Kris Kristofferson

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Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80

Country legend has faced memory loss and the death of old friends, and has also found peace – just don’t try to tell him what to do

Oh, my god, the son of a bitch is back," announces Lisa Kristofferson as she stands in the kitchen of her Los Flores Canyon home in Malibu. The son of a bitch, who is next to her, is more commonly known as Kris Kristofferson. He has been her husband for the past 36 years. He also happens to be one of the greatest songwriters of all time (covered by Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley and some 500 others), not to mention an iconic actor in his own right (from A Star Is Born to the Blade movies).

Three decades ago, "the son of a bitch is back" may have been the rallying cry of Kristofferson's girlfriends or wives after he went off on a drinking or cheating bender. But today, just weeks away from Kristofferson's 80th birthday, it means something different entirely.

It means that the rugged, fiercely independent spark of consciousness that is Kris Kristofferson, which has been fading for the past few years due to memory loss, is brightening again – to everyone's surprise.

For years, doctors had been telling Kristofferson that his increasingly debilitating memory loss was due to either Alzheimer's or to dementia brought on by blows to the head from the boxing, football and rugby of his teens and early twenties. Some days, Kristofferson couldn't even remember what he was doing from one moment to the next.

It became so bad that Kristofferson started writing a song about it. "I see an empty chair/Someone was sitting there," it began. "I've got a feeling it was me/And I see a glass of wine/I'm pretty sure it's mine."

But then, like the chair and the wine, he forgot about the song. And it lay unfinished like many others he's begun these past few years. In this case, his daughter Kelly completed the song, which remains unrecorded.

Then, earlier this year, a doctor decided to test Kristofferson for Lyme disease. The test came back positive. His wife believes he picked it up from a tick as he crawled around the forest floor in Vermont for six weeks while filming the movie Disappearances.

"He was taking all these medications for things he doesn't have, and they all have side effects," she says. She is wearing one of her husband's tour merchandise shirts. After he gave up his Alzheimer's and depression pills and went through three weeks of Lyme-disease treatment, Lisa was shocked. "All of a sudden he was back," she says. There are still bad days, but "some days he's perfectly normal and it's easy to forget that he is even battling anything."

Kristofferson stands next to her, alongside the kitchen counter, a black T-shirt tight on his thin but still-solid frame, his gray goatee neatly trimmed. Behind him, there is a wall covered with pen and pencil marks, denoting the growth of his children, stepchildren, grandchildren and foster children. One would imagine that he'd be elated by his unexpected recovery.

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Kris Kristofferson celebrates 80th birthday with the release of The Cedar Creek Sessions

Recorded live June 23, 24 and 25, 2014 at Cedar Creek Recording in Austin, Texas.

Produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp

Street Date June 17, 2016

In June 2014, Kris Kristofferson hosted a three-day impromptu jam session at Cedar Creek Studios in Austin, Texas. It had been a while since Kris had recorded and here was a chance to lay down some of his favorite compositions with a live band. With Shawn Camp on lead guitar, Kevin Smith on bass, Michael Ramos on keyboard, and Mike Meadows on drums, the group ran through twenty-five of Kristofferson’s best-loved songs. On the final day, Kris’s dear friend Sheryl Crow came in to sing a duet of “The Loving Gift,” a song made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash that Kris had never recorded. 

Two years later, Kristofferson will release The Cedar Creek Session just days before his 80th birthday, June 22, 2016.

At eighty years old, few songwriters can look back and see that they have transformed an entire American musical art form. In a single line, Kris Kristofferson turned modern music into viable contemporary literature: “Freedom’s just another word,” he wrote, “for nothing left to lose.” For years, those words from his song “Me and Bobby McGee” served as the hippie generation’s most resonant mantra. Today, songwriters from Belfast to Belleville replay the classic when seeking inspiration. Kristofferson’s first recording of the song as a demo, while working as a janitor at Columbia Records in 1968, signaled only the beginning of his lasting contributions to the creative arts.

