Emmy Award-winning music composer Michael Bacon and his sibling, accomplished actor Kevin Bacon enjoy their respective jobs, but they also join forces to perform as the Bacon Brothers. Both brothers have talent as musicians and songwriters, and their band has a loyal following of fans in countries around the world.
PAUL: Has music always been something that has bonded the two of you?
MICHAEL: Yeah, pretty much as long as I can remember. We both grew up in a household that valued creativity and artistic expression above everything else, including grades in school and the idea that you actually had to go out and make money as an adult. We didn't really get that message until two years ago...no (laughs)! So our household was about music and acting and art and dance, and so it's something we shared and it's as natural as breathing for us.
PAUL: So how did the two of you wind up performing as a duo?
KEVIN: Michael was performing from my earliest memories... He was in a band with my sister when they were little kids, and then eventually in a duo called Good News in Philadelphia, and I used to go and see them when I was really young. And then eventually Good News broke up, and the first time we really started performing together was when he first asked me to play percussion in his solo act. So we had a bass player and I was playing percussion and we had a girl singing background vocals, or he had a girl singing background vocals. It was Michael's songs and he was the front man. And that sort of went away for a long time, many many years, and then we grew up and then about fifteen, sixteen years ago we got a call from a buddy of ours from Philadelphia, where we grew up, and he had heard a demo that we had done and the demo was basically to get some other people to cut some songs that we had written, and he said "how about a Bacon Brothers show?" So, you know, he kind of came up with the name and we figured, yeah, we'll just put a band together and did one show and that was it. It just kind of took off after that.
PAUL: How is expressing yourself as an actor different from expressing yourself as a musician?
KEVIN: Well, I think they're very, very different because writing is kind of the key. In the band, almost all the time we are writing songs and performing songs that we wrote... either Michael wrote, or I wrote...or once in awhile that we wrote together. So that means from beginning to end, it's your own piece of creative expression. When I'm doing a film, I'm a tool for somebody else's words to get put across, so that's a different kind of process. In some ways, acting is more of a collaboration in a strange kind of way. Certainly, we collaborate as brothers and as a band, but in terms of the genesis of a creative expression it's all our own in music. It's like you're standing there in your own clothes and singing a song about something specific that happened to you.
PAUL: Do you feel more vulnerable as a musician and songwriter, or as an actor, because you reveal a lot of yourself as an actor?
KEVIN: Yeah. I mean My theory about acting is you use yourself and you lose yourself. So a good performance to me is tapping into as much as you can of what your own personal and emotional experiences are, and then trying to lose yourself and feel like you are truly walking in someone else's shoes. Because acting, to me, is not being Kevin on screen. That's not acting. But at the same time, it is a very vulnerable place to be. It's vulnerable every day, whether you're on screen or not, because people, especially as you get more and more well known, are constantly judging you. They're judging your look, and your hair, and your clothes, and your weight, your performances, and your choices and your career, all that kind of stuff. So that's one kind of vulnerability and certainly again it's like apples and oranges. On the flip side to stand up and say "Hey, my dog died so I picked up my guitar and wrote this song about her and now I'm going to sing it for you," I mean that's a pretty vulnerable place to be too.
PAUL: And you've done that?
PAUL: What is your greatest wish for the Bacon Brothers?
MICHAEL: I'd love to write a song that out-lived my brother and me and the band, that's still remembered long after we are forgotten. My example would be "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" It's one of the most poignant anti-war songs ever written, by Pete Seeger, but a lot of people don't even connect that song with Pete Seeger. That song will still be there. It has a sense of eternal life and I think it's a really great contribution to history. I think that's what we're trying to do. That's what every songwriter is trying to do.
PAUL: You are both enormously successful in your respective careers. Does having a hit single matter to you?
MICHAEL: Well, you know it's almost like a metaphor for a disease you have. You always want more than what you have. You're always aspiring and for me it's a big a motor. It really pushes me. I'm not going to speak for my brother but for me, no matter what, whatever place I've gotten to there are places beyond that I would like to get to and it takes a lot of work and a lot of focus, and a lot of support from one's family. So I dream. I keep dreaming.
FOR MORE BACON BROTHERS, FOLLOW THESE LINKS:
The album Philadelphia Road - The Best of the Bacon Brothers is available now.
Mountain Lake PBS interview and concert footage of the Bacon Brothers.
Video for Go My Way.
Bacon Brothers Adirondacks PSA.