5 Songs You Didn’t Know Kevin Costner Wrote

Kevin Costner has made his impact on the entertainment world in many different ways. He proved himself to be an undeniable film presence ever since he held his own with Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro in The Untouchables. Costner has been a huge part of iconic movies like Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, and many more.

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Costner has made an extremely successful transition to the world of television as well. Yellowstone came out of nowhere to become both a broadcast and streaming sensation, with Costner’s character at the epicenter of it all. While some bad blood seems to have arisen between Costner and the show’s creator Taylor Sheridan, and it doesn’t look as though the actor will be returning to the show, the achievement can’t be denied.

But did you know that Costner has also staked out some territory for himself in the world of music? Costner explains why he made the decision to become more than just a music hobbyist and turn into a singer, songwriter, and bandleader with his group Kevin Costner & Modern West, via their website:

“But it was always more than just an idea for me,” Costner said on the site. “It was a feeling that I had been unable to articulate. 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 always thought that music could build a stronger, more personal moment for me. It would create the opportunity for a genuine exchange much greater than the movie, TV interview or magazine,” he continued. “It would be real, full of mistakes and without apology. But most of all there would be the chance to have some fun. The question was, would it work? I thought it could but I wasn’t really sure. I had been out on creative limbs before, and this felt familiar.”

Kevin Costner & Modern West have released five albums since their debut, Untold Truths, was released in 2008. With a Southern rock approach blending in with some traditional country elements, the band (other members include John Coinman, Blair Forward, Larry Cobb, Teddy Morgan, Park Chisolm, Roddy Chong, Bobby Yang, and Luke Bulla) has developed a strong following in Europe as well as in the US.

Costner tends to share the songwriting duties with others in the band. Here are five songs that he has helped to pen over the years.

1. “Backyard” (from Untold Truths, 2008)

Modern West’s ode to the automobile features a gritty groove and jagged guitars. Costner has a blast singing about some impressive car brands: Pontiacs, Fords, Mercurys, and Chevys all make the scene. Costner’s narrator sings about his NASCAR dreams and makes you believe that he just might be the next Richard Petty. But then comes the punch line to the song: The cars are all sitting in his backyard and none of them are operational. I’ll get one running yet, Costner sings. It adds a little touch of humor to a topic near and dear to the heart of many country music fans, a topic that Costner and fellow songwriters John Coinman and Teddy Morgan elucidate quite effectively.

2. “Turn It On” (from Turn it On, 2010)

Costner wrote “Turn It On” with fellow Modern West members Teddy Morgan and Park Chisolm. The band used it as the title track and opening song for their 2010 album of the same name. It does a nice job balancing quieter vocal parts with the big guitars and crashing drums of the instrumental portions, making it the perfect table setter for the album. A double-time section towards the end of the section really brings the thunder. The song features a narrator realizing what’s important to him and asking someone special to join him in this revelation: We’ve made it this far, so cross your heart with mine/And let your light turn on and on/Turn it on.

3. “Let Me Be the One” (from Turn it On, 2010)

Costner and company get some help from Sara Beck, who turns this into a kind of duet. It’s a slow builder featuring some nice harmonies between Beck and Costner, with some strings sneaking in to accent the beat, which offers some nice pep to what’s essentially a ballad. There’s also strong lead guitar work from Teddy Morgan, who wrote the song with Costner and John Coinman. Lyrically, “Let Me Be the One” is a kind of two-handed testimonial, with Costner and Beck taking turns making promises, if the other person will just accept them as their partner for life. The lyrics should affect anyone who has made those vows in their own lives.

4. “The Hero” (from From Where I Stand, 2011)

Modern West had a very productive stretch not too long after they first got together. From Where I Stand, which came out in 2011, was their third album release in just four years. The fact that several different members of the group write songs certainly helps them be so productive. In the case of “The Hero,” Costner joined up with Teddy Morgan and John Coinman once again. The trio came up with a crunching rocker that talks about the difficulties that young soldiers have coming back from war. It’s not a new subject matter, but it’s treated here with great sensitivity and insight.

5. “Feeling Like the Last Time” (from Tales from Yellowstone, 2020)

The most recent album from Costner and his band featured a set of songs written from the perspective of Costner’s Yellowstone character John Dutton. But Costner told American Songwriter that not all the songs are based strictly on Dutton. This lovely mid-tempo number was based on Costner saying goodbye to his father at the end of one of their hunting trips together. Bandmates John Coinman and Teddy Morgan join Jack Williams as co-writers, but this feels like one that’s very personal to Costner in particular.

Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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