Most know William Shatner from his acting role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise. Some might be surprised, however, that the famed actor has also recorded several albums over the years, working with everyone from Ben Folds to Sheryl Crow.
“I’ve always had a gift for the musicality of the English language, but I’m able to work on fusing the music of the language with a melodic music,” Shatner says. “That’s what I’ve been working for, and that’s what I’ve gotten closer to achieving with Shatner Clause, which was the name of the Christmas album I just did.”
“It’s also on some of the numbers on my country music album, which is called Why Not Me,” he adds. “I’m actually performing one of the songs from Why Not Me on the Grand Ole Opry in February.”
On Friday, Feb. 8, Shatner visits the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis for a conversation and screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Beforehand, we caught up with Hollywood star for an interview, discussing his Indiana ties and much more.
NUVO: Through a colleague of mine, I know your wife Elizabeth attended Lebanon High School here in Indiana. Do you two still return to the state from time to time?
SHATNER: We actually do. She goes back more than I do. The family has a farm about 20 miles north of Indianapolis, so I’ve been there frequently.
We got married in Lebanon to a raucous group of people who found out we were getting married and suddenly gathered. We went up some steps at the city hall there, went inside, and this young lady gave us the certificate. By the time we got down the stairs and looked in a store that was on the same block, my phone rang, and it was a guy in Los Angeles saying congratulations. This lady had called it in, and it hit the news before we were out of town.
NUVO: I know Elizabeth is a horse trainer, and that you also share a love for horses. How long have you been passionate about horses?
SHATNER: Oh, quite a long time now. Long before I met Elizabeth. I compete a lot and am still competing as a reiner. You might not know what that is, but it’s a discipline with Quarter Horses and Saddlebreds. I breed them and have done very well. I’ve won some world championships with Standardbreds and Saddlebreds. I’ve even done a bit of winning with the Quarter Horses. [I’m] competing on every level.
NUVO: Shifting gears to your music. I’m curious how your relationship with Ben Folds began and what it was that sparked the Has Been album you made with him.
SHATNER: He said he had discovered an album I had made years and years earlier that wasn’t very successful and was only intermittently good. He wrote me and said how much he enjoyed it. [He also said] that he had written a song that I might be interested in performing. So on his hit album Fear of Pop, he wrote a song called “In Love,” which I then did with him. “In Love” became popular, so all of a sudden I was in the music business.
NUVO: What inspired your country album (titled Why Not Me]? I know you worked with Jeff Cook of Alabama on it.
SHATNER: I was asked to do it, and it sounded challenging. I asked Brian Curl, the producer of Heartland Records, “Well, what will I sing?” He began to send me numbers that really appealed to me, so I chose 12 of them and had them on my phone. I learned them that way. I laid my tracks down, and then the talented people did the orchestrations, which included Jeff Cook.
NUVO: You had another album called Seeking Major Tom, which featured you covering several space-themed songs including “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. Did you ever have a chance to meet Mr. Bowie?
SHATNER: No, I never did, to my regret. I wish I had. Seeking Major Tom was a fun album for me in that I built it around…Major Tom steps out of the capsule, and we never hear of him again. The album becomes my concept of what happened to Major Tom once he stepped out of the spaceship. He lands on the moon. He goes to heaven. I had fun doing space rock ’n’ roll numbers, if you will, and teaming up with all these wonderful out-of-the-center musicians and performers. I had a great time, and I thought the album was really good.
NUVO: You’re visiting Indianapolis for a conversation and screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. What was your fondest memory from making that film?
SHATNER: I had a great time with it many, many years ago. Everybody was alive and healthy. [laughs] Everybody’s dead and unhealthy at the moment. The people…Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalbán, to name two…were wonderful people that I enjoyed knowing very well. Making a movie is a strenuous, arduous thing, and it can be a very loving, meaningful thing as well.
NUVO: You’ve done other engagements like this where you talk alongside of a screening. What have you enjoyed about doing these types of events?
SHATNER: There’s an art form in standing up in front of an audience. I don’t know what’s going to happen next—what question I’ll get or what my answer will be. It’s totally spontaneous, but it’s been successful. People have laughed, and people have cried.
It’s very much like an interview. You ask me a question, I give you an answer, and I don’t know if it’s satisfactory. But based on previous experience, I think it’s imminently satisfactory, especially on the stage. [laughs] I don’t know whether this interview is [satisfactory] to you. So I have high hopes that we’ll all have a good time in Indianapolis on Feb. 8.