From screen to stage

 

Jeff Daniels

Music Mill

Friday, Jan. 12, 8 p.m., $20/$25 day of show

Film actor turned stage troubadour, Jeff Daniels, appearing at the Music Mill Friday, is fully aware of the faint silliness that surrounds actors trying to sing, which is why his first album, Life and Unplugged, leads off with the self-explanatory “If William Shatner Can, So Can I.” And though many of his songs are similarly wacky, it’s also a disarming way of addressing the issue and moving into the more serious, bluesy stuff.

“You have to address the actor thing right away,” Daniels says. “It’s the elephant in the room. You can’t ignore and pretend it’s not there; it’s just ridiculous.”

Now that he’s in the midst of a 40-date tour, the show evolves and is never quite the same twice. Certainly a change for a guy who wrote but never performed for 30 years, with bluesy folk songs ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, the intensely personal to the zanily bizarre.

“The songs have traveled as I’ve traveled, and it’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “You go into it thinking it’s going to be something completely different. Five years ago they damn near pushed me on stage to promote the Purple Rose Theatre. It’s like being an actor on a Broadway theater who has to hold an audience, or a guy on Leno or Letterman who has to make people laugh. You have to bring a connection to an audience. You have to bring the audience on a journey; you have to make them laugh and cry.”

His song mentions Shatner by name, but he takes aim at just about everyone who ever went from screen to stage and picked up a guitar along the way.

“For a while it looked like everyone was doing an album. I change the song constantly, depending on who’s doing what; I used to do a very long version that gets into 11 or 12 people: Bruce Willis, Kevin Bacon, Paris Hilton, Orrin Hatch [and] John Ashcroft,” he says. “The majestic soaring of the eagle was ruined forever by that song. My vision is to one day be singing ‘If William Shatner Can Do it, So Can I’ and then have Shatner come out on stage and do it with me.”

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