By John Benson
Actor Kevin Costner is just a regular guy.
Sure, he’s an Academy Award-winning actor (“Dances with Wolves”) seen recently in the Cleveland Browns-centric feature film “Draft Day,” but at the end of the day he has to-do lists and hobbies.
For example, during a recent call to his Santa Barbara, Calif., home, Costner took time away from jack hammering (he’s building his kids a basketball court) to discuss his extracurricular passion as a singer, guitarist and songwriter in Americana band Kevin Costner and Modern West.
It turns out the impetus for this side project of sorts began when Costner the actor was looking for a way to not only express himself musically but also provide movie fans with something special.
“When I come into a community, there’s always like a Kevin watch — ‘Did you see him?’” Costner said. “I always thought, ‘Why don’t I play in the community once or twice? And we can just take away the mystery of who I am.’”
Such was the case last year when Costner was in Northeast Ohio filming “Draft Day.” Not only did he play a Cleveland-area show, but also a special gig at Kent State that obviously meant something more to the actor who, in many of his Hollywood films, plays the quintessential baby boomer.
“Playing Kent State was very cool for me because, obviously, Kent State has a place in all of our collective memories, and it does for me,” Costner said. “I was 14 years old when that tragedy went down, and so when we played there, it had a level of meaning to me.”
Costner said he’s looking forward to returning to the area with a Tuesday show at Packard Music Hall in Warren.
In talking to Costner, there’s a certain earnestness to his demeanor that is obvious. In fact, it was that lack of hubris that led him to begin working with musician John Coinman more than two decades ago. They even formed the band Roving Boy, which was a rock act with an edgy Western style that had No. 1 song “Simple Truth” in Japan.
Then roughly a decade ago, Costner upped the ante and formed Kevin Costner and Modern West. The band has released four studio albums to date, its last being 2012’s “Famous for Killing Each Other: Music From and Inspired by Hatfields & McCoys.” Costner double-dipped by not only acting in the History Channel series but also providing music to the project.
Now the 59-year-old actor-musician said the band has some new music in the set, including the up-tempo “Alive in the City.”
“I don’t know when we’re going to do an album,” Costner said. “This band never has a master plan. I have to decide on what we play, what I like and what seems to fit. So I think we will record this, but there’s nobody pushing us. We’re not a radio-driven band. We don’t play out as much as we could. This band could probably play 100 to 200 days a year the way we get asked, but as it is, we play 30 to 40 times a year.”
Considering the group’s cult following, it might appear as if Costner had nothing to lose starting up a band. He’ll be the first to point out the opposite is true; the reason why it has worked is because the band has remained true to itself and the music.
“I had a lot to lose, but I’m really happy with the way things turned out,” Costner said. “Listen, when you step out to do this, you have your neck stuck out pretty far. There are a lot of people very willing to chop it off and watch your head roll into the street. That hasn’t happened with this band because I think the band hasn’t tried to do anything but make original music.”