David Duchovny’s voice is out there
AS midlife sea changes go, X-Files superstar David Duchovny was taking an enormous risk picking up a guitar, recording his debut album and embarking on a world concert tour.
He was acutely aware of the cynicism that has greeted actors who try their hand at rock stardom.
Who knew he could even sing?
Duchovny is refreshingly candid about his vocal abilities.
"This is not an American Idol thing where you are being judged on your voice on some scale," he says. "And no one at school ever said 'Hey David, sing louder' in choir.
"It's about expression. I forget who it was but I read a musician talking about how he likes to listen to people with bad voices because they have to use what they've got to work with. I get the pathos of somebody working with a limited range to create something beautiful. It's human."
Duchovny decided to pick up the guitar again three years ago, in the wake of his divorce from actor Tea Leoni, to fill in the hours of alone time when he wasn't sharing custody of their two children Madelaine and Kyd.
He started composing songs - he was also writing books in his spare time - and sought out musicians who would work with him, including Colin Lee, who would produce his debut 2015 album Hell or Highwater.
Most of the members of his backing band Weather, an indie outfit based in Brooklyn, New York, are graduates from the esteemed Berklee College of Music.
You can imagine there might have been some eye-rolling temptation at the thought of backing an actor playing rock star.
"They are a good deal younger than me. I don't know if they were sceptical. I never asked," he said.
"I walked into the situation with the right amount of humility and curiosity for what I didn't have in chops. I make up for that in other things and they realise I am sincere.
"I am not trying to have a hit record. I am just trying to make music."
The Californication star certainly showed a fearlessness on the debut album, which critics have stamped in the folk-rock camp, as evidenced by his own influences, which stretch from Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to Wilco and REM.
It was a brave man indeed who wrote Positively Madison Avenue, a song having a crack at commercialism and inspired by Dylan featuring in a Chrysler television ad, which aired during the Superbowl in 2014.
"I could not be a bigger fan of Bob Dylan. The song is less about him and more about the world we live in, using that commercial as a focal point," he says.
"I have no problem with him selling out; whatever he wants to do. The song was more representative of how I felt about watching that with my kids."
While he has admitted to suffering a crisis of faith when he first entered the recording studio, the process of songwriting and recording feels more natural the second time around as he has worked on new record Every Third Thought, which he is offering to fans via the crowd-funding platform Pledge Music.
"I don't think music will ever feel entirely natural to me because it's not something I have been doing my entire life," he says.
"To me, it is natural to write words and it has become more natural to sit down and screw around with a guitar, coming up with chord progressions that sound good to me. It's natural for me to want to call my band mates and say I have an idea for a song to work on with them."
He surprisingly found the transition to the live stage a little easier to handle.
Perhaps as an actor and writer, he was able to construct a musical persona to quell the inevitable nerves that beset most ordinary humans when they have to walk onto a stage.
But he credits his fans, whether they come because of his star turns in X Files, Californication, Twin Peaks and Aquarius, or are musically curious, for putting him at ease.
"I would have thought I would have been completely frozen and petrified but I have had a lot less nerves than I thought," he says.
"There was a distinct moment when I was waiting to go on stage in New York, maybe the third time I was going to be singing in public, and I was getting a little nervous, I could hear the crowd and I knew I had to get out of my own head.
"They spent money, got babysitters and came to this place to have a good time, not to have a bad time. I kept telling myself they didn't come to see me fail or to laugh at me or to hear how I can't hit a note.
"So I went out there to have a good time, hit the notes I can hit and f--- it."
By the time he toured Europe last year, fans had sampled Hell or Highwater and the most dedicated among them were ready to show their support with some impressive crowd karaoke.
It was a rock star moment he will never forget, even if he isn't destined to achieve the level of musical success of his own heroes.
"In Europe, it was crazy. It was a surreal moment when they all started singing. I did that thing where you hold out the mic out for them and their singing was louder than mine. I could take that verse off," he said, laughing.
Before he tours Australia in February, the next instalment of The X-Files will begin airing in January.
The night before his Australian tour promotional duties, Duchovny had binge-watched four episodes of the next season.
"I was only going to watch one but I had to keep going, they are fantastic, I'm not bulls---ing you, I am not selling it," he says.
"And yeah, it is weird watching your own show, it's kinda ridiculous."
His next challenge is to rehearse some Australian covers for the tour.
"Maybe some INXS or Midnight Oil, we will see," he says.
Duchovny performs at 170 Russell, Melbourne, February 23, Metro Theatre, Sydney, February 24, Anita's Theatre, Wollongong, February 25, Nex at Wests City, Newcastle, February 28 and Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane, March 1.