As his most famous lyric suggests, Kristofferson has lived a Renaissance man’s life. The Brownsville, Texas native served as an Army Ranger and helicopter pilot as a young man. He earned early prestige as a Rhodes Scholar who won an Atlantic Monthly short story competition. Fans know that Kristofferson fought as a Golden Glove boxer. Of course, many simply know him as a movie star (Cisco Pike, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Heaven’s Gate, Blade and more than 50 others). Kristofferson solidified marquee status in a blink when Barbra Streisand cast him in her hit remake of A Star Is Born (1976). For nearly four decades since then, he’s defined diversity as an actor with roles in films as varied as Songwriter (1984), Big Top Pee-wee (1988), Paper Hearts (1993), Lone Star (1996) the critically acclaimed documentary Fast Food Nation (2006), and the hit family story Dolphin Tale (2011, 2014).

A Star Is Born made Kristofferson a sex symbol, but he had more substantial plans from Day One. “I always felt that I was going to be some kind of writer,” he told The Guardian in 2010. For more than four decades, Kristofferson’s deep-browed craftsmanship has had broad influence on peers and followers. “There’s no better songwriter alive than Kris Kristofferson,” legendary country songwriter Willie Nelson told the Associated Press in 2009. “Everything he writes is a standard, and we’re just going to have to live with that.”

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Posted 2016-04-25

On Jessi Alexander's Down Home

Kris reflects on Jessi Alexander's album "Down Home":

"A beautiful song sung beautifully, the best song ever written about anyone. I am stunned." - Kris Kristofferson

 

Posted 2015-09-18

Kris featured in the Polsky Brothers' The Motel Life

Kristofferson joins Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, and Dakota Fanning in The Motel Life, an award-winning, searing and profound examination of brotherhood set in the timeless Sierra Nevadan frontier based on Willy Vlautin’s acclaimed novel of the same name. 

HuffPost Entertainment recently listed it as one of the Top 10 Undiscovered films to stream now.  Watch the trailer and stream or download directly below:

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The Motel Life

Based on the popular novel by Willy Vlautin, THE MOTEL LIFE is a searing and profound examination of brotherhood set in the timeless Sierra Nevadan frontier. Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry Lee Flannigan (Stephen Dorff) work odd jobs, drink hard, and drift from motel to motel. Their only escape is through Frank’s fantastic stories and Jerry Lee’s rich illustrations. Everything changes when Jerry Lee is involved in a hit-and-run accident, which forces the brothers across the state to the home of Frank’s old flame, Annie (Dakota Fanning). While the two seem safe from the law, Jerry Lee’s insatiability and all-consuming guilt render their future increasingly uncertain. Like an outlaw country song, this directorial debut from real-life brothers Gabe & Alan Polsky finds beauty and hope in a world of casinos, gun shops, dive bars, and in the simple people who inhabit them. The film features animation by Mike Smith.

For more information, visit the site here: http://theMotelLifeFilm.com

Praise for The Motel Life:
“ Very accomplished. Impressive directorial debut.” WERNER HERZOG
“ Touching story with great performances” SOFIA COPPOLA
“ Beautiful and refreshing.” ROGEREBERT.COM
“ 79% Topic Critic Tomatometer ” ROTTEN TOMATOES
 
Posted 2014-09-14

Hemp Aide Feat. Kristofferson - Feb 22nd

Kris will be a featured performer in the 2014 HempAide concert to focus on the production on Industrial Hemp.  The show will also feature John Trudell and Bad Dog.  Details, including ticket informationa and show time, can be found at http://bit.ly/HempAide

Posted 2014-01-22

Kris's Recent Acting Role in The Motel Life

Kris recently acted in the Gabe and Alan Polsky film THE MOTEL LIFE.  You can see the trailer here, or buy the movie in iTunes here.  Or, you can see a short clip of Kris with Hirsch here

Posted 2014-01-17

Kris to Perform at GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert

The GRAMMY Foundation® will host "A Song Is Born," the 16th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert featuring live musical performances on Jan. 23 in Los Angeles. Performers include GRAMMY® winners Steve Cropper, Kris Kristofferson, Joy Williams of the Civil Wars, Paul Williams, and Dan Wilson; and GRAMMY-nominated songwriters Skylar Grey, John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, Allen Shamblin, and J.D. Souther, as well as other artists to be announced shortly.

