It isn’t too often that you’ll find a Hollywood A-lister spending about 40 nights per year on the road, hard at work as a touring musician. Then again, Kevin Bacon has always marched to his own beat.
Since beginning his acting career in the late '70s, he has consistently followed his muse, playing everyone from the iconic Ren McCormack in Footloose to the villainous Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class to, more recently, the brooding and mysterious art dealer Dick in the Netflix series I Love Dick. This summer finds Bacon crisscrossing the country with his older brother Michael, his co-lead in the long-running band The Bacon Brothers.
Since forming the band in 1995, the brothers have stayed invested in the music-making process, recording eight albums of material, touring the globe and working closely with an ace four-person backing band that has been with them since the beginning. As part of a lengthy tour behind their upcoming eponymous album, they’re heading to North Texas for two appearances: June 9 at the historic Texan Theater in Greenville and June 10 at The Kessler Theater in Dallas.
“Our father’s brother worked for the Lone Star Gas Co. and raised his family in Dallas. We used to call them the Texas Bacons,” Michael Bacon said as the Observer caught up with the brothers via phone. “Texas has its own identity, and we love playing there.”
Like Kevin, Michael keeps a hectic schedule. He teaches music composition at Lehman College in New York City and is a sought-after film composer. He’s earned Emmys and most recently scored the documentary That Way Madness Lies, which is on the festival circuit. Other recent works include the audiobook You Don't Look Your Age ... and Other Fairytales and the HBO documentary RX: Early Detection with Sandra Lee, which premiered at Sundance this year. At times, it can difficult to balance projects, deadlines and demands, but the brothers seem to have things under control.
“If you’re a film or television composer, you have to have a spigot that goes on and off, and when you sit down to write, you better be able to turn it on with a lot of good stuff coming out,” Michael said matter of factly. “Whereas with songwriting, in all the years I’ve been doing this, it’s really impossible to define what is the location, the vibe, the element, the thought process or time of day that makes you come up with an idea that makes ... itself a song.”
With a robust filming schedule, Kevin makes sure to pack accordingly.
“I always have a guitar. I pretty much take it everywhere,” he said. “You never know when the inspiration will strike, and if I’m doing an acting gig, I’ll keep the guitar in my dressing room or hotel room.”
One song from their new album garnering attention is “Tom Petty T-Shirt,” a charmingly wistful track that they performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It lies right in its namesake’s wheelhouse.
Other tracks on the album have blossomed after lying in the weeds for a while.
“Michael had an idea of playing live to the video of an old song of ours called ‘Boys in Bars,’” Kevin says. “We started playing that song in a different key and then went from there.”
Thanks to YouTube, you can check out that video in all its 1997 Standard Definition glory. Although the scenes look a bit dated, there are Michael and Kevin, strolling with their youthful countenances that seem resistant to aging. Another key new track is called “Beneath Perfection,” and it, too, has a backstory, which Michael cheerfully interjected with the authority of an older brother to remind Kevin to explain.
“I wrote a song when I did a movie called Tremors," Kevin said. “The original title of that movie was Beneath Perfection. This song always stuck with me, even after all these years, and we reimagined it in a new way. Instead of a folkie thing, now it’s sort of a psychedelic rock song. I really like it because it feels raw and organic in a way that is sometimes hard to get in a studio.”
All new releases involve test runs with the material. Michael and Kevin both have first lines of critique.
“Introducing a new song is always daunting because first you have to get them past our wives for approval,” Michael said. “Then, playing it live is really where you learn how to get the message across in a proper setting.”
“There are 10 songs on the album, and there are always ones that resonate with us," Kevin added. "Then, you’ll go out and play them for audiences, and they’ll respond to things that you really didn’t expect."
“On our last album, we had a song that we dredged up from the past, and our engineer came up with a great arrangement," he said. "We didn’t really think of it as a single. When we hired a radio promoter, he singled out that song right away. I mean, who knew?”
The studio time and the time set aside for songwriting have paid off.
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“I’m literally on my way today to pick up the finished CDs,” Michael said as our discussion neared its end.
The tour awaits, and the brothers are ready to put their best feet forward for the fans.
“The songs are all road-ready,” Kevin says. “We’re looking forward to playing them.”