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Jeff Bridges has a few movies in the works (he is an Academy Award-winning actor, after all); he has a newish book out (The Dude and the Zen Master, co-written with Zen Buddhist Bernie Glassman); and he’s a spokesman for an anti-hunger organization (www.nokidhungry.org).

In the midst of this busy schedule, he makes playing concerts—like his appearance at Stagecoach—seem like something thrown together at the last minute.

You might call your buddies to watch a game somewhere; Jeff Bridges plays live music for thousands of people. People have to have a hobby, right?

“We pretty much just let it fly,” Bridges said in a recent phone interview. “If people enjoyed Crazy Heart,” Bridges mentions off-hand, not really noting that he won an Oscar for his role in the film, “we’ll be playing some songs from that.”

Bridges also has some new music that he and his band, delightfully called “The Abiders,” have been working on, following up on his 2011 self-titled second album. (A delightful Big Lebowski-referencing side note: he wanted to call them “The Royal We,” but “the guys were digging the other name, so we went with it.”)

“I imagine people have had time to check out (my most recent album) by now, so they’ve probably decided if they like it,” Bridges said.

Music has been a part of the Jeff Bridges aesthetic for nearly as long as he’s been in the spotlight, as he’s been known to pull out a guitar during filming down-times at his day job.

“I’ve been playing music all my life, really. I picked up a guitar at age 12, and started writing songs not long after,” Bridges said.

During the filming of Heaven’s Gate, Bridges met roots-music super-producer T-Bone Burnett, who produced the 2011 album; Bridges hopes Burnett will be his collaborator again.

“T-Bone’s the best, and we’re old buds, so I’d work with him again anytime,” he said.

But even their relationship seems almost accidental in the laid-back way that Bridges describes it. “After the success of Crazy Heart, I thought I could parlay that into recording some tunes, so I threw the idea out to Bone, and he dug the idea. Off we went to the races, you know?”

The band consists of guys from Santa Barbara—his “homies,” as Bridges puts it.

“We have a great time together, and they’re superb musicians. I love making music, and I get to make it with my pals, so you make time for the things you want to do.”

Even the experience of being part of the Stagecoach lineup has him largely unaffected. “Playing these things can be surreal, but it’s cool.” Plus, he has friends with whom he’s sharing the lineup: “Toby Keith let us borrow his audience for the concert scenes in Crazy Heart. Nice guy.”

If you happen to come by the stage while Bridges and his buddies are playing, he does wish you the best possible experience, but the fates will also have to intervene. After all, Bridges himself has a rather Zen/Dude-like approach to the whole thing.

“I hope people enjoy the show, but I’m not one for expectations. I like to lower mine and be surprised,” he said.

Jeff Bridges and the Abiders play on Friday, April 26, at Stagecoach. The festival takes place Friday, April 26, through Sunday, April 28, at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51 in Indio. Passes for all three days start at $239. For tickets or more information, visit www.stagecoachfestival.com.

Published in Previews

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