The celebrated actor/guitar slinger tells us about attending his very first Styx show as a teenager and why he loves “Renegade.”
by Mike Mettler, resident Styxologist
Sutherland photos by Mumpi Kuenster
Styx have many millions of fans all across the globe and from all walks of life, of course, but sometimes their peers and fellow Superstars in the entertainment business like to chime in to testify their love of the band as well. Take Kiefer Sutherland, for example. “I just have the deepest, deepest respect for those guys,” Sutherland told me recently while we were discussing the fine pack of personal gutbucket songs that populate his second solo album, April 2019’s Reckless & Me (BMG).
Sutherland, best known for his portrayal of the iconic, star-crossed rebel CTU agent Jack Bauer for over a decade on the serial real-time spy thriller 24 (the show many could argue as being the catalyst for the binge-watching phenomenon) in addition to his current incarnation as President Tom Kirkman on Designated Survivor (which will be streaming its entire third season on Netflix starting June 7), actually has music chops that run quite deep. For one thing, he began playing violin at age 4 and has been strumming guitars ever since he was a teenager, eventually blossoming into quite the insightful songwriter. “I have found that being able to write through some of the difficult times or experiences, or even some of the more beautiful times and experiences, helps you gain a kind of perspective,” Sutherland admits. “And because I never had a diary, these songs were the best way for me to do that.”
Sutherland also has another connection to Styx by way of his best friend and longtime songwriting/producing partner Jude Cole, who had our very own Tommy Shaw sing background vocals on his quite underrated 1992 solo album, Start the Car, alongside a few other Styx family friends, including Jack Blades (of Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, and Shaw Blades fame) and Canadian vocalist Sass Jordan. For his part, Cole sang background vocals on Styx’s February 2003 studio album, Cyclorama. In addition to writing and touring with Sutherland, Cole’s other impressive production/songwriting credits include Lifehouse, Rocco DeLuca & The Burden, and Lindsay Pagano.
In a Styxworld exclusive, Sutherland, 52, talks about attending his first Styx show as a teenager, why he gravitates toward Tommy Shaw’s songwriting the most, and why he loves “Renegade.”
Mike Mettler: Tell me about when you first got into Styx.
Kiefer Sutherland: Well, I think Styx was the first concert I ever went to, or maybe the second. When I saw them, they were touring on the [September 1978] album Pieces of Eight, and Tommy Shaw couldn’t have been more than 19 or 20 years old.
Mettler: Yeah, he was still just a kid in his early 20s at that time.
Sutherland: Tommy played such an important part for me in my life because, even in that band, he looked like he had more in common with me than he did with the rest of that band. He was that young.
I was there at the show with another kid named Steven Barker, who was an incredible guitar player back then. Tommy gave us hope and he gave us dreams, and all that kind of stuff. I will never forget that.
And I remember what he wore too. He wore these great white slacks and a silk shirt. His voice was just so incredible, especially when you’d hear him sing songs like “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man.” Just that he was writing those kinds of songs — I was so impressed with him.
Mettler: He always has had a knack for relating to the common man in his songs, that’s for sure. Where were you when you saw that first Styx show — was it in Los Angeles, or somewhere in Canada?
Sutherland: It was in Toronto, Canada.
Mettler: Right, because you grew up in Toronto. Well, I bet we can figure out exactly when and where that show was.
Sutherland: I can tell you it was at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Mettler: Oh yeah, well, there you go — that would have been in October 1979. [Kiefer would have seen Styx at Maple Leaf Gardens on either October 18 or 19, 1979, which means he was almost 13 years old at the time, and Tommy was 26.]
Sutherland: That sounds about right. I don’t know Mr. Shaw, but will you tell him he’s got a huge fan in me?
Mettler: I will be happy to do that, yes! You know, I have “Renegade” in my notes as a song I’d love to see you and your band cover in your set sometime. It fits your mold perfectly.
Sutherland: Yeah, I can see that. There’s a version of that song you could do and “country” it up a bit. It’s such a great song, lyrically, for that kind of music.
The thing about doing anything to that song is, that guitar solo — even though it’s not very long, it’s got one of the great tones that I’ve ever heard.
Mettler: That’s James “JY” Young who plays that solo, and he’s said that, in some ways, it was his homage to Jeff Beck.
Sutherland: Well, that tone he got on it was absolutely amazing. Anytime I hear that song on the radio, the poor passengers in my car have to listen to that in full.
Mettler: (chuckles) How can you not do that, right? You know, Tommy did a solo bluegrass record a number of years ago that I bet would be right up your listening alley.
Sutherland: Do you know the title of it?
Mettler: Yeah! It’s called The Great Divide [released in March 2011] — and it’s on vinyl too, which I know you love.
Sutherland: Oh, very cool! I will absolutely check that out. He’s such a great player.
Mettler: You’ll also have to come see another Styx show whenever you’re not so busy on tour, or filming TV shows and movies.
Sutherland: Well, I would love to. I just have the deepest, deepest respect for those guys.