by Gary Graff | Photography by Brian Kelly
The following is an except from the cover story, "State of Play," in the March/April 2011 issue of Guitar Aficionado. Pick up your copy on newsstands today, or subscribe here.
Six years ago, Jeff Daniels opened his debut album by boldly declaring, “If William Shatner can, I can too.” Just what it is that Daniels can do—in addition to his work as a celebrated stage and screen actor—is play music. He just hopes he does it more convincingly than Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, whose widely lampooned 1968 album, The Transformed Man, set a mark of diminished expectations for all other actors engaged in the craft.
“I’m battling the Shatner thing, sure,” the 55-year-old Daniels says. He’s sitting on the wooden back porch of his lakeside home in south central Michigan, not far from his Purple Rose Theatre, in Chelsea. “I’ve got to battle the fact that I’m known as an actor, not a musician. Our pioneers have been people like Shatner, and Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who made an album. Burt Reynolds made an album. I get it. I understand.”
But, Daniels continues, “I’ve found out that listeners don’t want me to demand they take me seriously as a musician or an artist or a rock and roll star. They’re not going to let me do that. But if I quietly lure them in with some behind-the-scenes acting stories—the whole ‘Here’s what it’s like’ thing—and drop the guitar playing on them, and then the songwriting…by the end of it they’re on their feet, or buying CDs. Or at least going, ‘No, he’s not William Shatner. He’s okay.’ ”....