February 11, 2019 Interview – Dennis Quaid
How do you sustain a career in entertainment over four decades and running? Simple: never lose sight of why you entered that world in the first place – for the love of creating! Beginning his professional career as an actor in the late ’70s, Dennis Quaid would attain a slew of success in the years to follow, starring in a list of films including 1983’s The Right Stuff, 1987’s Innerspace, and 1989’s Great Balls of Fire!. Continuing on an upward trajectory, now over 40 years in, Quaid has continued to strike hits, most recently the popular series Fortitude. Amidst it all Quaid has kept his engine running on hard work, dedication, and a passion that burns deep inside.
Yet, being an award-winning actor is not the end of the story, Quaid has always had an undying love for music, one that actually preceded his acting career. Taking that to the next level, Quaid and his band The Sharks buckled down for some serious recording, resulting in their proper debut LP, 2018’s Out of the Box. Anxious to learn more? Dig into an up close and personal interview with the energetic Dennis Quaid as he talks everything from his fondest movie memories to his love for Rock-n-Roll music.
Cryptic Rock – Involved in entertainment for over four decades, you have had major success starring in a list of memorable films as well as TV series. Extremely diverse, briefly tell us, how would you describe your career in entertainment to this point?
Dennis Quaid – The luckiest guy on earth! It’s a lucky life. It’s not that I feel I don’t deserve it, I’ve worked hard at it. I’m good at what I do, but at the same time, I feel really lucky to still be here. There are so many people I grew up and started out with who aren’t around for one reason or another – either they faded away, lost the fire in their belly for it, or whatever. I am lucky! I have more fire in my belly for it now than I did in my twenties. That’s a gift.
Cryptic Rock – And you have done a lot. As mentioned, you have always been very diverse, taking on various types of roles ranging from Dramas to Comedies and everything in between. Beyond such, you have always had a love for music. Did you want to be an actor before a musician or did the two passions coincide with one another?
Dennis Quaid – I think I was a musician before I was an actor. I really started at 12-years-old playing guitar in my room as a teenager. It was the first thing I ever really wanted to be. Acting came along in college in the form of a teacher there. He told me it as a craft and I fell in love with it and I went out in L.A. The most accessible thing to me was acting, I got a job a year to the day I was out there. Then I got movies that included music, the first one being The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981); I wrote a couple songs for it that got in on the album.
Then I wrote music for The Big Easy (1986). I also was in Great Balls of Fire! (1989), but at the same time, along the way, I got to really be exposed to these great musicians. I was really lucky to be so. I had a band back in the ’80s called The Eclectics, which was basically Bonnie Raitt’s band. Then in 2000 we started The Sharks.
Cryptic Rock – It is great that you have been able to do music and acting consistently. Speaking of bands, your band The Sharks put out a proper LP back in November of 2018. Entitled Out of the Box, it is a high energy collection of songs. What was the writing and recording process like?
Dennis Quaid – It was really good. We had recorded before, but I wanted to do a real record, not something to record so we could sell it at gigs. I was playing golf with T Bone Burnett. He facilitated us in a really great way, he set us up at the big room at Village Studios in Santa Monica. He loaned us his engineer Mike Piersante, who I would say was co-producer on the album. We put down 25 tracks over a 4-5 month period, and really did it right to make a real record. We chose 13 out of those 25 tracks we put down. We have a vinyl coming out in April too!
Cryptic Rock – That sounds awesome. As mentioned, the album is high energy. The sound is very much a throw back to older Rock sounds. What are some your inspirations musically?
Dennis Quaid – Of course, The Beatles, as well as Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, even Frank Sinatra. We have always called ourselves a junkyard of American music. I think our show is reflected in the first record. We want people to just come in, forget everything, and have a good time.
Cryptic Rock – You will actually be out on the road playing shows in support of the music through March. For those coming out, what can they expect from these shows?
Dennis Quaid – We have a money back guarantee if you don’t have a good time with the music. (Laughs) We are one of the only bands that have that I think. Like I said, we want people to come in and forget. They pay their hard-earned money, they have been working all week. We love for people to get up, dance, move around, sweat, and just rock!
Cryptic Rock – It should be a blast. You will be at The Paramount in Huntington, NY, on Valentine’s Day. Being a veteran actor, how would you compare acting in film opposed to performing music on stage?
Dennis Quaid – Acting and singing are very much alike, because they are performances. I play a character in a film, a character has a story. That is kind of what songwriting is: it’s a character which is always about the songwriter. At the same time, I call it fictional truth. That is what acting is too. It’s you and your interpretation of that character and story. It’s the same thing with singing. The only thing is singing is very presentational because you are right out in front of an audience and connecting, it’s very immediate. That’s the part I really love more than acting. With a movie, you do the movie, then you wait 9 months, and you are really no longer connected with it in a way. You can really feel an audience on stage, that is what I love about it.
