You work hard to bring home the bacon, so let The Birchmere bring the Bacon home to you.
The Bacon Brothers‘ “Shaky Ground” tour rolls into Alexandria, Virginia for three shows July 19-21.
“If you have a club that has been around for as long as that has, the audience almost gets trained for what kind of response works in that place,” Michael Bacon told WTOP. “So what you get is a really great listening audience but also pretty rowdy. They kind of follow along wherever we want to go. The other thing is that it has an amazing sound system, a great monitor engineer, a great staff, the food is good, they treat us really well. … It’s pretty much the best club I’ve ever played, I’m glad they’re still doing business and we’re happy to be back.”
The set list includes their new song “Play” about Kevin’s marriage to actress Kyra Sedgwick.
“‘Play’ is an answer to the question I get time and time again: ‘How do you stay married for so long?'” Kevin Bacon told WTOP. “It’s a question I’m kind of tired of and when people ask you that they say, ‘It must be a lot of work. Marriage and relationships are a lot of work.’ I say, ‘Not really. It’s really more about play.’ That’s what the song is: a funky response to that question.”
Born in 1949 and 1958, respectively, Michael and Kevin grew up in downtown Philadelphia.
“We started writing together when I was a kid,” Kevin said. “Michael was already off on a successful music career, playing in bands, recording stuff and playing in Philly. Of course you look up to your older brother, so I started writing songs in my head and having lyrics and I would bring them to him and he would help me form them into songs. So, we started demo-ing some of those and we probably had written about 10 songs together over the years.”
Little did they know that decades later they would wind up playing those songs professionally.
“We had both long since left Philly, both of us left Philly in the ’70s, but in the early ’90s our friend heard the demo and said, ‘Why don’t you come down to Philly and do a Bacon Brothers show?’ So we became the Bacon Brothers. … We played the one show in Philly, then someone called up and said, ‘Hey, would you play another one?’ and it just kept rolling on from there.”
Each brother brings something to the table: Kevin as the showman, Michael as the true musician, alternating between acoustic guitar, electric guitar, cello and ukulele on stage.
“Michael is a great songwriter,” Kevin said. “He’s the guy on stage that sings in tune, which is always helpful. He has a really vast musical knowledge. He can compose, he can write and he has an extremely good understanding of harmony, counterpoints and all these things that are way beyond my skill set. When you see the show, I’m a little more of a frontman showoff, then the real musicianship comes from him and the rest of the players in the band.”
“Kevin’s a natural-born frontman, I’m really not,” Michael said. “Kevin does his thing, I do mine. We collaborate on stage in a wonderful way. … He is a wonderful songwriter, a great singer and a great partner. Songwriting is a really strange thing because it’s self-revelatory. We’ll go through something on the road, some experience of some kind, then a couple weeks later I’ll hear Kevin singing a song and I’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, I was there when that happened.'”
After recording nine total albums over the past 22 years — from their debut “Forosoco” (1997) to their latest “The Bacon Brothers” (2018) — what are their favorite songs they’ve penned?
“This song we wrote a long time ago before we even put the band together called ‘Only a Good Woman,'” Michael said. “You can play a gig and it’s not going so well, but if you have that one song people really like, you can resurrect your set from doom. We wrote it together, it has a zillion words, it’s really funny, it’s really true and we believe it. It’s still in the set, not every night, but when we really want people to have a good time, we’ll stick it out there.”
Kevin is less definitive in naming a favorite tune.
“There’s things that are fun for different sorts of reasons,” Kevin said. “We were playing a song of Mike’s called ’36 Cents,’ we had been playing it for a long time, then we decided to try to play it in an unplugged kind of way. It’s hard to explain but somebody came up with this a little additional ending to the song. All of a sudden, a song we’d been playing all these years became super fun to play again. So I always look forward to that one. People really enjoy it.”
What bands do they pattern their sound after?
“Our first record was called ‘Forosoco,’ which stands for folk rock soul country,” Kevin said. “That’s just a term we came up with. It was kind of a joke because we’ve had so many different types of influences. … But I guess if we had to pick one band we would say The Band, which had a similar kind of instrumentation and mostly organic sounds with B3 organ, sometimes used some horns and went between electric guitars and acoustic guitars, always had great grooves and an incredible drummer. That stuff is the type of thing we really aspire to.”
While The Band was memorably featured on the “Easy Rider” (1969) soundtrack, Michael and Kevin have composed for the screen, including Michael’s Emmy for TV’s “The Kennedys.”
“The TV show did really well,” Michael said. “It was four hours and a lot of work I did were these long-form documentaries where there might be 30 pieces of music per hour. If you multiply that by four, that’s well over 100 cues that have to be written, approved, produced and edited. As far as the award, it’s nice because it immediately defines me as having won something, but it doesn’t really get you any work. I’m proud of it, but that was in the past.”
Likewise, Kevin won a Golden Globe for TV’s “Taking Chance,” but has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar despite memorable roles in “Animal House” (1978), “Diner” (1982), “Footloose” (1984), “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987), “A Few Good Men” (1992), “The River Wild” (1994) and “Mystic River” (2003). Does he have a role that he’s most proud of?
“I had a great time making ‘Diner.’ We were young guys down in Baltimore having a lot of fun. I had a great time making ‘Mystic River.’ Those were both really fun experiences. It’s strange because there’s the making of it and there’s the film itself. Those are two different things, the memory of it and what actually ended up on the screen. You can have a great time and make a lousy movie or you can have a lousy time and make a great movie. You never know.”
These days, he’s not looking back at his career as much as looking for the next challenge.
“I’m not spending a lot of time in the rearview mirror,” Kevin said. “I haven’t gotten to the point in my life where I’m ready to just look back. I’m looking down the road and I’m hoping that the best part is in front of me.”
Find more details on the Birchmere website. Hear my full chat with the Bacon Brothers below: