On Concert Tour with His Brother Michael, Kevin Bacon Talks About Creativity and Using Fame for Good Causes

Jeff Fasano
Be one degree of separation from Kevin and Michael Bacon of the Bacon Brothers when they play Billy Bob's Texas on Oct. 11.

The Bacon Brothers, Kevin and Michael, are wrapping up their Shaky Ground Tour in support of their 2018 eponymous album and will stop at Billy Bob's Texas on Oct. 11. The Philadelphia natives have been making music professionally for about 25 years, with nine albums under their belts. The band doesn't fit into any one musical style or sound, but their latest single "Play!" embraces a high level of funk and differs from most of their Americana and classic rock-driven hits.

Kevin, of course, is an award-winning actor with credits in films including Footloose, Apollo 13 and A Few Good Men and stars alongside Aldis Hodge in the Showtime crime drama City on a Hill. His role in the band includes songwriting, playing guitar and percussion and vocals. Michael writes, sings, plays cello, guitar, keyboard and and is an Emmy Award-winning film and television composer who's worked on several short films and documentaries, including the long-running PBS show American Experience.

We were slated to talk to both brothers ahead of their stop at Billy Bob's next week, but Michael was a no-show. "I'm sorry my brother didn't show up," Kevin says, after speaking to us on the phone about the band's new single, the challenge of being creative in the digital age and how he doesn't think he's a good guitar player. But with more than 50 sold-out shows over the past three years, including several on the band's current tour, we're willing to bet that he's not too bad.

On your last Dallas stop, you guys played the Kessler Theater, an all-frills type venue. This year, you’re stopping in Fort Worth at Billy Bob’s Texas, more of a honky-tonk type place. How does the Bacon Brothers’ music fit into these different types of venues?
If we go to a honky tonk, we can play like we’re in a honky tonk. [Our] show has a lot of variety to it. And, we don’t have that much of a specific sound, you know. We’re not a punk band, we’re not a country band, we’re not a rock band. We’re kind of all over the place. We love to play theaters, because sometimes they’re sonically great, but we love playing honky tonks. Have you ever been to Gruene Hall in New Braunfels?  It’s, like, the definition of honky tonk.

Your new single, “Play!” is a very fun, funky and sexy song, and you've said in the past that it illustrates the key to your long marriage to actress Kyra Sedgwick.
One part goes: "Play! In a red-hot shower/ Mile high from New York to L.A." How have live audiences reacted to it?
I literally thought, ‘This is something that would work great live.’ I kind of envisioned it in a situation where people would be shouting out, you know, ‘Play! and play!' We had it in the middle of the set, and it just really wasn’t all that exciting. And then [Michael] came up with the idea of opening the set with it, which is what we do now. We’re going to try to put on the best possible show and all that, but we also have an element of fun with whatever it is that we do. And we're hoping that the people who show up there, are, you know, going to have a good time.

You’ve said in the past that your songwriting is very personal to you. Is it more so than your acting career?

People are kind of drawn to the idea that I do music as an escape from my acting world, that it’s not satisfying enough for me. But that’s not really true. I find acting to be a very vulnerable and personal thing. For the most part, I find songwriting to be very exposing, and as I’ve often said, our song lyrics are quite a bit more revealing than our interviews. As a songwriter, you tend to put some pretty serious stuff into a song you’ve written. A lot of songs can come from fear, anger, loss, anxiety, you know, all those kind of things. Even if you have an experience that’s joyful, or fun or, you know, anything positive or negative, and you take it and you craft it into something that you can share in that kind of way, it’s its own type of therapy.

Even just getting your thoughts down on paper can help, right?
Exactly. My wife is a big journaler. She’s got all these journals around the house. And, yeah, just getting things down. You get a chance to just step back and look at it.

Your brother and co-writer for the band, Michael, has said that creativity was very important in your household growing up. Why do you think that was?
There was no pressure to get good grades in school, no pressure to go to the best college, there was no pressure to be on sports teams or win or to make money or have anything of that kind of stuff. But there was a lot of encouragement, dare I say pressure, to create. To draw a picture, to play a song, to write a song, to learn an instrument, to put on a dance, to perform in some kind of way. To sculpt or weave. And a lot of it, what it was, was about trying to make something yourself, try to do it yourself. Don’t go out and buy it. And I don't really know why our parents kind of like, embraced that so intensely. But, you know, from my standpoint, it was what gave me the basis for having this career.

I have a 14-month-old son and I'm already trying to get him involved in as much creativity as possible as well, because I know it's important.
Well, it’s especially important now in the digital age. I mean, you look at musicians, you know, and there’s countless musicians who have never picked up an instrument. All they’ve picked up is a computer, but they’re musicians. They’re making music all the time, but they’ve never held an instrument in their hands. So, it’s a challenging thing for a child in this day and age.

Let’s talk about your charity, Six Degrees. It’s a very unique way to connect celebrities with small, grassroots organizations in smaller cities and help them gain some notice. Would you say it really illustrates the power of celebrity?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely about that. And I think that celebrities sometimes will lean toward bigger organizations, and that’s because bigger organizations have the infrastructure to connect with celebrities. They have the infrastructure to have galas and dinners and honor people, and they’re in big cities. The other thing it’s really about to me is, I mean, take the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, as silly as it is, take Kevin Bacon out of it, and what you really end up with is the connectivity of all of us on this planet. And it’s a really important thing to remember. The things that we do are constantly affecting all of us, whether we like it or not. Whether we have different religious or political beliefs. We’re all riding this boat together.

Any favorite Texas musicians?
Oh, certainly. Stevie Ray Vaughan. I saw Jimmie Vaughan perform the other night, and he was amazing. Willie Nelson. Waylon Jennings. Wasn’t Buddy Holly from Texas? Alejandro Escovedo from Austin, he’s a great, legendary Texas musician.

I hear you have an extensive guitar collection. Is that true?
No, not really. I really don’t. But I can tell you this, if I was ever going to collect something, it would be guitars. But I would be a little bit embarrassed because I’m not a very good guitar player. I love them, I love to look at them, I love to play them, hold them, I absolutely love guitars.

Your stop through Fort Worth next week is the second-to-last for the tour, and your Showtime program, City on a Hill, was just renewed for a second season. What’s next? A break?
I never take a break. I mean, I try to take a break around Christmas time. I’m doing a half-hour comedy podcast, scripted narrative kind of podcast. We’re going to start shooting and recording after the tour.

What’s the podcast name?
I think right now we’re calling it "The Last Degree of Kevin Bacon."

I bet you get tired of taking about that game (Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon).
Uh, yeah, yeah I do. But, you know, whatever. There’s worse things.