"A Song Is Born"— presented by Seagate — will explore the history and evolution of songwriting and celebrate the various and invaluable contributions of key players behind the music and their impact on the American cultural landscape. This official GRAMMY Week concert promotes the GRAMMY Foundation's mission of recognizing and preserving our musical past, so that future generations can continue to benefit from an appreciation and understanding of those contributions. Admission tickets are $45 per person and this event is all ages. All guests are invited to attend a complimentary reception following the concert. For tickets and information, visit http://wl.flavorus.com/gf/asongisborn, or contact 855.235.2867.

 

Watch the 56th GRAMMY Awards® Jan. 26 on CBS.

Posted 2013-11-26

German Rockabilly band Rocket to Stardom signs to Kristofferson’s KK Records

Releases A Rockin’ Tribute To Kris Kristofferson with special guests Kris and Kelly Kristofferson

Street date - September 12, 2013

For immediate release

September 6, 2013

“Actually, we could call it a day now.” Duesseldorf-born Julian Wiethoff still needs time to grasp that his biggest dream has come true: his German band Rocket to Stardom is about to release its debut album A Rockin’ Tribute To Kris Kristofferson not only on the legendary songwriter’s very own KK Records label, but was also invited by the man himself to join him as support act and special guest on the four German dates of Kristofferson’s European tour in September 2013.

The story behind the story sounds so unbelievable and unlikely that even Hollywood’s top screen writers couldn’t have done a better job. At the end of November 2011, the two die-hard  Kristofferson fans Julian Wiethoff and Bojan Lutz boarded a plane from Duesseldorf, Germany to Las Vegas, Nevada to see their idol live at the Orleans Casino. 36 hours without sleep were taking their toll as they met Kristofferson’s wife Lisa in an elevator without knowing her. But all things happen for a reason. “We both had on self-made replicas of a shirt Kris got in the 80s from a fan and which he wore often,” recalls Julian. “That’s why Lisa started talking to us, and a few minutes later we found ourselves clutching two backstage passes in our sweaty palms.”

So they shook hands with their idol—unable to speak, weak in the knees, the whole fan-meets-hero hassle included.  But they did manage to hand him their album featuring 16 Kristofferson covers, Rockabilly style, leaving out the most popular ones for a good reason.  “What Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin have done with hits like ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ is simply not replicable, especially for a little rock’n’roll band from Germany,” Julian says about the band’s song choice. Having been thoroughly familiar with Kristofferson’s back catalogue since their teens, the Rocket to Stardom band mates admire the wide musical range the now 77-years-old Texan native has put into his body of work. “In Germany, Kris Kristofferson is mostly known for his acting, but as far as we’re concerned, his deep lyrics and wonderful songs have made a strong impression on us since we were kids, no matter what was fashionable back then,” says the 39-year-old Julian.

In 2010—having already passed the legal drinking age for quite some time—there was a night of high spirits which would go on to change their lives forever. In the beginning “it was just one of those projects you get into to have fun,” but after a while the three talented rockabilly musicians found their way of presenting the material in the right guise. “It felt good to be different,” remarks Julian, “our bands are part of a subcultural, underground scene. We’re not in this for the money.” What pays the rent are their jobs as a lawyer, police officer and gardener. “But our real life is music, period. It’s not always easy to reconcile both worlds, I can tell you,” admits Julian. 

