Kiefer Sutherland’s journal

Sutherland goes country at Taft Theatre

By Amanda Dee

Kiefer Sutherland would be the first to roll his eyes if another actor announced a record, but he couldn’t leave his album on the shelf.

“I think the thing that I’ve been most cautious about is actually going forward with it … and if everybody in the world says, ‘Oh my God, please don’t ever do that again,’ I will listen,” he promises. “But at some point, you have to make a choice for yourself, how you stand, and that’s where I’m at.”

However, according to Sutherland, his two daughters approved, despite their initial shock.

“My daughters are actually really, really cool, so I was really scared to tell them I was going to make a record … and then when they actually started hearing some of it,” he laughs, “they tried to pretend not to be as shocked as they were. They were like, ‘Oh my God, this is actually good.’”

Kiefer Sutherland is a name most recognized by one of a few accolades: sharing the Donald Sutherland bloodline, earning his own place in the acting canon (“Stand by Me,” “The Lost Boys,” “Young Guns”) and saving and re-saving the world in 24 hours as Jack Bauer. His album Down in a Hole continues his career of storytelling, but it’s the first time he’s been able to share only the stories he wants to tell, even though he was initially “scared to death.” He calls the album “the closest thing [he’s] ever had to a journal.”

“The songs really are for me,” he says. “If they’re not specifically about me, it’s me looking or watching a certain situation over the course of my life that had an impact on me, you know, whether that’s losing someone or dealing with kind of a heartbreak.”

He and his band have performed between 20 and 30 dates across California, but this is the first tour they’ve officially announced. Before Sutherland started working on his own music, he and his 30-year friend Jude Cole started Ironworks, an independent record label in California, in 2002. They’ve signed Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, Lifehouse, Billy Boy On Poison, Ron Sexsmith and HoneyHoney. When Sutherland recorded some demos he planned to pitch to Sony and BMI, Cole convinced him to keep them for himself.

Sutherland’s single, “Not Enough Whiskey,” twangs country with the rough edges of his voice adding texture to the “linear narratives” he attributes to the genre.

“Johnny Cash was just a master at it. Bob Seger, too,” Sutherland continues. “They told a story from verse to verse to verse, and it always related back to the chorus—and the bridge all of a sudden took you in another direction musically, but it constantly reinforced the narrative.”

He references his song “Shirley Gene,” a song about a man about to be executed who hasn’t breathed free air since he was 15-years-old and writes a letter to the only woman he remembers “from the outside,” “a girl he kind of maybe gave a kiss to.” The song pays homage to the artists who guided his own writing, like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

With a song like “Not Enough Whiskey,” Sutherland hits an emotional bottom with the listener, mourning a lover who’s “with someone new” and “the hurt you can’t take.”

He again references one of the artists who hit him in the gut: “When I hear Kris Kristofferson write a lyric about being hungover and having a beer in the morning not only to settle his nerves but as an icepack on the back of his head, I’m like, man, I know exactly where you’re at.”

Other songs on the album ring with hurt, but Sutherland considers some of that pain as growing up.

“I always think that something happens to everybody that takes them from a boy to a man or a girl to a woman and usually it’s a heartbreak or a kind of a check on reality that one doesn’t think exists when you’re that young,” he explains.

Sutherland’s brother introduced him to the “human shared experience” of music at a young age. In fact, he claims, “I was the only third-grader listening to Aerosmith—that I do know.”

“I admired my brother immensely, and that was kind of the first thing we shared together,” he continues. “There’s a reason why you put your favorite band on the back of your jean jacket. So that someone else that likes that band can come up to you and say, ‘Oh man, what’s your favorite album of theirs?’ And it immediately creates a bond. And I’ve never seen another art form do it, whether it’s painting or poetry—music I just think has a way of bringing people together that might have very different philosophies or ideas about life but somehow musically it’s connected to them.”

Sutherland, despite the initial fear of sharing what’s essentially his journal, is “appropriately anxious” for his upcoming tour and Cincinnati show.

“When I finish a music show, I couldn’t sit down for an hour,” he says. “I mean I just feel the connection between the audience and the band and myself is very kinetic and I just feel a real charge from that that I haven’t really experienced. And I think that’s music—it’s just that dynamic.”

Kiefer Sutherland plays Saturday, April 23 in the Taft Theatre Ballroom, 317 E. Fifth St. in Cincinnati. Show starts at 10 p.m., doors at 9 p.m. Down in a Hole will be released early this summer. For tickets or more information, please visit or call 1.800.745.3000.

Reach DCP freelance writer Amanda Dee at

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Amanda Dee
Reach DCP Editor Amanda Dee at

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