that. As an actor, I’ve always had a character that separated me from the audience and all of a sudden I found myself on stage singing songs that were incredibly personal. It took me a minute to get used to telling the story of why I wrote this song and what I was going through and why I felt it was worth sharing.
Once I got past that, once I got comfortable leaning into that, I really did experience a kind of incredible generosity from the audience back. And an understanding we are all going through this thing called life and anything that any of us can share with each other about — Maybe this will help you out to get through it — is really important. And so it was a real process to get to the place where I was comfortable with that. But it turned out to be becoming one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
CMT: Your album is titled Reckless & Me. What do you think is the most reckless part about you?
KS: I think the most dangerous thing for anyone is when they decide to not care. And I fight with that here and there. I’ve had a lot of moments when I went through a lot of work — when I was on 24 or whether it’s the end of making a record or the end of a tour — and you think you’ve earned the right to do whatever you want. That’s the thing I tend to have to watch out the most for. That’s when I can do some reckless things that more often than not I’ve come to regret.
CMT: What do you hope this album will bring to your live shows?
KS: For any musician, the cost-effectiveness of being able to go tour is expensive. So in many ways it’s been easier for me because certainly in the beginning I could absorb some of that. … We’ve tried to take other artists that we really value their work and try to help them out as well. Love to just be able to keep doing it again. The generosity that I’ve experienced from the audiences that we’ve played for — and in the early days many of them have half-filled houses — I was really moved by.
And so I’d like to be able to keep doing it. I’d like to be able to keep writing. I’d like to be able to keep recording. But I think the most important thing for me, the thing that has really fed me on a personal level, has been the touring. And so if we can figure out how to keep doing it, and doing it the way we have — which is significant, playing a large number of shows — I’d be grateful for that.