Q&A: Jeff Bridges Talks Tom Waits, the Dude, and His Band, The Abiders

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See also: Up on the Sun's 10 Top Music Stories of 2014

Bridges' discography seems to prove that this Lebowski is more than just a fan of Creedence. As the new year unfolds, Bridges is wrapping up a string of mini-tours, which he performed intermittently throughout 2014 with his aptly named band The Abiders, promoting his third LP, Live.

Recently Bridges spoke with New Times about his mortal coil, avoiding being typecast, family, world hunger, his second career as a country-rock musician, and the Zen of The Dude.

Phoenix New Times: Happy New Year and Belated Happy Birthday, Jeff. How are you doing?

Jeff Bridges: Hi Mark, Happy New Year to you. I am doing great!

You recently mentioned to AARP that you have two sides of your conscious telling you about your ambitions. "One side tells, 'Hey, you that you've got a lot of stuff you want to do, and now's the time because, you're gonna kick the bucket pretty soon,' and the other side says, 'relax.'" Is it hard to choose which voice to follow now that you just turned 65 last month?

I get very excited about different projects and that's very wonderful, but sometimes my wife will let me know, "You've got too much on your plate." It's frustrating sometimes, but I do my best and try not to take it all too seriously.

You are known in Hollywood circles for being a bit of a perfectionist and method actor. With your music career beginning to take hold, do you follow that same attention to detail or is it more relaxing?

You try your hardest to get it right as you can, but there is no question about going with the flow. You've gotta go with the flow, man.

Your family, father Lloyd lived to 85, your mother Dorothy lived to 93, and brother Beau is still thriving at 73; what is the key to your longevity as a human and as a performer?

Well, the mortal coil has a lot to do with genes, and I'm thankful for that. As I get older, I'm thinking that I need to pay more attention to the mortal coil. I gotta take more care of it; I'm working on that. And, as far as the career, speaking for me personally, I saw how frustrating it was for my father, Lloyd [Bridges], who had a wonderful TV series, Sea Hunt [in the 60s]. He played that part of Mike Nelson so well as a skin diver, that people thought he was a skin diver. He seemed to see more skin diving scripts. It was frustrating for him because he was a Shakespearean actor, a great comedian, he did musicals and all kinds of things.

So, I tried early in my career to especially not develop too strong of a persona for two reasons. One -- to send a message out to the financiers that I could play many different parts, and they could send me different kind of roles. Also, for the audience. It's got to be hard if you do see a guy who would have a strong persona, and doesn't happen to be playing that persona in a certain role. it is very hard for members of the audience imagine him in that role. As I have gone on in my career I haven't worried as much about that.

Do you look at your musical career with a few albums under your belt as a second career or is it a ongoing side project, hobby or unknown for now?

I know I love my music, I've been involved with music since I was a teen, so that's 50 years or so. I've got a sea of songs I want to realize, and make recordings of, you know. the music has kind of taken off, so I will probably be doing music from here on out, but you never know.

Music has been a major part of many of your films. From your singing in Crazy Heart to your solo albums, including the new one, Live, one can hear Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and even Stevie Ray Vaughn. Who do claim as your main musical influence?

There is not one guy, you know. all those guys you mention are wonderful artists. I am also a big fan of Leonard Cohen, of course The Beatles, Tom Waits. There are so many wonderful artists that inspire me subconsciously.

What was it like working with Bob Dylan? You worked with Dylan in the movie Masked and Anonymous in 1980 and narrated a short video that is a companion to his Vol. 11 Basement Tapes, just released. You played with Waits in the Fisher King. what were those experiences like?

I've got to say working with [Dylan] as an actor and playing with him for a couple of weeks, was spectacular, you know, wonderful.

With two solo albums out, Be Here Soon in 2000 and Jeff Bridges in 2011, what prompted the recording of Live, which was recorded from live performances last year on tour in Las Vegas, Texas and California?

Well, like you said, I'm getting up there at 65, and I need to get to work now, and they are all pretty good. I think all the songs are from shows we did back-to-back in [Red Rock Casino in] Vegas. My musical director, Chris Pelonis, is a wonderful guitarist; he was really in the mood to lay down some tunes. so I want to celebrate that, put those songs down and get to the next batch.

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Mark C. Horn
Contact: Mark C. Horn