Movie star Dennis Quaid doesn’t like to sit idly by.
The actor and musician, who will perform a solo acoustic concert at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo this spring, says he’s taken breaks before, but usually not for long.
“I’ve taken time off before and they forgot very quickly,” said Quaid, who will take the stage at SLO for the first time on May 17. “I am not a human being. I am a human being.
As an actor, Quaid is best known for his roles in ‘The Rookie’, ‘The Parent Trap’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘Far from Heaven’. He played a NASA astronaut in “The Right Stuff,” played former President Bill Clinton in “The Special Relationship,” and is set to star as President Ronald Reagan in the upcoming “Reagan” biopic.
These days, Quaid divides his time between Nashville and Los Angeles, balancing his acting career with live music gigs.
“Yes, I get nervous before every show. It’s a good thing,” he said. “Fear is actually a really good motivator.”
Once he’s in front of an audience, Quaid loves the experience of performing live, he said. He plays songs from his musical influences – which include Johnny Cash, the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Doors – as well as his own tracks.
“My goal is for everyone to have a really good time,” Quaid said.
Tickets for the Quaid concert on May 17 at the Fremont Theater cost between $39.50 and $64. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.
Quaid spoke to The Tribune by phone from Nashville about his life, career and music. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q What can people expect at your show?
A. People work hard all week and they just want to let loose and have a good time. That’s what it’s about. I make songs from my life growing up that I wrote, and some that I grew up listening to (from famous bands).
Q You played Jerry Lee Lewis in the movie “Great Balls of Fire”. How was it?
A. He was one of my piano teachers when I got this role. It’s all about the left hand, right? He was looking over my shoulder the whole time. Playing his music is a sporting experience.
Q How do you compare performing on stage versus performing?
A. They are similar in that you play and the music on stage is more like theater. That’s how I approach it. I’m myself and all, authentic, but I take on a bit of a live persona on stage. You can look straight into people’s faces. I really like that, connecting with an audience.
Q You played Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan on screen. Have you ever met any of them and how do you compare the two?
A. I had met Bill, but it wasn’t to play with him. I met him a few years before I was offered this film. I spent a weekend at the White House. He was great fun, the smartest man I’ve ever met, a very smart guy with a photographic memory. I was around him many times and he saw people and remembered their names, surnames and children… When there was an election in Ireland he knew the name of every county in Ireland. ‘Ireland.
In a way, I felt in a way that we got closer to Reagan because there’s so much out there… You have to be very singular to be President of the United States. You have to have a strong personality.
Q How has the film industry evolved since your beginnings?
A. It’s become streaming now. It’s actually become now more like what it was when I first came to LA in the mid-70s. It’s a golden age right now. There’s so much content that’s out there that’s a little less mainstream. We have great voices there. It’s almost a revolution really. Many other avenues have opened up.
Q What movies do people ask you the most?
A. I’m sort of multi-generational. It’s kind of reflected in my stage shows. I have my daughters “Parent Trap”, since “Breaking Away”. But the film that comes back the most is “Innerspace”.
Q What was the most fun move to shoot?
A. It would definitely be “The Right Stuff”. I grew up in Houston, which was Space City, and Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven astronauts (Project Mercury) that I played in the movie, was my favorite astronaut as a kid. I play him and then it turns out he lives three miles from me in Los Angeles, and we become friends. Then I got my pilot’s license and I fly jets now.
Q Why do you live in Nashville part-time?
A. There are a lot of great things happening in Nashville. Musicwise, 75% of all music, regardless of genre, is made in Nashville. It’s a great sense of community here. It’s very collegial. He just has great energy.
Q To what extent do you devote your time to music rather than comedy?
A. I play music everyday. It’s hard to play alone unless it’s soliloquies around the house.