Cryptic Rock – Right, I guess you can say that performing music on stage is on the same level with theater?
Dennis Quaid – Yeah, exactly! Most theater is representational where you have a fourth wall that says ‘If the audience isn’t there,’ but they are. Music is really more in the face, you can really look out in the audience. I love to look out at peoples’ faces, it’s very direct. They are blown wide open, it’s amazing to me with audiences in music, you look right at them and they will look right back at you. You know how it is when you see someone in a crowd, then they look away or you look away. With music, people are blown wide open.
Cryptic Rock – No question. There is no replacement for a live performance with music; there is nothing like a live concert. You mentioned about writing stories in your songs. Out of curiosity, what were some of the inspirations for these songs on the album?
Dennis Quaid – I grew up in a very eclectic place. Houston is very eclectic musically, even back then it wasn’t just Country music. For my dad, his Elvis was Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Johnny Cash was a big influence on me because of his ability to tell stories in songs. It all kind of got put in there, messed around, and it comes out. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. The Sharks have been together for 19 years now. What is the bond like with you and the band?
Dennis Quaid – Yeah, it’s the same five guys we started with. How many marriages have lasted that long? (Laughs) We still feel like we’re 19-years-old and out there getting after it. We are playing the music we love. When we first started it was 80% covers and 20% originals. We played the music we grew up loving, and I think we have stayed true to that. We’ve been able to still be authentic. That’s our number one goal: to try and always be authentic.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, a crowd can tell when an artist on stage is real or not in the presentation of the music.
Dennis Quaid – I quite agree with that. It’s really fantastic to have that kind of brotherhood with a band over so many years. It gets to be where there is communication on stage without even looking.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to have that. You had said that you have even more fire now than ever before, and that is inspiring to hear. Since you’ve had such longevity, beyond hard work, what do you think has been the key to that?
Dennis Quaid – Keeping fire in your belly. Also, I think artists need to remake themselves around every 7-10 years. Instead of staying with the same old thing – same haircut, same, same, same. That is when people get stuck, and that’s when you lose your fire in your belly. I didn’t have any kind of strategy in my career, except to try out all different kinds of things – dramas, comedies, musicals, etc. My gauge is, say I get offered something, and I feel a tingle of fear go up my spine, that is probably a good indication I should do it because it takes me out of my comfort zone.
Cryptic Rock – Very good point. That goes for music too. Some will stick to the same format album after album, but then you have those like The Beatles who never made the same album twice.
Dennis Quaid – Right, not one! I was around 9-years-old when they hit and they were it. They just kept changing and everybody just went with them. I think that’s the reason The Beatles are still so vibrant today.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed completely. Since you are very involved in things, what can you tell us about some of the new acting parts you have coming up?
Dennis Quaid – I’m doing Goliath, a TV series with Billy Bob Thornton that I’m really enjoying. I have a series called Fortitude which is on Amazon. I have another movie called The Intruder, where I play the bad guy, that will be out in about a month. Then I have A Dog’s Journey. I think I have a couple of other things, but I just can’t keep up with it. (Laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever been busier, but I really enjoy it.
Cryptic Rock – That leads back to your diversity. Out of curiosity, do you have a particular genre you enjoy working in most?
Dennis Quaid – I really love it all to tell you the truth, as long as the script is good. It’s just like a song that I hear. When I read a script, that’s the first time and only time I’m going to get to be an audience member reading that story. That’s what I gauge by, how much that story affects me. Of course there is the character and who’s doing it, but that’s really first and foremost.
Cryptic Rock – It’s good to keep doors open and try new things. It has worked for you because you have done a lot of great things. Last question. What are some of your favorite movies and albums?
Dennis Quaid – I think my favorite movie of all-time is Lawrence of Arabia (1962). I think it’s a perfect movie, there’s not a line of dialogue or one frame in that picture that is not to supposed to be there. The favorite of mine that I did was The Right Stuff (1983). I base my favorite movies of my own on the time I had when I was making them. That was just a great time in my life.
As far as records go, I would say Hank Williams’ 40 Greatest Hits (1978), ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits (2002), Meet The Beatles (1964), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Also I love a couple of John Lennon’s records, “Imagine” is incredible. There are also The Doors, Van Morrison’s Moondance (1970), Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Probably my favorite album of all-time is Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams (1975).
Cryptic Rock – Great selections. As someone who really loves music, what are your thoughts on The Everly Brothers amazing vocal harmonies?
Dennis Quaid – No kidding! Jamie and I, my guitar player who also does vocals, we have really studied The Everly Brothers a lot. They are amazing. The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and The Beatles, there is a connection between them. It’s incredible.