Jeff Daniels fumes whenever he sees those Chevy commercials that introduce a group of folks ogling new cars and trucks as “real people, not actors.”
So, since he’s as passionate about songwriting as he is acting, he decided to write a song about his anger. “Real People, Not Actors” is a blues tune lamenting how it feels to be deemed less real, because one can act.
“To intimate actors aren’t real people always annoyed me, so I decided to tell a story about it,” said Daniels, 63. “I’ve always loved the idea of storytelling, in films and plays or in music.”
“Real People, Not Actors” is one of the tunes Daniels is performing this summer on tour with his son, billed as the “Jeff Daniels & Ben Daniels Band Acoustic Sittin’ Tour.” The tour has three stops in Maine this week, at the Strand Theatre in Rockland Thursday, a sold-out show Friday at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield and at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit on Saturday.
Daniels plays guitar and sings in a soulful, folk style. He’s been touring regularly over the past dozen years while continuing to act. From 2012 to 2014, he starred in the HBO drama “The Newsroom” and won an Emmy award for best actor. This spring, he starred in the Hulu mini-series “The Looming Tower,” about events leading up to the tragic attack on the World Trade Center towers in 2001. He played John O’Neill, chief of the New York FBI counter-terrorism center, who in the late 1990s is convinced that the country has been targeted for a massive attack by terrorists. But few people believe him.
“This one guy, John O’Neill, had a hunch and no one would listen to him,” said Daniels. “If you thought you knew what happened leading up to 9/11, you’re probably wrong.”
Daniels said he’s always been more interested in the storytelling aspect of films, TV and plays than the technical aspects. He said, while fellow actors might ask about what sort of camera or lights are being used, Daniels couldn’t care less.
“I’ve never wanted to direct, like some actors do, I’ve always been more interested in story and structure,” Daniels said.
Daniels first became enamored of music and its power after seeing storytelling folk singer Arlo Guthrie around 1971.
“He was funny, and he told stories. I loved that,” said Daniels.
While acting has been his prime vocation, he’s also released a half-dozen albums over the years.
Most are folk in flavor and have stories to tell. He’s written songs about traveling, about things that inspire or irritate him, about raising children.
He wrote “Matter of Timing” while watching 3-year-old Ben in his crib.
He wrote another, “When My Fingers Find Your Strings,” about the passion for music he shares with his son.
“Music reminds me of the best of theater; it’s about making the audience feel something,” said Daniels. “Music does that beautifully.”
THURSDAY: 7:30 p.m. at the Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., Rockland, SOLD OUT; rocklandstrand.com
FRIDAY: 8 p.m. at Stone Mountain Arts Center, 695 Dugway Road, Brownfield, SOLD OUT; stonemountainartscenter.com
SATURDAY: 8 p.m. at Jonathan’s, 92 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit, $45 to $86; jonathansogunquit.com