If you aren't familiar with Christian Kane's name, you've undoubtedly seen his face on TV or the silver screen. Christian has spent more than a decade making a name for himself in Hollywood, starring in such films as 'Secondhand Lions,' 'Friday Night Lights,' 'Life or Something Like It' (opposite Angelina Jolie) and 'Just Married', in addition to roles on the small screen in 'Angel' and his current home, TNT's 'Leverage.'
Don't let his time in Tinsletown fool you, though. Christian is a country boy. Born in Dallas, he was raised in Texas and Oklahoma border towns as his father worked the oilfields.
Christian has been promoting his debut single, 'The House Rules,' at radio for the past few months, and he's taking another momentous step today (December 7), with the release of his debut album of the same name. The Boot caught up with the multi-faceted entertainer during a brief stop in Portland (where 'Leverage' is filmed) to learn more about one of country's newest additions.
Which came first, acting or singing?
I grew up singing with my cousin, Brandon Hart. He was the country singer, and I would sing back up for him. I owe my whole acting career to the fact that I'm a singer. I went out to Los Angeles and auditioned for a TV show called 'Fame L.A.' The original role was for a comedian, but they said I wasn't very funny, so they asked me, 'What else can you do?' So I played a singer.
I've always been a singer but I didn't know how to play guitar. A guy by the name of Prescott Niles, who was the bass player for the Knack ('My Sharona'), gave me a crash course. Three weeks later, I was playing on the show. Thank God I had rhythm, because it's not really about the chords, but the strumming. At the age of 22, I had mastered strumming. [laughs]
You've lived in Nashville, Los Angeles, Oklahoma and Texas, and you spend quite a bit of time in Portland, where's home?
35,000 feet. That sounds like an awful thing to say, but it's a good thing. I live in hotel rooms. I don't get to see my family. I don't have a girlfriend. I just travel so much. I'm also the guy that's been asking for this, though. You've got to be careful what you ask for the Lord for, because if you ask or wish hard enough, you will get it.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I grew up with the Highwaymen, which was Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Mom and Dad rode rodeo so country music was always in the house and the car. They threw in some Dolly Parton, too. I started rocking and rolling when Guns N' Roses came out. It wasn't until Garth Brooks came around that I really got back to country. He made it fun again. To me, in country music, the rigor mortis was setting in and it just wasn't fun anymore. Garth brought everyone back over to country and made it cool again. 'The Dance' always hit me pretty hard, but it was 'Shameless' that really got me. You listen to it now and it doesn't sound like a rock 'n roll song, but back then it was rock 'n roll.
Did you identify with Garth at all because he's also from Oklahoma?
I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, and I didn't realize that there were singers outside of those states. I literally had no idea what Nashville was. I thought that if you sang country music, you were either from Texas or Oklahoma. I didn't even know there was a state called Tennessee. It wasn't until later in life that I found out that most music comes out of Nashville ... But something like 80 percent of what's on the radio right now is Oklahomans. You've got Garth, Reba, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith and Vince Gill ...
Have you met Garth?
If L.A. is college, then Nashville is high school; everyone knows everyone. It's really not that hard to see the person you want to. I was starstruck when I met Garth Brooks. I met him about four years ago and I walked up and Garth said, "I know you." I said, "Um, no you don't." And Garth was like, "No, I know you. We've met." Anyone who knows Garth knows that he doesn't forget a face. He's one of the best in the business. I said, "Mr. Brooks, I promise you, you've never met me. If I'd met you, I'd remember." I just didn't have the heart to tell him that maybe he saw me in a movie or on TV. I know that's probably what had happened, but how do you say that to Garth Brooks? I'll never forget that day. Also, I was a little starstruck when I met Emmylou Harris. She may possibly be the most beautiful woman in the world.
What was it like to move from Los Angeles to Nashville?
Moving from L.A. wasn't that hard for me because it felt like I was going home. For a while, I had someone in Nashville that was home for me as well, but I'm not with her anymore. I live in Nashville and it's my kind of people: the people I grew up with. I'll be honest, Nashville tries to be L.A. a little too hard, and they need to stop and just be Nashville.
