By Michael Balderston
Jeff Daniels has been a Civil War soldier, a news anchor and an idiot, but one thing you may not have known he was a musician. With 35-plus years as an actor, music has not been something Daniels was known for, but it has always been a part of him. He’s sharing his musical passion in an upcoming tour with his son’s band, The Ben Daniels Band, with a stop at the Birchmere on Thursday, Jan. 8.
Best known for his roles as Harry Dunne in “Dumb and Dumber” and Will McAvoy on “The Newsroom,” Daniels has studied the guitar and written songs in a notebook since he first moved to New York to pursue acting. In the early 2000’s, he shared his hidden talent for the first time in front of a live audience as part of a fundraiser for his Purple Rose Theater Company in Chelsea, Michigan.
“They said, ‘Why don’t you go out during Christmas and New Years and we’ll sell tickets and raise a lot of money?’ says Daniels. “I said ‘Yeah, sounds like a great idea,’ and then I actually had to go do it…. I still remember the flop sweat that happened during those early gigs.”
Since then Daniels has recorded six albums, including his latest, “Days Like These.” His upcoming tour will be the second in the last year.
“We did this in August and it went really well,” says Daniels. “We came off the road in August, and I said ‘When can we book again?’ and January was the month.”
Daniels says one of the best things about touring is the time he spends with his sons—playing on stage with Ben while his other son, Luke, serves as tour manager and videographer.
“To have Luke doing that… and Ben, to have him pick up a guitar because he heard it growing up and then do his own thing with it is just a thrill,” says Daniels. “To turn to your left and see, in Ben’s case, your son playing, that’s a life highlight.”
The tour originally had 19 dates, but Daniels was forced to pull out of some due to a scheduling conflict with a movie he’s doing. Daniels is confident they will reschedule though, because, as he says, “I don’t like to drop gigs.”
Balancing acting and music is no easy task, but Daniels says he makes it work.
“The guitar is always with me, just as this wonderful, creative hobby,” said Daniels.
He may consider it a hobby, but he’s got some long-term plans beyond this upcoming tour.
“’Days Like These’ is not the last CD I’ll make,” says Daniels. “We have our real nice home recording studio now that Ben and Luke and I use. We didn’t build that for no reason, we’re going to use that thing.”
Jeff Daniels once parodied other celebrities who make a pass at singing with his song “If William Shatner Can I Can Too,” but he’s making clear that his music career is no joke.
You can buy tickets for Jeff Daniels and the Ben Daniels Band at the Birchmere here.
Jeff Daniels and the Ben Daniels Band
Thursday, Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
3701 Mount Vernon Ave.