When he isn’t busy taking home Emmy Awards for series like “The Newsroom” or starring in box office hits like “Dumb and Dumber” or “The Martian,” Jeff Daniels has somehow found the time to also become a bona fide, touring musician.
“Acoustic guitar is a tricky instrument to play really well, you’ve got to stay on it,” Jeff Daniels tells Metro. “That’s why I quit golf.”
Ditching the golf course for the studio has clearly paid off, as the decorated actor of the screen and stage has released a number of albums over the years, penning hundreds of original songs along the way. He’s played nearly as many gigs at small venues from coast to coast during this journey, often alongside his son’s group the Ben Daniels Band. The Daniels family is back on the road this weekend with stops in New England, including a show at The Cabot on Friday night.
While Daniels, who’s earned two more Emmy nominations this year for roles in “Godless” and “The Looming Tower,” admits that he doesn’t have any chart-topping hits to lure audiences with—acknowleding that many of them show up to his gigs because of his work in film and television—that’s never been his goal with music. Instead, Daniels loves the artform purely because it allows him to take creative risks.
Jeff Daniels on music, originality and taking risks
“You look at a James Taylor or Lori McKenna, the people want to hear the hits,” Daniels says. “Well I don’t have any hits, so I can throw whatever I want at them, and I really enjoy that.”
“It’s not that you should be vaulted up to the top of the Billboard charts, it’s that you’re always going for it,” he adds. “I appreciate people who are risking failure, who are trying to find that thing that even they haven’t thought about yet.”
Inspired by blues and folk rock artists like Keb Mo, Lyle Lovett, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and John Hiatt, the mostly self-taught guitarist strives to achieve a level of originality that his idols have found, even if his music isn’t Grammy-worthy.
“Especially now, it’s so difficult to be original,” Daniels says. “You can be different, but are you original?”
Most of all, Daniels has enjoyed his musical experience because it’s allowed him to spend more time with his son. Ben asked his father to teach him guitar at the age of 19, and he hasn’t put down the instrument since, according to his proud papa. Daniels cherishes every second he gets to spend out on the road with his family.
“To see you passed on something that you enjoy so much and see him take it and make it his own thing, you go, ‘Oh, I raised an artist. That’s what he is.’ And then you just support that, you support the growth,” Daniels says. “It’s just a joy. I cherish it.”