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Jeff Bridges takes time away from movies to make more music

Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges returns to Seattle Friday April 5 to perform with his band The Abiders. (AP)

After spending nearly all of last year making movies, Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges is taking time away from Hollywood to again focus on his other love, music.

Bridges, who won the best actor Oscar for his poignant turn as alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart,” has always kept a guitar close by. It’s been that way ever since he started playing as a teenager. And he credits his big brother – fellow actor Bo Bridges – with turning him on to the rock and roll that first inspired him.

“Like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. So I kind of grew up listening to all those tunes with him and of course my guys were Dylan and the Beatles so I got to turn him on to those guys,” he said in an interview with Chris Kornelis and me for this weekend’s edition of Seattle Sounds.

But it was the legendary Kris Kristofferson who really got Bridges into taking music seriously. When the pair were shooting the epic Western “Heaven’s Gate” in the late 70’s, Kristofferson brought along such music greats as T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. Their on-set jam sessions inspired Bridges to keep playing throughout the years. Along with strong friendships, both would be instrumental in writing and producing the music for “Crazy Heart,” and Burnett would go on to help Bridges produce his self-title major label debut in 2011.

Bridges is effusive in his praise for Burnett, the iconic songwriter, performer and producer behind scores of hits and dozens of Grammy, Oscar and other awards.

“It’s very much like movies,” Bridges said. “It’s the cast, who you assemble not only the musicians but also the engineers and who you’ve got sitting in the room with you.”

Bridge’s friends continue to play a significant role in his music. He’s hitting the road with his band The Abiders for a tour of the western U.S., including a Seattle stop Friday April 5th at the Moore. The band is made up of top notch musicians – who he calls his “homeboys” – from his Santa Barbara, Calif. hometown. His set will include songs from “Crazy Heart” and his own album, as well as covers from some of his other notable music friends including Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and David Crosby.

“You know each show is a surprise for me and I hope it’s a pleasant surprise for everyone else,” he said.

He also promised to pay homage to his most famous role – “The Dude” from the cult classic The Big Lebowski. Even though fans constantly clamor for him to sing the Bob Dylan-penned theme song, he insisted he never tires of revisiting it.

“I’m really cool with that. I think that was one of my favorite movies, not only movies that I’ve been in but favorite movies, period.”

One of the great freedoms for Bridges is to be able to make music he likes without worrying whether his shows or his albums sell, or any of the other pressures that come with the movie business.

“That’s always the proper frame of mind, whatever you’re doing creatively, is to not worry about the outcome so much but just get into the deal that you’re doing right there at the moment,” he said.

That moment doesn’t include a new album in the near future, as Bridges instead focuses on touring and preparing for his next film role. But he keeps writing new tunes and hopes to get back in the studio at some point to record again.

“I find the older I get they’re [the songs] coming out a little slower these days but they’re still there. I’ve got some tunes piling up, waiting to be realized. So I hope so.”

Jeff Bridges and the Abiders appear at Seattle’s Moore Theater Friday April 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets $37-$65.

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