TORONTO — When Kiefer Sutherland starts touring Canada for his country-rock album “Reckless & Me” this week, audiences will see a vulnerable side that he admits took some getting used to sharing.
The Toronto-raised “24” and “Designated Survivor” star says the highlight for him on the tour, which hits Winnipeg on Thursday after performances in Europe and the U.S., has been connecting with fans in intimate venues by explaining what he was going through when writing his songs.
But it also had the Golden Globe winner feeling exposed in a way he didn’t anticipate in the beginning, he said, noting he’d previously been able to hide behind his onscreen characters.
“I made the terrible miscalculation that if I had 35 years of experience onstage and in front of the camera, that that would somehow help me in live performance musically,” Sutherland, 52, said in a phone interview from a tour stop in Pittsburgh.
“The terrible miscalculation is that the songs are very personal and I’m saying things that I normally would never, ever have said in an interview, let alone to 500 strangers in a bar…. It took 20 shows to get to a place where I felt really comfortable about doing that.”
Among the personal songs is the title track, which reflects on both himself and his days as a team roper on the rodeo circuit in the 1990s.
“It was really a wonderful time in my life, and one of the things that I really enjoyed was packing up from one rodeo, loading up your horses in the tack and just driving through the night to the next one, and all the excitement of what that next town might bring,” Sutherland recalled.
“So I started writing a song about that, and this horse that I had, Reckless. And before I knew it, I couldn’t figure out if I was writing about the horse or if I was writing about this part of my own personality that I’ve had to try to keep in check and can be a bit reckless. So while I’m telling that story in the show, I say to the audience, ‘It’s up to you to decide.”’
The 10-song “Reckless & Me” is the followup to Sutherland’s 2016 debut album, “Down In A Hole.”
His signature raspy vocals and guitar playing are backed by four other band members on tour: guitar player Austin Vallejo, bass player Joseph De La O, drummer Jess Calcaterra, and multi-instrumentalist Phil Parlapiano.
Tour stops have included Riga, Moscow and Helsinki, where Sutherland opened for Muse for stadium audiences — a much bigger showcase than his usual crowd of about 500 to 1,000.
The Canadian tour will also hit Saskatoon (July 6), Edmonton (July 7), Calgary (July 8), Kelowna, B.C. (July 9), Vancouver (July 10), Ottawa (August 23) and Montreal (August 24).
The son of actors Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland said he didn’t catch the musical bug from his family but rather the violin lessons his mother made him take when he was young.
He’s “acutely aware of the stigma of an actor doing music” but has found audiences drop their preconceived notions when they come to his shows.
“I think I’ve finally got to a point in my life where, A: I’ve felt my songs had something to say, and B: if someone is going to make fun of me for it, if I can’t take that at this point, then that’s on me,” said Sutherland, whose films include “Stand by Me,” “The Lost Boys” and “Flatliners.”
“And yet the reality of what has happened is very different than that. I felt like that when we started, and I think that maybe is a little more cynical than it needed to be. The audiences that we’ve had have been extraordinary and incredibly generous, not only with their time but their energy.”
Sutherland said he’s approaching his music career “one show at a time” with “no agenda” and no plans “to sell a billion records” or play stadiums.
He also has no plans to give up acting, he said, noting he juggles both his career onscreen and onstage simultaneously. He even toured with his band during his days off from shooting “Designated Survivor” in Toronto.
“I’m an actor to the death, it’s the thing that I really love,” Sutherland said. “This is another way to tell the story and on a more personal level, and I love playing with this band, so that’s why we keep doing it.
“But I haven’t had a day off in quite some time. Most of the days off from ‘Designated Survivor’ were used either making the second record or touring with it and that’s a choice I’ve made. I would much rather be doing this than anything else. So I have no intention of not working as an actor. If I’m allowed, I’ll do that until the day I die.”