What was the biggest change in moving to Music City?
I wrote my own songs for a long time, but when I moved to Nashville I started writing with other people. Some of the greatest songwriters in the world are in Nashville. I hooked with Jerrod Niemann, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and a bunch of those guys. They've all become my friends. Jerrod and Jamey steered me through the shark invested waters. Jerrod's always been a close friend and Jamey's actually the guy who walked me into Sony and said, "You need to hear this guy sing." I owe my whole record deal with Sony's Columbia [Records] to Jamey. Of course, then we got let ago about the same time.
You, Jamey and Jerrod are all on your second record labels. You started on Columbia Records and now you're with the Bigger Picture Group, did you all three go through this at the same time?
Jamey and Jerrod have always been a step ahead of me. They know that town better than I do. I walked in bright eyed and bushy tailed and got the s--- kicked out of me. With as well as both Jamey and Jerrod are doing -- I'm so proud of them -- but it also helps me because I saw what they had to go through, and now I'm not going to make those mistakes. We all got punched in the face for a long time and I think every single one of us said, "F--- it. We're going to make the music that we want to play." And now, you can't keep those guys off the charts. I'm just hoping to grab their coattails.
Did you write any songs for 'The House Rules' with them?
I've written with all of them, but Jerrod and I do have a song on my album, 'Callin' All Country Women.' That was a big song because that was about me living in Los Angeles and really wanting to get back to my roots. I got really tired of chicks from L.A., because I like a girl from the country, from where I'm from.
You had the opportunity to perform your new song, 'Thinking of You,' on 'Leverage.'
The great thing about this was that you're sitting in everyone's living room, instead of them coming to a club to hear you play. The coolest part of that episode is that John Schneider, aka Bo Duke from 'Dukes of Hazzard,' sang my song, which was huge for me. Most people don't know this, but John had something like four or five No. 1 hits. He was a big country singer and actor. The second thing coolest thing was that I got to fight John Schneider. I got to fight my all time hero Bo Duke, so that was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me. That whole episode was awesome. ... When we did the country episode, we had the best numbers we've ever had in the history of 'Leverage.' 'Leverage' viewers are the working man, 'Leverage' viewers are who I grew up with.
What's your goal musically? Do you want to walk the Grammy red carpet someday?
You can take your awards. My goal in the entertainment industry -- this counts for music and acting -- is longevity. I don't know anything else to do and I've been doing this for too long. I went to L.A. to be Brad Pitt, now I just want to be Gene Hackman. I came to Nashville to be Kenny Chesney. I'd be very fortunate to be George Strait. I just want to do this for the rest of my life. Either way, I'm still going to do it, it would just be nice to make a little bit of money at it.
by Erin Duvall
Known to most people as Eliot Spencer on the popular TNT program Leverage, Christian Kane is more than just an actor as this album, his solo debut, proves. The title tune to the eleven track collection, “The House Rules” is a rockin’ little number that is all about having a good time after a rough, tiresome and hard week at work. It’s all about having a good time and leaving those troubles behind, something most people want to do every week. It also serves as a warning shot to people who take everything serious and ‘before you come walking in here with some kind of attitude, you better read the house rules.’ The rock-n-roll tempo also suits the message of the song.
People expecting the rest of the album to be like “The House Rules” will be surprised with the rest of the album as the next song, “Something’s Gotta Give” a song written with Brandon Kinney and Arlis Albritton, is a mid-tempo, radio ready tune about a guy who has lived without taking risks for so long (“man I’ve been sitting on a fence for way too long…this barely getting by is getting old…something’s gotta give”) that he feels as if he’s going to finally get off the bench and proactively take a hold of his own destiny and into the game of life. For anyone who has ever felt like life hasn’t given them what they wanted, “Something’s Gotta Give” is going to be an anthem of hope for them. With a strong voice that works well with ballads, Christian sings a letting you go but I’ll still be thinking of you type of song in “Thinking of You.”
