North·MUSIC THAT MATTERS

An evening with actor and musician Jeff Daniels

American actor Jeff Daniels is also an accomplished musician, and will be sharing some of his music to support the Yukon Arts Centre.

Jeff Daniels will be streaming a live show to support the Yukon Arts Centre

American actor and musician Jeff Daniels is performing a show Jan. 14 that will support the Yukon Arts Centre. (Fleming Artists)

This story is part of a web series called Music that Matters with CBC Yukon's Airplay host Dave White. Dave sits down with Yukoners to talk about five pieces of music that inspire them. 

Jeff Daniels is a well-known, critically acclaimed actor, appearing on Broadway, in big Hollywood movies and on award-winning television shows like The Newsroom.

But he's also an accomplished musician, and music has always been a big part of his life.

Now he's sharing some of his music to support arts organizations during the pandemic. Daniels will livestream a show on Jan. 14 to support the Yukon Arts Centre. 

"I moved to New York City [in 1976)] when I was 21 and I bought a Guild D-40 [guitar] and threw it in the back of the car and said 'I'm going to learn how to play this thing,'" he said in an interview from his home in Michigan.

"I've been writing songs and playing guitar since the 70s ... it was something I did creatively to stay sane between acting jobs, because the unpredictability of the next acting gig, it'll make you nuts."

American actor Jeff Daniels is also an accomplished musician, and will be sharing some of his music to support the Yukon Arts Centre. (Fleming Artists)

Daniels said he began performing music publicly about 20 years ago to support his own theatre company, and gradually took on similar gigs. When the pandemic hit, and performing arts spaces around the world were forced to close their doors, he started to donate his time and put on shows to support them.

"We starting doing them in the spring to raise some money for my theatre company," he said. "And to help a lot of these live venues we just kept going over the summer and, depending on how hard the venue works for it, it's money into them. We've done about 60 of them so far."

Daniels said his two sons run the cameras when he streams concerts, and the challenge is trying to find a way to connect with an audience he can't see. Years of acting and performing have taught him that making that connection is everything.

"You've got nothing if there's no connection," he said. "If you're just up there by yourself gazing into your navel as an actor in a play and the play doesn't go across the footlights and connection, you've got nothing.

"It's the same thing with a song. You write specifically to something that only you can see, and then hope to God it's relatable to someone else."

Daniels may have taken up the guitar to while away the time between acting jobs, but now that he's successful, he said music provides him with something else.

"It's more authentic for me ... I don't answer to anybody, there's no studio, there's no director, there's no editor taking it away and doing whatever they will with it. It's 100 per cent me, and I enjoy it. It becomes the book I'll never write."

Like a lot of guitar players, Daniels has amassed quite a collection over the years, and one of the challenges he faces is choosing the instruments he'll play that night.

"Some of the old guitars, you can hear it, where there's life in them. That's when you can imagine all the songs that have been played on this 1924 Martin," he said.

"I've got a song on the new album called Paris Moon that references back to all those French artists in the roaring '20s, and I usually play the song in a live stream on that 1924 Martin. Just stuff like that, that's what makes it more special to me."

About the Author

Dave White is the host of Airplay, CBC Yukon's afternoon radio show. He's lived in the Yukon since 1989, more or less.

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