The Bacon Brothers Keep Evolving with New EP, ‘Erato’

Although Michael Bacon is an esteemed film composer, and Kevin Bacon is a famed movie star, they are equally passionate about The Bacon Brothers, the band they formed nearly thirty years ago, sharing lead vocal duties and each playing various instruments along with a backing band. On July 8, they’ll release Erato, a five-song EP that displays an eclectic mix of musical styles, which is in keeping with their previous ten albums.

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“As usual, we are kind of all over the place—which is at times is kind of problematic for a band, because, for some reason, people really want to feel that it’s in some kind of a safe category that they’re used to,” Michael says, during a recent conference call with Kevin for American Songwriter. “When I say we’re in a band, [people] say, ‘What kind of music is it?’ and I tell them we are ‘Forosoco,” which is the name Kevin made up for us 27 years ago: folk, rock, soul, country. But it doesn’t really categorize it because our philosophy, if we have any philosophy, is that it’s song-driven.”

The brothers agree that those songs must be allowed to emerge naturally. “We’re not people that say, ‘Every day, we’re going to sit down and spend a couple of hours trying to come up with songs,’” Kevin says. “We write when it hits us, and we have no control over when that is or when that isn’t. You just have to wait.”

He uses the new EP’s title track as an example of this: “When I wrote “Erato,” I was working on a film and I didn’t even bring a guitar down to the location where I was, which is very unusual for me. So I went to a music store in this little town in Georgia and bought a guitar for like a hundred and fifty bucks, and it just sat there for a while. Then I heard somebody talking about this mythical muse Erato, who is the goddess of love, poetry, music, and all things erotic. So I said, ‘Well, let me just write about her, and write about this idea which I don’t really believe in, which is that there’s some kind of muse or divine awakening that makes you write songs.’ Then all of a sudden, there was that song. That, for me, kicked off some more writing.”

They also found inspiration this time through writing the track “In Memory (Of When I Cared)” with Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Desmond Child (who’s written hits for, and with, a wide range of artists, including Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Kiss, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Ricky Martin.) Working with Child, Kevin says, was “really fun and interesting. We learned a lot from him.”

Michael agrees that this experience taught the brothers new ways to approach their craft. “I think he’s very detail-oriented and he is not in a rush,” he says of Child. “I’m a film composer, where I’m always struggling to keep up and get it done. Desmond has the luxury of taking it pretty slow. For instance, the first day, we went over to his apartment and we didn’t even pick up a guitar or a piano, just listened to music, talked, and drank coffee. The second day, that’s when we started writing. He has very, very specific ideas of how the rhyme schemes should be, and he’s very, very careful and full of songwriting craft. Sometimes I think that songwriters don’t spend enough time really looking into that.”

While they’re still interested in expanding their songwriting knowledge, both brothers first started mastering this skill at an early age. Kevin says that he was originally inspired by Michael: “I was in the shadow of my brother, who was writing songs from the time he was a little kid,” he says. “The first two songs that I ever wrote, I didn’t have any way to record anything, I’d just walk around and sing them to myself. Or sing them in the shower, or be up in my room and hold onto a screwdriver and pretend it was a microphone and sing. Eventually, I had the courage to sing for my brother, and he immediately picked up a guitar and said, ‘Put it in the key of G, and play these three chords.’ So I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a song!’”

Although he was Kevin’s inspiration to start songwriting, Michael gives credit, in turn, to their parents. “I think that both Kevin and are four sisters would agree that, in terms of developing a sense of creativity and ‘I can do this,’ our parents were really instrumental,” he says. “The entire first floor of our little townhouse in the middle of Philadelphia was basically one gigantic speaker: speakers were in the kitchen that vibrated the whole first floor, so when we listened to music, it was beautiful. They also were really eclectic and loved folk music and Broadway shows and a lot of classical music. What they valued more than anything was creativity, so that’s what they cared about for their children.” 

Michael estimates that he was thirteen or fourteen when he started writing his own songs, and it’s a passion that has never wavered for him. “I want people to like me, I want people to like my music,” he says, “and I think my number one dream, in terms of my career, would be to have one of those songs that just comes out and all of a sudden, everybody likes it, and it gets big and renowned. I’ve had that dream for probably close to sixty years. And it’s never happened, but it’s never discouraged me that it hasn’t. I still think that it will happen.”

To that end, The Bacon Brothers will promote Erato with a U.S. tour throughout the summer. It’s their first extensive run of shows since the pandemic began, and both brothers say they’re excited to get in front of in-person audiences again. “We really do try to put on the best show we know how to do, and I think that’s our number one goal when we’re playing live,” Michael says. “I’m really excited about this tour. I like the direction of the band. We are always adding new instruments—I’m playing autoharp on a song.”

At this, Kevin exclaims with a laugh, “You get to see some rock and roll autoharp!” But, Michael explains, this is just his latest way to keep improving as an artist: “I always put stuff in front of myself that’s above my technical ability,” he says. “There are things that I’m playing now fairly easily that a year ago I couldn’t play, or couldn’t play well. I always like to challenge myself, because music is one of those lucky things that you don’t have to give up when you hit your late thirties. You can spend the rest of your life getting better and better on all facets of music.”

The Bacon Brothers’ continuing progress, Michael says, is evident with Erato: “We feel very good about the direction of the new music, and the new songs are really fun to play, so everything feels very good right now.”

Photo by Charles Chessler

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