“Whiskey In Mind” recalls something that wouldn’t be outta place on a Randy Houser record with its mix of country lyrics and rock-n-roll melody with some fantastic fiddle work serving as one of the lead instruments. I’m sure this one gets the folks a movin’ on the dance floor but the fantastic “Let’s Take A Drive,” a song written by Christian Kane, Co-producer Jimmy Lee Sloas and Phil Madeira, is a song about the power a road trip can have on reminding one of the great times in their life. Written with Jerrod Niemann and Jimmy Lee Sloas, “Callin’ All Country Women” is another tempo-fuled rocker about the kind of women who don’t need fancy things to make them beautiful and these are the kinds of women that appeal the most to the narrating character in the song.
“Let Me Go” is one of three songs on The House Rules not co-written by Christian Kane and the song, about a guy who tries to constantly sell himself short to a girl who is in love with him, was previously recorded by Jason Michael Carroll. I didn’t understand why Sony didn’t release that song as a single for JMC so I’m happy to see the Casey Beathard/Tom Shapiro song get another life with Christian Kane. The production is a little bit more epic in Kane’s hands but he’s more than up to the task in singing the strong tune. The album closes with the final two songs to not feature Kane’s name and the first one – “Making Circles” – was written by Nashville singer/songwriters Whitney Duncan and Jonathan Singleton. As soulful as anything Singleton’s ever written (his songs include the hit Billy Currington song “Don’t”, Josh Turner’s “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and David Nail’s “Red Light.” It’s an emotive showstopper on the album and is about a relationship that has been stillborn yet somehow the couple can’t seem to get out of their situation so they’re ‘making circles’ with the relationship. It’s a song many people have experienced in their life, a co-dependent couple who doesn’t know how to end something that should’ve ended years ago. Another words, it’s a fantastic country song. There are two versions of this song (one clean, one not) and the clean one could really have a shot at country radio if released as a single down the line. The last song on the album is a very nice cover of the classic 1990s Tracy Chapman hit “Fast Car” which places us in the room as a young child discusses their situation with their alcoholic, out of work father. Proclaiming that it’s time to get out of their current situation and try to make a better life in a new place.
With 11 tracks, The House Rules is a well-produced (by Bob Ezrin and Jimmy Lee Sloas) and well-executed debut album that features an appealing mixture of contemporary country music and contemporary country rock. If you're a fan of his television work and also a country music fan, you're sure to enjoy what is presented here.
by Matt Bjorke
Christian Kane rocks on ‘Leverage’ and on new country album
Longtime TV watchers are accustomed to seeing Christian Kane’s face over the years. Beginning on Fame L.A. in 1997, the rugged Texas native played an evil lawyer on Angel and now is Eliot Spencer, the resident tough guy of the team of do-gooders on TNTs Leverage. Along the way, he’s had songs show up on those same TV show because — as it may be a surprise to some but not to his faithful “Kaniacs” — he’s a heck of a country singer, too. The former frontman of the eponymous rock band Kane releases his debut solo country album The House Rules today, and is in the midst of a long tour that will go all the way till the spring, when Kane returns to Portland to film the fourth season of Leverage. (His co-star Timothy Hutton directed the music video for the first single, the album’s title track.) The show ends its third year in explosive fashion with a two-part season finale starting Sunday night. Before heading out on the road with his band, Kane checked in from his Nashville home while pondering a second single — “I have an idea of what it could be, but there’s many a slip between a cup and a lip,” he quips — to talk about the album, being an action star and his own house rule. Read below for the interview, and check out a clip from Sunday’s episode of Leverage featuring the rough-and-tumble Eliot undercover as a mall Santa Claus.
Was there anything that happened to get you fired up to do this album amid your busy acting career?
