The HeldenFiles: Kevin Costner to make music in Kent

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal pop culture writer

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Kevin Costner & Modern West perform at City Winery in New York, in 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

Kevin Costner has been spotted in the area lately while he acts in Draft Day, the movie shooting locally, with Costner as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.

But the Oscar and Emmy winner will be visible in a different — and, for him, more comfortable — way when he does a couple of shows with his band Modern West. They have a sold-out gig at the Brothers Lounge in Cleveland on June 21 and then a benefit for the Kent Stage in that theater at 8 p.m. on June 22. Some reserved-seat tickets ($65) and a handful of standing-room spots ($50) remain for the Kent show; see www.thekent for more information.

Costner and Modern West have been together for nine years, playing everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to the Kremlin, and made a series of albums mixing mournful laments, love songs and rockers. Several Modern West songs were on the soundtrack of the Costner film Swing Vote. And they made the album Famous for Killing Each Other with songs from and inspired by Hatfields & McCoys, the A&E miniseries Costner produced and co-starred in.

The band even has a song, Superman 14, with a lyric saying in part “I feel like Superman flying over muddy rivers/Counting everything from one to fourteen.” That’s a more timely tune for Costner since he plays Superman’s adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, in the new movie Man of Steel.

All this music sprang in part from a collaboration with John Coinman, the music supervisor for Dances With Wolves, the 1990 Oscar-winning film directed by and starring Costner. But it was also part of a larger need Costner felt to connect with people in a way other than as an actor and a celebrity.

“When I would come into a community like Cleveland, usually you become someone that they’re targeting,” he said during a break on the Draft Day set. He was referring to a constant “Did you see him?” buzz accompanying his movements, not to mention the requests to stop for autographs or to pose for photos.

On the band’s website, http://kevincostnermodern, he elaborates: “For a long time now I have felt the need to connect with people in a more meaningful way than just the autograph. I have found myself here and around the world in different situations where the only exchange has been just that … a quick signature on the run usually followed by a ‘Gee, he’s taller than I thought.’”

“I thought, I’d love to just be in the community for a couple of hours, and not be interrupted, and have a real [connection],” he said on the Draft Day set. “If someone wants to see who I am, they should come to Brothers or down at Kent. I’ll be in the midst of a lot of people, but I won’t have to be doing this kind of [interview] thing or take a picture.” Instead, he says on the site, he is available “real, full of mistakes and without apology.”

“And then, actually give something back on a musical night,” he added in the Cleveland interview.

According to the website, as Costner thought about making music, his wife, Christine, urged him to get in touch again with Coinman, a veteran musician who has collaborated with an array of performers, among them John Densmore of the Doors. Coinman immediately agreed. Costner suggested bassist Blair Forward, from his only previous band, Roving Boy, as a member, while asking Coinman to gather the rest: Teddy Morgan on lead guitar, Larry Cobb on drums, Park Chisholm on vocals and guitar, and various fiddlers.

Asked what the joy is in playing, Costner said, “The joy is to play original music, which is ours, and for an audience to respond to it. There would be no reason for us to be talking about this if I was going out there doing cover tunes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I don’t need to go do that on a little stage or wherever I’m playing. I could do that in my living room. So the joy is to write songs and realize the public likes them.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or

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