Kiefer Sutherland on his vulnerable side, new album and relationship with Toronto
The Canadian actor and musician’s third album, Bloor Street, celebrates the city where he grew up
Click the play button above to hear Kiefer Sutherland's full conversation with Tom Power.
After more than three decades acting on stage and screen, you might think Kiefer Sutherland would feel completely at ease performing live music — he thought the same thing too at first.
"I was so wrong it was staggering," he told Q's Tom Power in an interview. "I'd left out one major component, and that was, you know, there's no character. You're not hiding behind the character."
On Friday, Sutherland will release his third studio album, Bloor Street, which pays homage to his hometown of Toronto. The Canadian actor and musician said he feels vulnerable performing as himself — as opposed to playing a role like Jack Bauer on 24 — because his songs draw on his own life and experiences.
"You're saying that this is who I am and this is how I personally would react in this situation," he said. "That's a very vulnerable place to be."
When Sutherland first started touring, his nerves were so bad his hands would shake as he played guitar. Now, hundreds of shows later, those nerves have been replaced with excitement. He said connecting with live audiences and sharing first-person accounts of his life are the things he enjoys most about being a musician.
"Whatever preconceived notion that the audience might have of me and whatever preconceived notion I might have of them — depending on what town I'm in — somehow that goes away," he said.
"By the end of the evening, there's this sense that we understand and know each other better than we did at the beginning of the evening. And man, any time that happens, I've always known that to be an amazing night. And so the touring part is what I've really fallen in love with."
Sutherland's love letter to Toronto
The title track on Bloor Street celebrates the city where Sutherland grew up, with Toronto-centric lyrics like "Walking down Bloor Street, I make the right on Yonge."
"Literally, I want to take you on this walk with me," he said about the song. "I think the real important thing for me as a songwriter is just having a kind of an intimate moment that I think is worth sharing. It's not going to change the world. It's not going to, you know, blow your mind.… It's to find a kind of commonality between me and a listener."
WATCH | Official video for Bloor Street:
For Sutherland, the song conjures nostalgic memories from his youth. He said Toronto's Yonge and Bloor intersection is where he experienced many of his firsts.
"First job, I worked at a little stall in the food court at the Hudson's Bay Centre," he recalled. "First kiss … Bloor and Yonge, just out front of the Bloor subway. First time I ever got beat up, just a little ways down the street."
While Toronto clearly holds a special place in his heart, Sutherland lamented the changing face of the city over the past few decades.
"If you walk down Yonge Street now, you'll see, kind of, corporate bars and stuff like that," he told Power. "There were real taverns back in the late '70s, early '80s. And of course, I was 12, 13 years old — we weren't allowed in them, but you could get a sense of kind of what was happening on the street.… It was awesome."
At the end of the interview, Sutherland listed the Horseshoe Tavern, the old El Mocambo and the now defunct Imperial Six Theatres (a multiplex which is now the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre) among his favourite Toronto haunts, both past and present.
He now lives in Los Angeles, but has had an ongoing relationship with Toronto.
"[Bloor Street is] not told by someone who lives in Toronto," said Sutherland. "I mean, there's been moments that I've loved Toronto and there's been moments that Toronto has taken a piece out of me, you know, and so I have this back-and-forth thing with Toronto."
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Produced by Kaitlyn Swan.