The Blue Jackets at Maxwell’s

Featuring an interview with actor/guitarist Ed Burns

Adrian Granier, Jared Leto, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, and Ed Burns. All actors that have enjoyed A-list success on the big screen, and all trying to live out every guy’s true high school dream: To be a rock star.

The venerable Maxwell’s on 11th and Washington in Hoboken draws bands big and small almost every evening. So while looking on the Maxwell’s website in early December, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see The Blue Jackets and its lead guitarist, Ed Burns (The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One, Saving Private Ryan, Confidence) on the docket for a show on a Friday night in late December.

My experience at Maxwell’s in reviewing Adrian Granier’s (Vincent Chase of Entourage) band–The Honey Brothers–led me to believe that landing an interview with Burns and his bandmates wouldn’t be a difficult task. The 30-year-old bar/restaurant/auditorium doesn’t have a backstage or VIP lounge, thereby forcing band members to mingle with the crowd at the back or front bars. Upon stumbling on to Burns in the bathroom when I first arrived to relieve myself of the two beers that I consumed at Goldhawk, it was quickly apparent that landing a sit-down discussion wouldn’t be a problem.

The 39-year-old Irishman comes across exactly as he is portrayed in most of his films: Down-to-earth, affable and devoid of the usual self-importance that some actors tend to accumulate after reading too many of their press clippings (such as Alyssa Milano at The Madison a few nights later that needed to be escorted by bouncers through the empty restaurant area every time she needed to go outside to smoke).

Burns asked that I watch and listen to his band in their first visit to New Jersey first before we spoke. Given that his supermodel wife, Kristy Turlington, was in attendance that was an easy request to handle. From there, the Blue Jackets, like The Honey Brothers, were a pleasant surprise. After all, my first experiences hearing an actor attempt the jump from speaking to song was Eddie Murphy’s dreadful My Girl Likes to Party All the Time and Don Johnson’s equally horrific Heartbeat, so it’s understandable that my expectations in such situations had been permanently lowered.

When describing the sound of the Blue Jackets, it’s simply a throwback to 70s punk rock…a combination of The Kinks and The Ramones. Unlike most bands that Hobokenites see on a regular basis at the Jersey Shore or Hoboken’s Whiskey Bar or O’Donohughes, the Jackets don’t do covers but instead offer their own material (the type of upbeat sound that you could envision singing along to in a convertible riding down the Parkway) such as Four Cheers, Typical and Who Needs a DJ? (To sample these tunes, continue reading until the bottom of this page where they can be heard by going to their linked MySpace page or look for them on iTunes)

The performance also featured the “Jack-etts” doing backup vocals in the form of the aforementioned Turlington and three of the other band members’ girlfriends/wives. For the packed house at Maxwell’s with flash bulbs flashing early and often, the site of Burns and Turlington on stage should have been enough for some to say they got their money’s worth, but thanks to the spirited vocals of the Jackets’ PT Walkley and the crisp sound of his supporting cast, the two celebrities became a complimentary side dish…which is normally the way it works for the lead singer of a rock band.

Walkley’s story is one that comes out of a Hollywood script in terms of the opportunity that walked into his world one quiet afternoon back in 2002.

“I was working in a guitar store down on Ludlow Street about five years ago and Eddie (Burns) came in one day, and we kind of became fast friends,” explains Walkley, who looks like a stunt double for a young Paul McCartney. “We were both obsessed with guitar playing, so I slid him a few songs that ended really working for his movies (The Groomsman, Purple Violets). We kind of hit it off and it snowballed. Now I do movies…the “Priceless” commercials for Mastercard. It’s special and amazing. I finally was able to quit my day job.”

While Burns met Walkley randomly, the roots of the band come from his teen years on Long Island.

“The bass player and I went to Union High School and (the Blue Jackets) was the school’s mascot. It’s actually a nickname for guys who served in the Navy.”

The interview is interrupted by a guy who claims he knows Burns’ uncle (this turns out to be true). He’s a little buzzed, but Burns speaks with him for ten minutes without hesitation. I ask him if random people approaching him while out to dinner or walking down the street ever becomes annoying.

“I’ve never given it any thought,” he shutters.”It’s no different than hanging out in a bar, meeting people you grew up with, a friend of the family…It’s not like I’m ever swarmed by people, so the conversation always stays in a respectful, safe place.”

While acting allows for retakes and post-production editing, performing in front of a crowd on a live stage offers no such luxury. Does Burns ever get sweaty palms when performing with the band given the fact that he only took up playing guitar seriously six years ago?

“It’s more fun, more nerve racking, more exciting than any day I’ve ever had on the set,” he chuckles. “The thing that I love about it is, when I’m an actor or directing one of my films, the spotlight is on me. But in this band, I’m the fourth most important guy. It reminds me of 14 years of playing competitive sports. I played hoops, soccer…where I was never really the star but just another player on the team. The camaraderie that comes with playing sports is what I get out of this experience. The great thing about this band–unlike my movie career which is all about being successful–that this is only about hanging out with a great bunch of guys, laughing your ass off and having fun.”

Burns recently started a comic book collection (titled “Dock Walloper”) and is slated to be in two movies early this year (27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl and One Missed Call with Shannyn Sossaman). And the band will be playing venues such as Bowery Ballroom (February 23) and Wednesday at the Square in New Orleans. By juggling three careers at once, as well as a family (he and Turlington had their second child in ’06), I wonder aloud when he’ll take a step back and be satisfied with all he has accomplished before the age of 40.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been that guy who is satisfied,” Burns replies quickly. “The good fortune that came to me post-Brothers McMullen opened up a thousand different doors. My whole approach has been to keep working.”

“I’ve had movies that have been successful and I’ve had movies that have been complete bombs,” he continues.”I’ve gotten great reviews and I’ve gotten shit reviews. I’ve gone from the glory days of Saving Private Ryan to the dismal depths of a Sound of Thunder. The thing that I’ve always done is to expose myself to interesting people…get turned on my new artists and constantly try to keep learning. The Blue Jackets is another chapter in pushing creative buttons and forcing myself into uncomfortable situations. Staying in your comfort zone offers no growth.”

While playing in a band is a thrilling experience, Burns reveals that writing will always be his greatest passion: “I went to school to be a novelist and then stumbled on to screenwriting…it will always be my one true love. They can take everything else way, but if I can still sit down and write screenplays, I’d be a happy guy.”

So will the Blue Jackets be returning to Hoboken anytime soon?

“Love Hoboken,” he says as a friend nearby giggles and says, “You didn’t even know where it was before tonight,” to which Burns laughs and retorts, “I knew it was on the other side of the river and it was right through the Holland Tunnel. I think we’ll be back here (at Maxwell’s) in March. Playing Manhattan is tough because you have to do the whole New York thing. Our whole goal is to keep that bridge and tunnel thing alive.”

When your band is named after members of the Navy, getting back across the Hudson shouldn’t be a problem.

To learn more about the Blue Jackets, visit or their MySpace page at