Billy Bob Thornton stays busy with Boxmasters

Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton apologizes that his side project — the roadhouse-rowdy rock combo The Boxmasters — doesn’t make it to San Francisco as often as it should. But it just might be jinxed. Their last show was canceled, last minute, and the return performance initially was billed as just Thornton himself. He’s not sure why, or even if he should be insulted. But he accepts his fate. “This week is a Boxmasters concert, and we have a new a 19-song album that just came out this week called ‘In Stereo,’” he says. “But the fact is, we just never do well in San Francisco itself, never sell a lot of tickets. You’ll have to drive and see us elsewhere around the Bay Area.”

Recording-wise, you guys are really productive, with two albums out in one year sometimes.

Yeah. All we do is record. But none of that matters much in this modern world. Nowadays, it’s like, “You’ve got a record? Good, let’s put it out.” Because people don’t really go to record stores and buy albums anymore. All you can do is just throw it out there and hope that somebody hears it.

With the Justice Anthony Kennedy retirement announcement recently, it felt like the world finally tipped off its axis. You?

It’s a strange world we live in. But I’m not educated enough on politics, so I kind of stay home and watch old movies. I kind of gave up. I’m just in the entertainment business. They asked Elvis about the Vietnam War, and he said, “Well, to tell you the truth, sir, I’m just an entertainer.” So I don’t know enough about politics to speak in an educated way.

In the recent HBO Elvis documentary, one of the commentators reasoned that Presley’s song selections rang true because they were originally written in sorrow and pain.

Yeah, I think so. I really find that to be true. My best songwriting mood is when I’m sad or depressed, or it’s late at night. That’s the best time and the best mood for me. It’s like you’re exempt from the world at that time.

So The Boxmasters aren’t some psychological escape hatch in these crazy times?

My escape hatch is watching “Steven Universe” on Cartoon Network with my daughter. That’s what I do. I’m more of a hermit. And my daughter is gong to be 14 in September, so she’s gotten more sophisticated.

And they finally made Martin Amis’ “London Fields” into a movie that you’re in?

Yeah, we did it a couple of years ago, and they’re releasing it soon. Then there’s “A Million Little Pieces,” directed by Sam Taylor Johnson, who directed “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s a cool, small independent film, too.


Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. July 8
Tickets: $35 to $40

Tom Lanham
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Tom Lanham

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