Whether it’s his latest movie or his new album, this is one creative dude
Oscar-winning actor, acclaimed photographer, singer and songwriter: Is there anything Jeff Bridges can’t do? “I’m not a very good auto mechanic,” he confesses with a chuckle. Music is another story. While best known for his work in front of the camera, Bridges has been playing and singing for half a century. He picked up the guitar as a kid, influenced by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and elder brother Beau’s old rock ’n’ roll records. By 14 he was writing his own songs. While starring as a washed-up country singer in the 2009 film Crazy Heart, Bridges seriously started thinking about recording an album of his own—a follow-up to his little-heard 2000 release Be Here Soon. “‘This is fun,’ I thought. ‘I’d like more,’” he recalls.
Bridges has a reputation for being one of the more laid-back leading men in Hollywood, an attitude he brought to the recording studio. “On anything, whether it’s a movie or a record, there’s a point when you bring in material and try to define the project,” he explains. “If you’re lucky, something happens along the way and it starts to tell you what it wants. And that’s a wonderful thing. You’re just fulfilling what the album or movie is telling you to do.” To produce his self-titled new album Bridges recruited Crazy Heart collaborator T Bone Burnett, a friend of more than 30 years. He also brought in another longtime pal, songwriter John Goodwin, who contributed three songs.
For his own originals, Bridges dug into what he calls the “music mine” of tunes he’s quietly been writing for decades. He also drew from the 1987 novel that inspired Crazy Heart, using the title of one of protagonist Bad Blake’s fictional hits as the inspiration for “Slow Boat.” Burnett came up with the chord progression, and Bridges had the lyric penned in 20 minutes. “The most fun of making movies and making records is working with all those creative people,” Bridges says. “You don’t know what they’re going to bring to the party, and you’re surprised by how you respond to it. Something completely unique takes place.”
Though Bridges isn’t able to perform live as much as he’d like due to movie obligations, don’t look for him to put his guitar back in the case anytime soon. “This has really tickled up all my music,” he says. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg for me.”
“If you’re lucky, something happens along the way and it starts to tell you what it wants. And that’s a wonderful thing.”