Executive Director Tiffany Davis said: “We are thrilled to have such a renowned entertainer as Kevin Costner not only perform, but spend time with our attendees in an intimate setting. It was a rare, but very special gift to our members, and a top highlight of our 40th anniversary.”
SA: Kevin, thank you for taking time today to visit with us and share your music, and your insight. Last night, you played the Opry and with it being such a landmark and cherished venue for so many, I am wondering how you sum up the experience?
KC: Thank you, I obviously seen some wonderful nights in my life and that has to rank right up there with the things that have happened in this thing that you call your own personal journey. Those were the only two shows that I actually had butterflies all day for; the Opry, I’m kind of uneasy the whole day.
SA: (Speaking out to the audience) I don’t know if you know that or I don’t know if you guys have had the opportunity to get the Grand Ole Opry house; but they refurbished and renovated the whole thing after the May floods and it’s just AMAZING. Each dressing room has its own theme and of course, loving this man next to me, I immediately went into the “Friends and Neighbors” dressing room and that the title on the door and there are pictures that grace the wall of the artists that have played there, the artists that have visited and people that have visited and friends of the Opry. And there is a perfect picture of Kevin standing there in the six foot circle of the original Ryman wood and the WSM microphone and I thought, “Wow, I can’t wait for him to see it”. I’m assuming you did?
KC: I didn’t get to but I’m going back, although I don’t recall that woman coming out and asking me back. That’s fine! (Laughter)
SA: Performing on the Opry you told about the song “Angels Came Down” and I know John inspired you to write that and asked you to play at the original Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, to bring that full circle and to perform those words back on that stage must be emotional on so many levels.
KC: It’s important. Everybody’s trying to write a hit. Everybody’s trying to write a “catchy” tune and the thing I’m most proud of with this band is that the music has driven us. I don’t know that we’re a record band, maybe will be, but my whole desire was to play live. And wherever I was making movies at in the world, I was playing music again. So our desire was to play live and I guess we are just singing to the choir here, because that’s what we do. How I have this connection with people the last 20 years is a mystery to me, but a lot of people have gotten their first kiss at a movie they saw that maybe I was in, so it’s been great for me to connect with audiences all over the world that have actually seen movies and the curiosity goes away after about the first minute of the song and then we get to what an event wants to be all about, us playing music, original music, for them.
SA: We’re going to be opening up for questions, but for those who may not know your background, your passion for music started with, really along with your passion for film. It was just the film and the acting kind of took off first, but really if people look back at I think maybe the “Postman” in 1997we heard you sing a duet I think maybe of “Rain”, so it’s always intertwined.
KC: I think music has always been in our household, probably very similar to your own. I grew up in a Baptist church and I my grandma was always head of the choir, and my mom and her sister sang and I was made to play classic piano. Music was always something that was a part of me as was performing. And then the movies started to work really well for me and I got a bad critic on this one time for playing music from one particular person, so I just thought, “I don’t need this headache” so I dropped it. It was my wife 8 years ago saying “I don’t think you should let these people scare you away from what you love, you know you enjoy the movies, but you enjoy music more.” She goes, “Those people who think they know you have a better chance of knowing what your personality is when they see you onstage playing music than when they see you on Jay Leno giving interviews.”
SA: The tagline on your latest album is called “Turn it On” and I interviewed you for “Untold Truths” for that first CD and it really played into the man I got to know through a lot of your movies and westerns that you have and it so reminded me in “Untold Truths” of this expanse of freedom and of loving and traveling. But with the new album, it really speaks to you on, you know, “get it on”. (Grinning) It’s sexy! But when you look deeper into that, yes, the title cut is about relationship, but it also speaks to maybe metaphorically of you “jumping in” and doing it without fear. Of taking the stage and pursuing your love of music blindly without fear.
KC: I think there are a lot of things that hold us back in life. You know, for as much as my parents loved me, when I announced that I was going to go into acting it, the reaction was “Oh no! No, how are you going to do that?” And then my dad’s concern was, they didn’t want me to be embarrassed, they didn’t want me to be humiliated. I think we all have that in common for our children in that we want them to succeed MORE than ourselves and in our lives, especially as men, I can’t speak for women, but as a man there is an overwhelming feeling that your son has found his way. That he is somehow happy. So when I told my dad I was going to play music and do movies, he was like “Oh my god.” And then I realized that I was going to Direct, he was like “Oh my god.” He said, “the acting is going so good…” (Giggles) So, the people that love you have a tendency to maybe hold you back, not on purpose but because they love you so much. If I have learned anything, it was not telling my dad about going into music. But we do, we are scalded in our lives, were all connected. You all have the right to reverse the direction and take that fork in the road. I hope if it’s something speaking out loud to you, that you do that. For a lot of things, it’s for a lot, not just one thing, I’m really happy that the people that love me said “go back and do music”. I am glad to have done it. I had no idea that it would lead to a stage like this tonight.
SA: You mentioned that your wife, Christine, and by the way, Kevin and Christine just had a baby girl! Little, Grace, how old now?
KC: Yea, now I have three in diapers so if you want to feel really bad for me then you can start right now. (Laughs) and my wife has never seen anything like boys. She desperately wanted a girl, but she looked at the boys and they were jumping from everything and breaking almost everything and just can’t quite believe the DNA of a boy. But we’ve got a lot of pink going on in the house right now so that’s good.
SA: You mentioned this and Christine probably said “Honey, go do that”, but when are you going to get home though? (laughing)
We are going to open up the questions for the audience now, so if you have a question please come forward to the microphone.
Q: Thank you, this is a life or death question for Kevin. Suzanne, my name is Daniel Rice, I’m a member of IEBA and my wife happens to have watched “Message in a Bottle” over 50 times!
SA: Do we love Garret or what?
Q: She’s such a fanatic over this and she said, “Please let me come today!” and I said, “No way, there’s no way you’re going to get within the length of a football field of that guy!” and she’s home right now and she said, “ Well, will you at least give this message to him?” So this is the message with really a question to you, Kevin. She is undoubtedly your #1 fan and if you don’t read that and hopefully respond positively to it, I am dead! (Laughter) [hands Kevin the note]
KC: I have your life in my hands…
Q: I told her that there was no way I was going to be near you at all ,so I thank you for taking this question…her question is “Do you plan to do a part II of “Message in a Bottle”?”
KC: Number one, I’m not going to let you down, buddy. Number two, I don’t think that you should have to watch another 50 episodes of me!
Q: Well, let me tell you, I didn’t say WE watched it. (Laughter and clapping)
KC: Good point! I was going to remind you that I die in that movie, so I don’t think that will happen unless we go back to the early years or something.
SA: Going back to your live performance, and I’ve had the opportunity to witness Kevin live onstage at several opportunities, I see that one of the refreshing things with you is that “kid in a candy store” and that is no where else you would rather be and that includes your band members. You guys seem like you are having a blast. Do you feel like that? Do you feel WOW! This is cool.
KC: Yea, it’s given me a chance to have a real, what I call “authentic” relationship with the music, because a lot of times there’s too much distance with the big screen that goes up between us. I spend life being observed and the truth is that I like being a part of the party and music has given me a chance to be in a room and have an experience and a real authentic one. And I do love that. I think whenever you are with people, there is an opportunity for great things to happen.
I tell you what, I’ll tell you a little story. And maybe I’m going to eat up the time here, but just to let you understand that fame is an interesting thing. You know when we had the first song out, there was a call to go out to and sing one of those songs. I remember I was with 50 or 60 of my colleagues and we were in a soundstage all day and now the end of the night came and I felt like I had met everybody coming in and met the families and those that were in the war and I’d met everybody going out. And I was tired and I think you can all relate to being tired. And I walked out of the soundstage and I started heading towards my car. And I heard a voice, “Kevin” and I selfishly realized that I was at a kind of distance that I could ignore it. Actually I was far enough away, that it was a reasonable thought that I maybe could just not have heard. And I heard it again, “Kevin”. And I just felt that I had met everyone, and I was done, and I was really, really done but I heard, “Kevin”. I could tell that the voice stopped at that point and had accepted that maybe the distance was too great, but I knew at that moment that it wasn’t and I stopped. And I turned around, and I said, “Yes?” And it was a woman and she said, “Can I talk to you for a second?” I said, “Of course.” So we closed the distance and she came to me and said, “I need to thank you.” And I said, “Why?” and she said, “Well, my husband is missing in action, I think he’s a prisoner of war.” Right away I was glad I had stopped. She said, “In your movie “Dances with Wolves” I remember when you were captured too. And you were in chains and your friends came to save you in that movie, and they did. And they brought you home, and there was a woman “Stands with a Fist” and I’ll never forget how you got off your horse and how she ran up the hill and you began hugging and kissing and falling into the snow and never stopped kissing.” She goes, “I want that for myself. And when I see that for him and when I watch that movie, I think of him. And I think, will we ever have that moment? “ So I was, as you can imagine, I was really glad that I had stopped and heard that particular story. I went home and got the negative of that movie and I cut out those three frames of that image and sent it to her. I’ve had so much and I do love performing and out of that, sometimes, these stories come.
SA: It’s interesting for my own sake, looking at your career, how hard it is for you to make this music, recording it, going out and touring, here in the states, over in Europe. Recently you flew halfway across the world to play in Kazakhstan. Is it what you thought it would be, because you have been so concentrated these last few years that you’ve been doing these interviews. Is it what you thought this would be?
KC: Well, it’s been greater than I’d thought. You know, when I finally had to go back and make the fundamental decision of, do I go back into music? My wife helped me, she heard three years of earlier music and said, “Why don’t you do this? I’m so happy when I listen to your music, I think other people will be too. “ I thought, no. Because I would remember that one critical notice and so for three years I was like a child that wouldn’t take out the garbage or wouldn’t cut the lawn. And she kept saying, “I think you should do this music.” And I’d say no. She asked me, “Why?” and I said, “Oh it was a thousand reasons.” Finally, she knew I was a little bit afraid and she knew me as a not being a person that was afraid. So she said, “Kevin, let me ask you a question. Are you happy when you play music?”
I said, “Yeah.” She said, “Do you think the people that are in front of you are happy when you are playing music?” “Not the people that are writing, the people that are there in front of you?” and I said, “Yeah, I think they are happy.” And she looked at me and she said, “Well, what can be wrong with that?” a huge burden came off my shoulders and I said, “Yeah, I’m going to start playing again.” And that was five years ago.
SA: How have you changed in these last few years? How have you changed as an artist, as a performer? Singer? Songwriter? Have you noticed a bit of a difference in where you were?
KC: Well, I’m a part of a band that really challenges each other and I feel like my life is a journey. As you must feel your life is.
SA: Opening up to questions from the audience again …question up here in the front.
Q2: Hi, Kevin, I’m Gary Good from Gary Good Entertainment out of Oklahoma City. I’d like to know what your music influences were and then the second part of the question, what’s the difference when you jump on stage as a musician and jumping on stage as an actor? KC: The influences, it’s funny, I was born in Compton, California and so I grew up with Motown, but my family is from Guymon, Oklahoma. My family, my grandfather lost everything in the dust bowl. And so the stories of my own life are so rooted in America and that particular experience. I grew up with Motown and I still make cowboy movies. So the middle of the country is my heritage. My family came from Germany in the 1600s to the Carolinas and married some Cherokee women and went on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. The influences were where I was born, but I think what is in my soul is the history of our country.
And the difference between making movies is that making movies is very dry and you have to find the energy. I was a little tired this morning, you were probably a little tired, but can you imagine being on stage and hearing the drums? You just can’t stop but get caught up in the wave and the fact that you clap for me, you didn’t have to do that. But you made me feel very welcome. And I’ll admit that I needed that. That made me feel welcome, so it’s kind of amazing what we do for each other. People never realize that that smile is a kind of thank you that you give somebody. We have such an opportunity to affect the person’s life in a positive way, what we actually have is just a way to thank them. It just depends on what we decide to give. So for my band, for that little clap, if you think this is all old hat stuff for me, it’s not!
SA: Your music seems to have an arm. It’s very all-inclusive in subject matter, I know speaking for all these women here in the audience, that there is a sexiness that exudes, that is so natural for you on film, it comes through in music and especially in this new album “Turn it On”. The song that stands out called “Maria Ne” and I wonder for you, as a kind of artist, is there songs that you seem to gravitate towards when you are looking to record or looking to perform on stage?
