Kiefer Sutherland Rocks New Role As A Music Act (Playing GAMH on Thurs. 5/4)

Kiefer Sutherland never meant to start a side hustle as a rock star. But with the release of his debut album, “Down in a Hole,” the 50-year-old star of ABC’s “Designated Survivor” finds himself playing for bigger audiences every year. This summer, Sutherland and his band will appear at major festivals like Stagecoach, the country music mega festival on the same grounds as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio (Riverside County) and Bourbon & Beyond in Louisville, Ky. How does the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor make the transition to the world of tour buses and dive bars? We (SF Chronicle) spoke to Sutherland during tour rehearsals.

 Q: You were originally going to give the songs on your album to someone else. How much convincing did it take for you to do them?

A: I am really aware of the negative stigma attached to actors doing music. I never wanted to partake in it. One of my dearest friends, Jude Cole, and I recorded a couple of songs, more or less as demos to see if anyone would be interested in a publishing deal. But after Jude listened to them he said, “These songs are clearly yours. You should do them.” I said, “Absolutely not.”

Q: What made you come around?

A: We finished recording and went out to dinner. A couple drinks in, it sounded like a good idea. Really, it was two things: I really loved the way he produced the songs. I also really liked playing those songs live.

Q: Do you have to fight the acting urge when you’re onstage?

A: As an actor, I felt playing live I would have an edge because I had done so much stage work. I was completely wrong about that. It was almost the opposite. When I was up on stage and I would explain where I was and why I wrote a certain song and I quickly realized how personal it was. As an actor, I had characters to hide behind. At a certain point, you just give in and realize you’re going to open up in a way you never have before.

Q: You have a nice little late-period Bob Dylan thing happening with your voice. Where did that come from?

A: It’s a really interesting question. It’s the voice I’ve got. Out of all the things I was least comfortable with was my voice. Do I have the greatest range? No. But I’m going to take advantage of the 12 notes I got.

Q: You’re playing a couple of music festivals this year. For someone who usually gets top billing, is it weird seeing your name in the smallest font size on the poster?

A: If it’s even on the poster! To have been invited to some of places we have been, I’m really humbled by that. I’m not trying to sell a billion records. I’m not trying to play stadiums. I like that after the show whatever preconceived notions you may have had fall by the wayside. On a creative level, this has made me more satisfied than I have felt in a long time.

Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic. Email: avaziri@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @MusicSF

Kiefer Sutherland & Rick Brantley Play GAMH on Thurs. 5/4 - tickets are still available!