PHOTO: Kevin Bacon (left) and Michael Bacon (right) together make up the band the Bacon Brothers, who have been actively making music for nearly 25 years. / Courtesy photo
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
The Bacon Brothers, a band made up of brothers Michael and Kevin Bacon, are set to perform at the Franklin Theatre next week on Thursday and Friday. Ahead of their performance, both brothers spoke with the Home Page about their approach to music, how being brothers has affected their writing process and more.
While the two brothers have been dedicated to music for more than 20 years, releasing their first album Forosoco in 1997, Kevin and Michael are also well known for their other artistic pursuits.
Michael is an associate professor of music at City University of New York, and has scored well over 100 songs for films and television programs.
Kevin is, well, Kevin Bacon — the award-winning actor who is perhaps best-known for his roles in the films Footloose, A Few Good Men and JFK, but has grown up around music, along with his brother, his entire life.
Your latest single “Play” gives an interesting perspective on relationships. Could you elaborate on the message being communicated in the song?
KB: One of the questions that I get the most is how do we stay married. It’s a question that I don’t really like answering frankly, because I don’t think it’s really appropriate to take 30 years of marriage and try to get it into a sound byte. So as I’m kind of struggling to answer that question, a lot of times people go, ‘well, it’s a lot of work.’ My feeling is it’s less about work and more about play.
To elaborate on it, what it’s really about is approaching a relationship in a more lighthearted and fun approach. We like to spend time together — it’s not always easy, but most of it is good because we like to hang out and have a good time together.
What type of audience do your performances typically draw?
KB: It’s an interesting thing with rock music. It’s been around for a long time, and when it was first introduced to us, part of what it was, was music that was not enjoyed by old people. Now, all those people that first came to listen to it are old, so if they want to go to a show, they want music that they can relate to, and people also on the stage that they can relate to. I think our show sort of speaks to that.
Could you describe the energy you witness from audience members as your performances?
MB: I think it’s a function of what you send out, you get back. We’re entertainers, and people pay a lot of money to come see us — maybe grab dinner and get a babysitter, so we both feel a really large responsibility to make the show as good as we can, which is one of the reasons we have a six-piece band with the top musicians in New York that are incredibly versatile.
We have some songs that are really intimate, songs that on a good night maybe bring people to tears, and we have some other songs that are really rocking that people jump up and start dancing.
We’re also two guys that are different stage-wise, and different personalities and different kinds of songwriters, so you’re getting a really wide variety of stuff. I think the rock and roll industry is [not] set up like that, it’s more set up so that a band kind of comes on the scene and they’re country, or they’re R&B, or they’re hip hop, or they’re classical, whatever — in our case, we let the songs dictate what the arrangement is like.
I guess you could criticize us for being all over the map, and one of the things people always want to know when you say you’re in a band, they want to know what kind of music is it — it’s pretty hard to describe what our music is, except that it’s generated by acoustic and electric instruments, mandolin, drum kits, ukuleles, harmonicas, percussion… so I think the band is kind of set up in the image to be what my brother and I would like to go hear if we were going to hear some other band.
Is there anything that stands out to you about performing at the Franklin Theatre?
KB: One thing that always pops into mind when I think of the Franklin Theatre is the hall that leads down to the stairs that leads down to the stage is lined with pictures of some of the most iconic musicians in country and in folk that have played there. The combination of just looking at those pictures, and also being in Nashville, you definitely go, ‘OK pressure’s on, got to do a good one tonight.’
Michael, how would you describe your writing process, as well as the difference between writing a song for a film versus writing a song for your band?
MB: They’re very, very different kind of challenges, the songwriting that Kevin and I do is not really the normal kind of traditional songwriting that [I would do] when I was in Nashville many years ago. I would do where you make a date with your writing buddy, you start making coffee, start thinking of titles, then you try to see how you can support that title with a chorus, and then how do you support the chorus with a verse, and then if there’s going to be a bridge, and by 5 p.m. you hopefully have written a song and you’re getting paid to do that.
Kevin and I, before we put the band together, did that kind of songwriting a lot. It was more of a get-rich quick [thing], or try to write a song for some artist, and we were not really personally invested in the process particularly.
I think it’s empathy when you write a song and somebody says, ‘wow, I felt that way’ — that empathy somehow is somewhat curative, and I think that’s why confessional kind of songwriters write that kind of song, and if you look at the greats like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Hank Williams, those are the things that we did better. So when we formed a band, we said, ‘well let’s get really good at doing that, and that’s how we’re going to succeed in getting people a really good musical experience.’
How has it been performing in a band with your brother?
MB: The main thing is if you’re engaged in any kind of business with a family member, you start with a built-in trust, so that goes way beyond the type of relationship you might want to go in with someone who’s not a family member. Also because of our childhood and what our parents valued, we have a very similar aesthetic.
We share that even though we’re very different kinds of songwriters. I think we’re able to exploit the differences between us to come up with a product, a performance and a writing catalog that’s really very strong, and is stronger than either of us would be on our own.
KB: I would agree with that. I don’t really know what it’s like to be in a band without my brother, so it’s hard to compare. I’d say overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives.