Actor Jeff Daniels has released five albums of original folk and blues since he began playing live in 2001. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)
Many film actors have worked in TV, and many dabble in the theater. But Jeff Daniels is one of only a handful who can count a respectable musical career alongside acclaimed work on film, TV and stage.
The Chelsea resident, who will play the Ark on Sunday and Monday, has toured regularly and released five albums of original folk and blues since he began playing live in 2001.
Daniels is touring the Midwest this summer in advance of a new studio album to be released this fall. His busy 2014 also includes the premieres of the final season of his acclaimed HBO show “The Newsroom” and “Dumb and Dumber To,” the sequel to his 1994 comedy hit “Dumb and Dumber.” Daniels spoke to the News about the perks and challenges of making music and movies in Michigan.
Do you have a favorite Michigan venue to play?
There’s certainly a prestige to the Ark. I played the (Ann Arbor) Folk Festival last January, and that meant a lot. That was a big deal to be included on that bill. I’m a big fan of the opera houses that I’m going to be playing, whether it’s Cheboygan or Manistee or Tibbits in Coldwater … there’s a history to those that I like. You can walk onstage at the Calumet Opera House and what do they say? “Sarah Bernhardt played there”… So the opera houses have that history, but the Ark in particular has a kind of — you know, it’s pure music. Pure acoustic music, in a lot of cases. I’ve sat in there, but I’ve never actually walked on and had a night.
When you play a show, how much do you get the sense that people are coming to see Jeff Daniels the movie star as opposed to those who are there specifically for your music?
I don’t take for granted that anybody has ever heard anything I’ve done, ever. And for whatever reason they bought their tickets doesn’t mean I’m going to stand there and do excerpts from my film career, dim the lights and (say), “Here’s a little scene I did in ‘Terms of Endearment.’ ” ... Usually about 10 minutes in they go, “Oh, he can actually play and then he writes his own stuff,” and suddenly it becomes this original evening. We’re not doing covers. We don’t have greatest hits that we’ve got to do. We do kind of what we want. And we find they listen. You look out there and they’re listening, because there are a lot of words and there are lyrics and there’s time spent. … This isn’t just screwing around. Especially on this tour, some of these songs have some things to say.
You passionately defended the Michigan film tax incentives when Gov. Snyder cut them. How do you think the Michigan film industry has proceeded in the wake of that situation?
It just feels like a Band-Aid. I know “Batman’s” here, and there are a lot of people that get to work on that, and I guess we all get to pretend that it’s what it was. Well, it isn’t. A lot of people left, and I ran into a few of them in Georgia, where we shot “Dumb and Dumber (To).” … There was a different way to do this, and Georgia is a perfect example. I was a little stunned by the amount of production down there and the bipartisan support for what the film incentive is doing in Georgia. I was playing golf with guys —Republicans, staunch Republicans — going, “We love it. We absolutely love the film incentive.” So I wish that (Snyder) and the state government had gone about it differently. I guess a little bit is better than nothing at all, but it’s not what it could have been.
with the Ben Daniels Band
7:30 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Monday
316 S. Main, Ann Arbor
Tickets $45 (Sunday sold out)