Not really. A lot of people don’t know I got my first acting job because I was a country singer. With Fame L.A., you had to sing, dance or act, or whatever your talent was, and I just happened to be a singer. That’s one of the reasons I got the role. It’s so much fun right now because we’ve been doing music for over 10 years, I’ve lived in Nashville for six years, and finally we’re reaping the benefits of that. I never really stopped trying to do country music — I was just always acting. At one point, I just said, “OK, look, if I’m going to do this, I need to do it. I’m not getting any younger.” So I moved to Nashville and I really wasn’t going to take another job on the acting side until I really gave this a shot. Then [Leverage creator] John Rogers called me in Nashville and said, “What are you doing, buddy? I’ve got a great little role for you.” Of course, I jumped at it because the role on Leverage is the role I moved to Hollywood to play, the role every little kid in the world would love to have. If somebody says, “Hey, one day you’re gonna get to play Mr. T,” you jump at it. [Laughs]
How long had you been cooking up some of these songs with your co-writers?
Some of them are as new as a year, some of them have been around for five or six years. Oh man, I’ve been writing in this town for almost 10 years, going back and forth flying out here. That’s why I love the album so much: It’s literally 10 years of my life packed into a CD.
As a songwriter, are you better with lyrics than music, or vice versa?
I think I’m more of a lyricist than I am a musician to be honest with you. When I write songs, I tend to write very visually, and it’s probably my acting background. But when I write a song, I see the music video in my head while I’m writing it and as the song takes place. If I can’t see a video from A to B, then it’s probably not the song for me. I don’t know why that is. Some people see music notes in the air, some people hear the music and just flow with that. I really honestly see the song and the story visually. That’s the great thing about country music: To have a successful song most of the time, you have to write a little three-and-a-half-minute movie. You can’t stray too far outside the box. You really have to keep it together and tell a story.
So if you look at your album as 11 stories, what theme do you find runs through them?
I take it the opposite way. I wanted an eclectic album. I like to call this album Baskin-Robbins — it’s got 31 flavors. Whatever emotion you’re feeling at that time, you can find a song in there for you. If you went through a bad relationship or breakup, a lot of people will listen to songs that hurt even more. I know I do. I don’t know what it is about human nature — that’s what you do. There’s one for that. If you want to laugh, if you want to cry, if you want to drink, if you want to be happy, there’s a song in there for you. That was really important for me. I didn’t really want to have a theme, because I just love albums. A couple of my favorite albums, like August and Everything After by Counting Crows, it wasn’t the same song over and over again. It was different emotions on a record, and that to me is a successful record. That’s what we really shot for.
Your version of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car is probably the only cover of it I’ve heard that surpasses the original. You really seem to connect with it.
I do. I sung that song for a couple of people when I got my first job. I could have sang a Garth Brooks song or a George Strait song, but I ended up singing Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. I don’t know why I did it — I think it was because it was in my car. So I owe a lot to her. I didn’t want to steer away from what she did and I didn’t want to add guitars or anything. We didn’t go off the road there and try something new: “Hey, here’s a little souped-up version!” I just kept it really and truly honest to what Tracy had done. It was already a great song, and I really hate it when people take a good song and change it. The funny thing about that was they did the music and stuff in Nashville and I was filming Leverage in Portland, so I just went into a studio by myself. It was literally just me and an engineer on the other side of the wall somewhere. I just went in there, took the lights down and sang it down about four or five times by myself, man. It was pretty cool.
How grand are your musical aspirations? Do you still dream of headlining arenas one day or are your expectations tempered because you have this other job?
Sure, we want to headline arenas. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it. This is not a hobby for me, and I think I’ve proven that to people. I was with Columbia Records for a while and things didn’t work out there. I didn’t put my tail between my legs and drive back to L.A., which is what most people thought I was going to do. I’ve turned down a couple of movies and a couple of roles pursuing music. I turned around and drove back to Nashville and said, “Hey, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not giving up. You’re sure as hell not going to run me out of town.” We want to be as big as we can be. Saying that, it doesn’t necessarily mean I need to be Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith. What we’re looking for in this business right now, and the same thing in acting, is just longevity. That’s the best thing you can have. Look, I drove to L.A. to be Brad Pitt and I drove to Nashville to be Keith Urban, but at this point, I’ve grown up and I realize who I really want to be. I really want to be Gene Hackman and George Strait, the guy you call in when you need to get [stuff] done.
When you listen to country music as a fan, do your tastes veer older?