Those “Duesseldorf dudes,” as they are known in Kristofferson’s world, are getting ready to tour with their idol and label boss. Being able to perform their versions for the German fans and knowing that the man who wrote them will be behind the curtain is a thrill of a life-time and, yes, a dream come true. The trio, which obviously took the name from a 70s Kristofferson song, knows how to handle the situation, because “nobody has recorded an album of his songs in rockabilly style.” Kristofferson truly loves Rocket to Stardom—he even participated in the project by singing with the band on two tracks. Kristofferson goes rockabilly on “Under The Gun“ and “I Hate Your Ugly Face” and his daughter Kelly makes her recording debut here on “Between Heaven And Here.” Could there be a bigger compliment? “Well, if he booked us for a private garden party in Hawaii. But we might be too expensive,” laughs Julian, the lawyer. “Mind you, if he really did, we definitely would call it a day.” At the same time, they’re just getting started…

Line-Up:

Julian Wiethoff – vocals, guitar

Bojan Lutz - bass

Jens Feldhaus - drums

Interview with Rock Cellar Magazine

Kris sits down with Marshall Ward to discuss everything; Greenwich Village, Johnny Cash, Gratitude, and Humility and much more.  Read the article at http://www.rockcellarmagazine.com/2013/08/02/kris-kristofferson-interview

Kris Joins Television Series, Troubadour, TX

Legendary singer, songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson will join television series, Troubadour, TX for it’s third season, which begins airing in late September.

Kristofferson will appear weekly as a segment host for the award-winning, 22 episode series. He will share personal stories of his life as a singer/songwriter, the influence of Texas music and artists and offer his unique perspective into the challenging journey of artists.  He will also star in a one-hour music special, presented by Troubadour, TX.

The one-hour music special, “Troubadour, TX presents an evening with Kris Kristofferson,” will air this fall nationwide on networks carrying the Troubadour, TX series.

"Having Kris Kristofferson as a part of the series and featured in a one-hour music special is an incredible honor,” said Carl Kornmeyer, COO of LBK Entertainment and executive producer of the show. “He is a musical poet, a legend and a true Troubadour."

In-Depth interview with CMT

Kris sits down with Whitney Self from CMT to talk about life, music, and Kris's new album, Feeling Mortal.  Read the inteview here: http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1701093/kris-kristofferson-still-lives-for-the-song.jhtml

Posted 2013-05-09

NPR interviews Kris

Kris sits down with NPR to discuss his new record.  Read excerpts or listen to the whole piece here:  http://www.npr.org/2013/02/03/170872651/kris-kristofferson-on-writing-for-and-outliving-his-idols

Posted 2013-04-06

Rolling Stone Reviews Feeling Mortal

Speaking from his home on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Kris Kristofferson, 76, looks back on a life rich with Hall of Fame-worthy country-music writing and recording credits, acclaimed acting roles, a Rhodes scholarship and collegiate athletic prowess with nothing short of fondness. "It's a pretty neat life when you think about it," he tells Rolling Stone. "I just feel so grateful." Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/kris-kristofferson-explores-mortality-on-new-album-20130117

Posted 2013-04-06

Video: Feeling Mortal

Country Music Hall of Famer Kris Kristofferson sat down with host Mojo Nixon and an audience of SiriusXM subscribers and superfans and answered questions about his life, career, and performed several songs including some from his new album "Feeling Mortal." This Town Hall special aired on SiriusXM Outlaw Country home to renegades, rebels, rabble rousers, and rogues (http://www.siriusxm.com/outlawcountry).

Posted 2013-04-06

Feeling Mortal - New Album

Kris Kristofferson releases Feeling Mortal on his own KK Records
Album of all new material drops January 29, 2013
 
Legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson will release his first album of new material in four years on January 29, 2013.  Feeling Mortal will be his first completely independent release on Kristofferson’s KK Records label.  
 
Kristofferson is a Country Music Hall of Famer who ranks among the most versatile of American talents. He’s been a Golden Gloves boxer, a Rhodes scholar, a college football player, an acclaimed actor, a military officer, a helicopter pilot, a Grammy-winner, a screw-up and an icon, and now he finds himself releasing the third Don Was-produced album in a twilight years trilogy. Feeling Mortal follows 2009’s Closer To The Bone and 2006’s This Old Road in examining hard-won grace.
 
“Wide awake and feeling mortal,” he writes on the title track. “At this moment in the dream/ That old man there in the mirror/ And my shaky self-esteem.”
“Going back to the beginning, the songs have been reflections of where I was at that point in my life,” he says. “I always try to be as honest as I can in the songwriting, otherwise there’s no point in doing it: I might as well be doing an advertising job or something. And what I’m finding, to my pleasant surprise at this age, is that I’m more inclined to laughter than tears. I hope I’ll feel this creative and this grateful until they throw dirt over me.”
 
