Jeff Daniels Talks About His Crossover Career As A Singer

Jeff Daniels Talks About His Crossover Career As A Singer

 

As students of pop culture, we indulge in a kind of knee-jerk reaction anytime an actor steps up to be taken seriously as a singer, just as we might if a musician we love suddenly starts acting. Greatness in one artistic arena doesn't guarantee currency in another.

 

 

Jeff Daniels, by any metric, is one of the great actors of our time. For playing news anchor Will McAvoy on the HBO series "The Newsroom," he won an Emmy Award in 2013 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; before that, his 2009 performance in the Broadway play "God of Carnage" earned a Tony nomination. He was the convincingly hapless straight-man Harry Dunne in "Dumb and Dumber," in addition to turning in memorable performances in "The Squid and the Whale," "Terms of Endearment," "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Something Wild." But can he sing?

 

Short answer: yes, he can. "Days Like These," his sixth full-length album released last year, is a departure from his previous work; it's more serious, less jokey, with terrific vocal and guitar performances from Daniels and arrangements by his son Ben (who fronts the Ben Daniels Band) and multi-instrumentalist Brad Phillips. You feel the influence of his heroes — Lyle Lovett, Keb' Mo', John Hiatt and others — on songs like "Holy Hotel," the seven-minute-plus centerpiece of the album, which spins out into Phillips' warm, expertly arranged strings. (It's only the third song on the album.)

 

Daniels performs with the Ben Daniels Band at Infinity Hall in Norfolk on Jan. 15. By phone, he spoke about "Days Like These" and what it's like to cross over from acting to singing.

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