KC: I’m not the best writer in our band, In fact if the other guys weren’t there, the songs wouldn’t be as good as they are. I try really hard, but one of the things I do, is that I decide what we play and I insist that the cream get to the top. It doesn’t matter if it’s my song or it doesn’t matter if somebody’s written two songs in a row, the cream will go to the top. We will write about our childhood and I think Mark Twain said it right, he said, “If you’ve lived your life correctly, you will never forget your childhood.” And then obviously the majority of our songs are about men and women and that juxtaposition, that thing why we can’t get along, and why we ultimately have to be together. So you know, we do bounce around quite a bit and if something strikes us, you’ll see we’ll write an historical song.
SA: I think we have time for one more question from the audience.
Q3: Kevin, I’m Old Mother Hubbard from Las Cruces, New Mexico at New Mexico State University and we’d like to invite you to come to campus. I just wondered if you wouldn’t mind sitting down with some of my students and doing a workshop when you come.
KC: Well, she kind of cornered me when she pulled that Old Mother Hubbard thing (laughter)…I know, women know how to corner men. You know, they’re smarter…you guys are smarter and you don’t fight fair.
Q3: But we love!
KC: Yeah. (smiles coyly) I plan on making quite a few movies in New Mexico, so I’m going to be in the neighborhood. If Old Mother Hubbard will bring me a few cookies and some COLD milk, I do like talking to students because students are hungry. They’re hungry for the truth and you know what? They’re not any different than us. I mean sometimes people look at us, at our age and people think we’ve got it figured out and we don’t. And the best thing that you can do when you are talking to students, or talking to a group of people is open yourself up so that there can be an actual exchange. I hope that something happened here between you and I. That last song that we sang was “something that happened to me, has it happened to you? To my own heart I’ve tried to be true. Hey man, what about you?” I think we, in that name of music, we should drop what we feel and let the beat carry us along and understand that we can be a part of the party. Our lives so quickly go back to what we have to do, you know? There are these moments where we get to kind of enjoy and when you do, take the whole moment. Anyway, if I’m close, I do enjoy talking to college students, cause I was a mixed up one. And it’s important to let them know that.
Q3: I will change the diapers when you come down.
KC: You know what, I don’t mind changing the diapers. It was always kind of a joke they tell on television or something like that, “you change diapers? Really?” Like it’s a big deal. “You know why I change diapers? It’s really simple, because the connection you have with your child, what you are saying to your child at that moment is; I’m willing to take care of you at your worst. A bond forms when you are willing to take care of a child, when they are the most uncomfortable and they need you the most. So people can make a joke about it, but I think those bonds come from that moment when you change just the way they feel.
SA: I think in summary, maybe looking to the future , we’ve got two albums from you. “Looking To The Truths” and “Turn it On”. What are the plans and the balancing for your film work and your music career?
KC: I never fail to feel how graceful an interviewer you are, how you wind things. I’m not trying to put you front and center. No, but you really are. I’ve interviewed with a lot of people and to somehow wind it back to home is an art form. So thank you. And as I try to answer that question, what are the plans?
I want you to know that there has been no master plan for my life. I haven’t tried to make a calculated life. I have tried to go to the things that I love to do. And I do love making movies and I do plan on making some more, directing more. I plan on making more cowboy movies and I plan on singing more. But at this moment, my life to me is a bit of a mystery. I’ve gotten on this globe and I don’t know how my life is going to play out. But I know wherever I go, I will be giving my maximum effort to those people I find myself in front of. Whether it’s just a simple conversation or a woman who wants to have that conversation that I’m not sure I want to have and turn around and make that moment mean more to her. I think when you show up in life, there is always an opportunity for something great to happen. [looking to the audience]Thank you for helping me, because you have helped me. You’ve helped our group when we’ve felt like outsiders, you made us feel welcome. Thank you and I know you are all probably going home to your families tomorrow, but thank you for choosing to be here and watching “Modern West”.
SA: The incomparable Kevin Costner, everyone! (Clapping)
Edited by Bev Moser
Transcription by Tricia Dapelo