Christian Kane looks to knock out country fans and ‘Leverage’ baddies

 

He describes his music as “Baskin-Robbins — 31 flavors, because whatever emotion you want to feel, it’s on there for you.”

The same, however, could be said for actor and country singer Christian Kane, who performs Thursday, Dec. 16 at the Cotton Eyed Joe in West Knoxville. Acting, fight choreography, country songwriting, performing — Kane does it all, and this month may be the biggest culmination of all of those talents that his growing career has ever seen.

“I haven’t come up for air in over a year, man,” Kane told The Daily Times during a recent phone interview. “With ‘Leverage’ and now ‘The House Rules,’ I’ve been going non-stop. But it’s OK — I’m one of those guys who has to be going 90 mph with his hands on fire to be comfortable anyway.”

Given everything that’s happening for Kane this week — his new album came out on Tuesday, and the mid-season premiere of his hit TNT series “Leverage,” on which he plays “hitter” Eliot Spencer, takes place on Sunday — it’s not easy, juggling both careers, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, making it as an entertainer has been a dream since his childhood in Oklahoma.

Born in Dallas, Kane’s family eventually settled in Norman, Okla., but shortly after high school he set out for Los Angeles, where he landed a job as an assistant at an entertainment company. It didn’t take long, however, for his chiseled good looks to get him a part — in the MGM TV series “Fame L.A.,” in which he was originally cast as a comedian. However, his talent as a singer got attention early on, and the part was rewritten to turn his character into a singer. Around the same time, he met Steve Carlson, the guy who’s been his sidekick in the country music world for more than a decade.

“We went by Kane, kind of like Bon Jovi — with me as Jon Bon Jovi and him as Richie Sambora,” Kane said. “These days, we just use my name, but I still consider it to be Kane. Steve’s my guitarist and he lives with me in Nashville, but the project is called Christian Kane.”

Around LA, the duo got noticed for their high-energy performances and original songs; soon, they were getting airplay on Los Angeles country radio, winning contests and eyeing trips to Nashville in order to hone their songwriting. As time went by, his acting career began to take off as well. He landed roles on the CBS series “Close to Home,” the TNT miniseries “Into the West,” a recurring part on Joss Whedon’s “Angel” and in such films as “Friday Night Lights,” “Taxi,” “Secondhand Lions” and “Summer Catch.”

It was “Leverage,” however, on which he’s found the most popularity. Co-starring alongside Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton (who directed Kane’s first country music video), he’s punched and brawled through three seasons of the show, which centers around a group of thieves; already “Leverage” has been picked up for a fourth season.

“‘Leverage’ is a great opportunity — it’s the role I came to Hollywood to play, the role I was praying to get when I was 15 years old,” Kane said. “I do all my own fight scenes, and I don’t have a stunt double; plus I get to coordinate the fight scenes, so I think they look better. They’re some of the best fights on TV. Of course, I go to the hospital about twice a year, and then we have to use hats and makeup to cover up the stitches, but it’s fun.”

Earlier this year, the writers gave Kane a chance to merge his two career paths when a storyline involved Kane’s character going undercover as a promising country star. Actor John Schneider, himself a successful musician, co-starred in the episode, something that thrilled Kane to no end, he said.

“It was the greatest thing in the world to have him sing one of my songs, and then I got to fight one of my childhood idols — Bo Duke,” Kane said, referring to the iconic role Schneider played on the 1980s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

When he’s not in front of the camera, however, he’s been in the studio, crafting “The House Rules.” It’s a hodge-podge of songs, from the rowdy title track that celebrates hard drinking and wild living to more somber tunes of lost love and heartbreak. There’s a reason for that mix, Kane said.

“I wanted so many different flavors, because I wanted to grab something for everyone,” he said. “When you’re hurting, you don’t go play a happy song — you put on a song that hurts even more. And when you’re feeling good ... well, we like to mix a little bit of gasoline with our country. We’re Skynyrd fans and Allman Brothers fans. It’s high-octane country, and that’s how we like it. Those are the kinds of fans we like to see at our shows.”

Already, “The House Rules” is enjoying modest success — the title track debuted at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and local radio giant WIVK-FM has embraced Kane as the real deal — a genuine, up-and-coming country star.

And why not? After all, he pointed out, he shouldn’t have to choose one career path or the other.

“I used to get asked a lot, ‘Do you want to sing or do you want to act?’, and I would say, ‘I’ll tell you what — I’ll quit singing altogether if you quit sending all of your singers to Hollywood to become actors,” he said. “Look, 40 or 50 years ago, you couldn’t get a studio deal in Hollywood unless you can also sing, but somewhere along the line, we want to kill people who do both. But that’s how I like it. I look at myself as an entertainer.”

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