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Jeff Bridges releases his first album

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Jeff Bridges indulges his muse
  • Actor Jeff Bridges says he has been into music since he was a kid
  • His musical career took off after he won an Oscar for playing a country singer in "Crazy Heart"
  • His self-titled album is a mix of country, rock and folk

Los Angeles (CNN) -- When movie stars pursue side careers in music, you sometimes can't shake the feeling that they're "acting" -- overemoting at every opportunity and hitting choreographed poses that you know they've practiced in front of the mirror with a hairbrush.

Jeff Bridges does none of that.

He just stands there, strums his guitar and sings. No drama, no rock star hijinks. In fact, his name isn't even on the marquee of the Troubadour in West Hollywood, where he's playing a show. That's by design.

The only clue that an Oscar winner is headlining a concert at the famed Sunset Strip venue is the guest list, which includes Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde, Jackson Browne, brother Beau Bridges and Andy Garcia -- who just happens to be Jeff's neighbor. Earlier in the day, Quincy Jones sent an e-mail, saying he'd he honored if he could introduce Bridges before he took the stage.

Calls have been pouring in since the second-generation thespian won the Academy Award for his starring role in the 2009 movie, "Crazy Heart." His believable portrayal of a down-on-his-luck country singer named "Bad Blake" made many in the music industry take notice. The dude had chops.

" 'Crazy Heart' really kicked this new surge of music for me off. But it would go back all the way to my childhood," Bridges recalls before sound checking with his band at the Troubadour.

At 61, he's just released his first major label album. It's a self-titled project for Blue Note Records, home of such distinguished artists as Norah Jones and Amos Lee.

Bridges' longtime friend and "Crazy Heart" collaborator, T Bone Burnett, produced the disc, with a little songwriting help from some other "Crazy Heart" alums -- including Ryan Bingham, the late Stephen Bruton and John Goodwin, who's been pals with Bridges since the fourth grade. Bridges penned two tunes and co-wrote another pair. It's a solid Americana album -- a mix of country, rock and folk. In other words, it doesn't stray too far from "Bad Blake" territory.

CNN: Did you talk about making an album when shooting for "Crazy Heart" wrapped?

Jeff Bridges: Not really. The idea of making records has always been in my mind, but not with T Bone. When the time was right, I figured. I had a pile of songs that wanted to be realized, and the first go-to guy was my bud, T Bone. And he said, "Sure, come on!" And we went into it.

CNN: You've been playing music since you were a kid.

Bridges: My mother gave us all piano lessons. You know, hired a teacher to teach us, and I bitched sufficiently about practicing for her to say, "OK, you can stop -- but you're gonna be sorry!" And, you know, she was right.

I wish I had listened to her on a lot of things. But there was always music in our family. Not too many people know that my father, Lloyd Bridges, ... he replaced Richard Kiley on Broadway, so there was always music around. And my brother, Beau -- he's 8 years older than I am -- he's listening to the first rockers, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and all those guys. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

CNN: Why didn't you go into music earlier, instead of movies?

Bridges: Well, my dad and my mom were so gung-ho about this acting thing. My father, he had this great series back in the '60s called "Sea Hunt." I was carried on at 6 months old. I didn't have much of a choice! I started to really enjoy acting, but also really loved playing music. Like most kids, you don't want to do what your parents want you to do. You've got your own ideas about what you want to do. But then I kind of took the path of least resistance when the movie thing started to take off, and I figured maybe I can keep the music thing on the back burner.

CNN: But sometimes the two worlds collide.

Bridges: Every once in a while in a movie, you'll be asked to play some music. I had a great time with my brother, Beau, on "The Fabulous Baker Boys." We got to play music and hang out together (they played siblings who had a cocktail lounge piano act).

CNN: Back then, were people suggesting you put an album out?

Bridges: I was probably asking myself.

CNN: How are you juggling making movies and making music these days?

Bridges: This last year, I've decided to not make any movies and just concentrate on my music. The musicians on this album that T Bone assembled -- just stellar, man. Just incredible. These guys are top tier. But I want to play music, and I wouldn't be able to take them on the road and do little local gigs, so I've assembled a little local band in Santa Barbara (where he lives). We're calling ourselves The Abiders.

CNN: Is performing for the camera similar to performing on stage?

Bridges: It's the same feeling. Kind of that alive feeling. Got some caterpillars in there, got some cocoons going, some butterflies. Maybe even a moth or two.

CNN: This is your first major label record. You're 61. What took you so long?

Bridges: Am I that old?! Jeez, I am!