Jeff Bridges, The Dude, has a live album out with his band The Abiders simply called “Jeff Bridges and the Abiders Live.” I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the album since it was just another actor playing music, but have you seen “Crazy Heart?” The man has a voice. Who doesn’t love “The Big Lebowski,” in this world of disposable art “The Big Lebowski” is probably the last movie that fans watch over and over again. I got the chance to chat with Jeff Bridges about the new album and we talk a little bit about his upcoming movies as well.
You can listen to it in podcast form here (I recommend listening):
For more information, please visit Jeff Bridges online:
Official website: www.jeffbridges.com
Mailboat Records: http://www.mailboatrecords.com/jeffbridges.html
Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry: www.nokidhungry.org
Jeff Bridges (JB): Hey Bob
Bob Zerull (BZ): Hey Jeff how are you doing?
JB: I’m well how are you doing?
BZ: I’m great thanks for taking the time to do this with us.
JB: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
BZ: You’ve got a new live album out simply called “Jeff Bridges and The Abiders Live” what made you want to put out a live album?
JB: Well a couple of things, I think there’s a rawness to it that appealed to me, capturing the whole thing live. The immediacy of it, we were doing all of these shows we had all the guys together and a great mixer there, so why not do it? It seemed kind of silly not to do it. I’m starting this music thing kind of late in my life so I figure I’ve got a back catalog of things I want to realize, so let’s get these tunes here out and move on to the next batch.
BZ: The album is of your performances at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas was there any particular reason you chose that venue?
JB: Not really. We enjoy playing there. The album just happened to be two great shows so we said lets use those shows. It just worked out that way.
BZ: I was really impressed by your voice. We all knew you could sing after “Crazy Heart.” Was it a different challenge translating that live in concert?
JB: Not really, as a matter of fact some of the scenes in “Crazy Heart” I had to sing a lot longer than a show because you’re doing take after take. It’s more similar than different I think.
BZ: Do you do vocal warm ups?
JB: I do yeah.
BZ: What’s your process?
JB: (sings some examples of how he warms up) You pick up tricks from other guys. My buddy Michael McDonald, I asked him how he warms up and he said he goes down as low as he can (demonstrates).
BZ: I particularly liked your performance on “So You Want to be a Rock n Roll Star” and “Somebody Else” do you have a favorite song to perform live?
JB: Not one that sticks out. I enjoy playing them all. I really enjoy playing the songs that my good buddy John Goodwin wrote, “Exception to the Rule.”
BZ: You just mentioned John Goodwin, you’ve also worked with other songwriters like T Bone Burnett. You’ve also got one song on the record that your wrote with T Bone Burnett. Which process do you prefer the live performance or the song writing and would you like to do more song writing?
JB: I’ve been writing songs since I was a teenager. This album that’s the only song I wrote the lyrics for and T Bone wrote the music. That’s the only one I did the writing on this particular album, but I’ve got a lot more of my own that will probably be on the next one. I enjoy the process of playing live, but the studio work is great both. I like kind of combining the two like we did on this one since it’s a live album. When we make studio albums I like getting all the guys in the room and recording at the same time, it gives you a certain kind of feeling.
BZ: You’ve got a Tom Waits tune, The Byrds, you even do a little Creedence for the “Lebowski” fans. How do you come up with a set list?
JB: The shows are based on the record, we’re out there pushing the record hoping people will like it. I think they were songs that were up and ready to go at that time.It starts out with the mood you bring in. You pick out some songs based on that mood that you want to work out with some of the guys and you usually have three times as many songs but the ones that take shape almost effortlessly are the best and you concentrate on those and get to the other ones on the next round.
BZ: Does it take a lot of rehearsal to get the songs ready or are you able to call an audible on stage and improvise?
JB: We’ve been playing for quite awhile so we need less and less rehearsal but I enjoy rehearsal it’s great to get together with the guys and practice the tunes and maybe throw out a couple of new ones we might do. Occasionally I’ll surprise myself and say, ‘hey let’s do this tune’ and break out into something we barely know and see if we can pull it off.
BZ: Is there ever a chance we’ll ever hear The Abiders play an Eagles tune?
JB: (Laughs) We might, you never know man, you never know?
BZ: Are we going to be seeing more of Jeff Bridges and The Abiders or is it more of a part time thing still?
JB: I’m hoping you’ll see more. I know I have a batch of tunes I’d like to realize still. I got these great players. We enjoy playing together. I think you’ll be hearing more from us.
BZ: Any chance you’ll make it to the midwest?
JB: We played Minneapolis not to long ago. We played Chicago, we went down to Nashville, New York, Philadelphia.
BZ: I’ll have to pay better attention next time you come to Chicago, I’d love to see your band.
BZ: As a fan whether it be music or movies it seems like art in general is becoming more disposable, as an artist have you noticed a similar pattern? Not that it’s bad just that the fans move on to the next thing really fast.
JB: Yeah man, the music industry is so different than when I was growing up. There’s so much to check out. I don’t know what to make of it, if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing and how it is.
BZ: You’ve had a long career what inspires you to choose a project at this point in your career whether it be film or music?
JB: I spend a lot of energy kind of resisting doing things. It has to tickle me in some way whether it be the guy I’m working with or the story I want to tell. I’ve also been doing a lot of work recently trying to end childhood hunger. That’s something I’m interested in for going on over 30 years now. That’s almost like a constant interest of mine.
BZ: Do you have an organization you work with for that?
JB: Yeah I’m the national spokesperson for The No Kid Hungry campaign that Show Our Strength has. I’ve been the national spokesperson for about four years now. Speaking of movies and music I worked on a great movie all about hunger hear in America called A Place at the Table that T Bone Burnett did the music along with The Civil Wars. That’s a movie I’m very proud to be a part of.
BZ: Where can people find more about your organization?
JB: They can go to www.nokidhungry.org.
BZ: What tickled you about “The Giver” which came out earlier this year and “The Seventh Son” which is coming out early next year?
JB: “The Giver” is a movie I’ve tried to get up on the screen for almost 20 years. It was a story that moved me. I’m so glad we finally got it up on the screen. We had a great cast, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites is a wonderful young actor. “Seventh Son” should be coming out next year in February and that’s also based on a children’s book called “The Sorcerers Apprentice.” It was another kid movie that turned me on and I found myself doing that one.
BZ: You’ve had an amazing career and I have to imagine at your live shows there are a solid amount of “Big Lebowski” fans there. Did you have any idea that the movie was going to become what it became?
JB: When it first came out I was surprised it wasn’t more successful because I thought it was definitely a funny wonderful film, but it didn’t do to well when it first came out. I’m so glad it’s got this cult following. You have these “Lebowski Fests” it’s terrific.
BZ: Has being a performer affected your ability to be a fan?
JB: I know what you mean, I’m pretty affected when I’m watching movies because I know how the magic trick is done. The movie has to be done really well to pull me in. Fortunately you’ve got some really masterful filmmakers and musicians out there that are able to suck me in.
Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.