I love what Zac Brown’s doing. I’m a big fan of Jason Aldean. But I do lend my ear toward the older country. Instead of the more traditional country, I like to throw in a little bit of the Highwaymen, a little Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and those guys. I listen to all kinds of music, not just country music. I really find it hard if you call yourself a songwriter and don’t listen to other genres of music because there’s so much more stuff out there. I’m very eclectic. I mean, my favorite band is Alice in Chains. I like to rock with my country a little bit. You have to be very careful because you have to love what you put out there. It could be the song that defines you for the rest of your life and then you end up singing it for the rest of your life if you’re serious about music. That could be the one you’re known forever. In saying that, I gotta make sure in some of my songs I sprinkle a little rock ‘n’ roll in there because we love having fun. Garth Brooks said it best, and I don’t know this verbatim, but he said, “No matter what ticket you had, no matter where you were sitting, if you were front row or if you were backstage, I’m still the one that had the most fun.” It’s gotta be that way. I heard that a long time ago and it affected me when I was younger, and I’ve kept that with me in my back pocket. We play to that rule.
What can you say about the two-part Leverage season finale?
It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. Twice the amount of fight scenes I’ve ever done. I’ll usually get four to six hours to fight, and this one I got two 15-hour days in a warehouse. It is the biggest fight I’ve ever done, TV or film, and it is the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done in my life.
Did you put your whole body on ice afterward?
Trust me, I did, man. [Laughs] And when you see it, you’ll realize why.
What else can fans expect, other than the big fight?
The same thing we’re known for for season finales: We don’t always win. This one’s out of left field. One of the great things that fans have come to look forward to is that we usually pretty much know that we kinda know what’s going on, but in the season finales, we’re very famous for not doing that. This one doesn’t let you down at all.
Is the physical aspect of the role your favorite part?
Yeah. I’m so fortunate the producers let me do my own stunts and choreograph fights. I don’t have a stunt double, and you just don’t find that in television. Most people would never ever let one of their lead actors do their own stunts or do as much stuff as I do. I really look forward to that and take pride in that. The fun aspect about it is there’s a little bit of comedy involved with our drama, and that keeps everything light. I think that’s why we’re such a successful show. I don’t know if this show is supposed to be as comedy-driven as it is. It was a pretty serious pilot, and we had so much fun with it that we found our show.
Because the producers let you do all the fighting, do you worry in the back of your mind about breaking a hand or getting a fist to the mouth or throat that may affect the ol’ music career?
[Laughs] I would be lying if I said I didn’t, but the fact is, if you think that way, that’s usually when you get hurt. You have to shoot from the hip. It’s the same thing as if you know you’re going to get in a car accident and you tense up, you’re gonna get really hurt. Most of the time if you’re sleeping in the back seat, everything’s fine because your body’s relaxed. I’m a big believer of what you put out into the universe. If I prepare for that, then I’m setting myself up for failure. I just go 110%, man, and if I break my hand, then I’ll just sing and somebody else will have to play guitar that night. [Laughs] I can’t worry about that too much or I won’t be any good for anybody.
by Brian Truitt
On Sunday, March 21st, Christian Kane and his band will return to Dante's in Portland, Oregon. This concert will be a celebration of Christian and his friends' return to Portland to film a 3rd season of LEVERAGE. Christian will be joined by special guests who include Steve Carlson & Jason Southard, as well as Ryan Baker and Portland's own Will Amend. This is the first in a series of monthly concerts that'll have you dancing and singing and getting down. Tickets are on sale on Friday, January 29 at www.danteslive.com. We hope to see you there!
We hope you are enjoying listening to the free download of THE HOUSE RULES. Please pass the news along to your friends and help us share the music. For those of you in the Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas area, we have a treat for you. Don't sleep in too late on Monday, JAN. 18th. Christian Kane will be appearing on GOOD MORNING TEXAS at 8:20am on WFAA-TV, channel 8. He'll be talking about Season 2.5 of Leverage and about the new music that he'll be sharing with you right here on ChristianKane.com. (If you want to check out Christian's old appearances on GMT, you can do that here: http://www.wfaa.com/archive/64751532.html and http://www.wfaa.com/archive/70036752.html.)