Miniseries inspires band's bluegrass album
Culminating in his first Emmy win for actor in a miniseries or movie, Kevin Costner has mounted an impressive comeback year on the back of his lead role in History’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” leading to such upcoming roles as Superman’s father in “The Man of Steel.” Now, he’s hoping that the series’ momentum will translate to his musical pursuits as well, with the series forming the backbone for his newest work with country-rock band Kevin Costner and the Modern West.
Currently in London shooting a supporting role in Paramount’s “Jack Ryan,” Costner spoke by phone of the band’s new record, “Famous for Killing Each Other.” Featuring music from the miniseries with further “inspired by” compositions, eight written by Costner, the album reached No. 6 on the soundtrack chart and broke into the top 20 of both the country and indie album charts — all career highs for the band.
According to Costner, the experience of shooting the series inspired him to embrace the period folk, bluegrass and mountain music strains for the project. “The band and I thought it would be a challenge to set aside our pop sound temporarily,” Costner said. “We also suspected having the title ‘Famous for Killing Each Other’ might be a turnoff” in another context.
Though the music was designed to be of a piece with that of the film, none of it was featured in the series, which was just fine by the star. “That’s a difficult decision for any director, but Kevin Reynolds made the right one in my opinion. Like a lot of viewers, we basically discovered and fell in love with the music from watching the series. Maybe as co-producer I could have forced the issue and got us on the soundtrack, but I didn’t press it. I mean, I don’t have that big an ego…
“Truthfully, at the time I didn’t think (the sound of the period) could come out of us. I didn’t know the world existed the way we portrayed it onscreen, but from writing (single) ‘I Know These Hills,’ which was based on mood, I became confident I could lead the band to make this music. Then when I presented the tune to the band, I saw everyone started coloring their part at the same time.”
Costner, who plays lead guitar and sings lead vocals on the record, also invited his family into the project: Daughter Lily co-wrote and recorded the song “Oh Molley-Mae.” “I didn’t know she could write music,” he said, “but like me she just got inspired by watching the series.”
Prior to forming his band in 2007, Costner’s main musical claim to fame was co-starring with Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard,” which forged a relationship offscreen that inspired him to deliver a memorable eulogy at her funeral earlier this year.
“Motown was the strongest musical influence in her life outside of gospel,” Costner recalled. “I did tease her because she had to sing Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ in the film, which caused Whitney much anxiety because she considered it a country song, which she had never sung before.
“We joked that if there was a sequel to ‘The Bodyguard,’ which is the one film of mine that actually warranted one, we’d have to do a duet at some point.”
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