The now 76-year-old Kristofferson did not always imagine this would be so. “If I look like a mean old man, that’s what I am,” he sang, back when he was still immortal and when he was sometimes a mean-feeling younger man. But now he’s mostly truthful and thankful, as he sings, “For the laughter and the loving/ That I’m living with today.” 
 
That doesn’t mean Feeling Mortal works as anyone’s greeting card of soft-peddled feelings. “Just Suppose” is another look in the mirror, a negotiation with shame’s reflection. “Castaway” is a cry of the heart, and a memory of a long-ago scene Kristofferson witnessed from the air, when he was flying helicopters over the Gulf of Mexico. And “My Heart Was The Last One To Know” is a harrowing old song, written by Kristofferson and genius poet/author/cartoonist/songwriter Shel Silverstein and previously recorded by Connie Smith.
 
“Shel was the only person I consistently wrote songs with,” Kristofferson says. “He was a fantastic writer. We did about a dozen songs, and usually he’d write down some titles and a description of what he was thinking about, and I’d go off and come back with a song.”
 
The album ends with “Ramblin’ Jack,” a song ostensibly about Kristofferson’s folk-singing friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Kristofferson approached the song as something of a self-penned co-write, inspired and begun by his younger self and finished in the present and mortal day. The second verse is the new one: “And if he knew how good he’d done/ Every song he ever sung/ I believe he’d truly be surprised.”
 
“Ramblin’ Jack’s one of those people whose whole life was music,” Kristofferson says. “He’s like William Blake and Bob Dylan and other people who just believed and lived for whatever poetry they could come up with. That’s probably the thing I was trying to be.”
 
That’s the thing he was, and the thing he is. 
 
In the Nashville beginning, Kristofferson threw away a promising military career in favor of life as what he sometimes calls, “A songwriting bum.” He had excelled at most everything he’d ever tried, save for singing and songwriting, but it was the singing and the writing that called to him. He wound up penning classics including “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “For The Good Times,” as well as a slew of other empathetic, incisive gems. Kristofferson—along with contemporaries Tom T. Hall, Mickey Newbury, Willie Nelson and John Prine—enhanced the scope of country music songwriting, focusing on layering, nuance, empathy and emotional truth. 
 
“A major reason for Kris’ enduring popularity is that he’s always been very honest and open about revealing his inner life,” says producer Don Was, who has worked with Kristofferson for the past 17 years. “‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ is a brutally frank, first-person narrative that just happens to hit a common nerve among millions of people, and that’s why Kris is such a great artist. I suspect a whole lot of folks will be able to relate to Feeling Mortal, now and for years to come. It’s totally in keeping with the body of Kris’ oeuvre.”
 
Kristofferson and Was spent three days recording Feeling Mortal, cutting 20 songs and picking 10, then bolstering the basic tracks with stellar instrumental work from guitarist Mark Goldenberg, pedal steel master Greg Leisz, keyboardist Matt Rollins, violinist and vocalist Sara Watkins, bassist Sean Hurley and drummer Aaron Sterling. 
 
They emerged with a piece of work that Was suggests is “One of Kris’ finest albums.” 
 
Kristofferson isn’t one to arm-wrestle with his own legacy, or to set his truths of today against the truths of his old-and-gone immortal self, but he’s pleased that a life that has been sustained by the product of his own imagination remains fruitful. 
 
Above all, Kristofferson is happy to be happy, grateful to be grateful, and wholly unwilling to take the credit for the wondrous way it’s all worked out. In the end, Feeling Mortal is a melodic note of gratitude, from creator to Creator.
“God Almighty, here I am,” he sings. “Am I where I ought to be? I’ve begun to soon descend, like the sun into the sea/ And I thank my lucky stars, from here to eternity/ For the artist that You are/ And the man you made of me.”
 
 
For more information contact Tamara Saviano / Tamara@tamarasaviano.com
 
Posted 2012-10-30

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