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Kevin Costner Returns To His Musical Roots

Of the Oakland Press

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Kevin Costner credits his wife, Christine, for getting him into — or, more accurately, back into — making music.

“She kind of nudged me for two years to do it,” says the Academy Award-winning actor and director, who released “Untold Truths,” Costner’s first album with his band Modern West, in November.

“She basically said, ‘I think this is really what you should do. You seem to be the happiest when you’re making music. And people see more of your personality in your music than anything that you do.’

“So I kind of trusted my wife and said, ‘All right, well, I’ll start writing (songs) again.’ ”

This is, of course, assuming she didn’t just want to get him out of the house more often.

“You may be right,” Costner, 54, says with a laugh. “I never thought about it like that, but know I’m thinking to myself, ‘Y’know, I should’ve looked under that rock ...’ ”

Music, Costner says, was his first creative outlet, even before acting and his eventual ascent in Hollywood with blockbusters such as “Dances With Wolves,” “The Bodyguard,” “Bull Durham,” “JFK” and more. He grew up in Compton, Calif., but his family hailed form Oklahoma. He spent his youth singing in a Southern Baptist church where his mother, aunt and grandmother were in the choir, and Costner was also “ raised on Motown” and prevailing rock ‘n’ roll

trends of the ’60s.

His first band, Roving Boy, featured Modern West bandmates John Coinman and Blair Forward, but “acting really hit, and it was a

direction I wanted to go.”

When he took his wife’s suggestion to try music again, however, Costner “called John, and I said, ‘Do you want to start to do this again?’ And he did.

“I didn’t anticipate making a record, really,” adds Costner, who co-wrote half of the 12 songs on “Untold Truths.” “I didn’t anticipate touring or playing on television or radio or any of that stuff. I started this because I just wanted to play music again.”

He also didn’t expect to be pegged as a country artist, either, though Costner acknowledges that these days Modern West’s Americana-styled blend of influences such as Bruce Springsteen, The Band and the heartland rock of John Mellencamp and Bob Seger plays better in that venue than most others.

“In truth, I don’t think of us as a country band,” Costner says, “but I realize with my roots, my family coming

from Oklahoma, and John’s roots are very rural ... I certainly wasn’t trying to copy anybody’s kind of music, but when we do a song they have more of a country lilt, a Western lilt.

“And, surprise surprise, I make cowboy movies, so there ya go.”

That said, Costner hopes to keep Modern West — whose album features songs that appeared in his 2008 film “Swing Vote” and one, “Leland Iowa,” that dates back to 1989’s “Field of Dreams” — from being lumped into any one genre.

“I think we have our own brand of music,” he contends. “What category it falls into, I don’t now. Whether it’s commercial, whether it’s accepted ... I’m just really satisfied we have a unique sound. When somebody says, ‘Where do we put it?,’ that’s not my problem. But, sure, I can see why people think country.”

Costner also does not distance himself, or Modern West, from the fact that he is ... well, Kevin Costner.

“I know I have to deal with the curiosity factor,” says the actor, whose next role is in the film “The New Daughter,” with a couple of directoral projects also on tap. “The relationship I’ve had with people in the dark for the last 28 years is something that comes on the stage with me. I embrace the fact that people have gone to my movies and, in certain instances, have really identified them as somehow being important in their lives.

“But I try to have that go away as quickly as possible. We all know I’m that guy, but now I’m that guy and his band, and this is the music we play. It’s really up to me to break the ice, not create a bigger mystery.”

Kevin Costner & Modern West perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday (May 15) on the Upper Stage in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit at WYCD’s 2009 Downtown Hoedown. For a full list of performances at the event, which runs through May 17, visit www.WYCD.com. For a diagram of the performance areas, visit www.wycd.com.

Web Site: www.WYCD.com

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