By Cole Premo

“Conceived and sung around lonesome campfires, rain-soaked ships decks, whispering mountain pines or dusty barren farmland, they stand the test of time and keep our souls alive.”

– John C. Reilly

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Academy Award-winning actor John C. Reilly is heading to Minneapolis with some talented friends to play an intimate music variety show Saturday.

You may know Reilly from films like Chicago, Step Brothers, Walk Hard and Boogie Nights, but aside from being an actor, Reilly also plays guitar and sings pretty well, too. In the show, he collaborates with great musicians, including Tom Brosseau, Becky Stark, Dan Bern, Sebastian Steinberg and Willie Watson.

“It’s like a variety show of roots music from bluegrass, to old country, to old folk songs and those old sea shanty story songs,” Reilly said in a phone interview Friday. “We do different duets throughout the night and then we do a bunch of numbers together also, so it has the feeling of an old ‘Pete Seeger hootenanny’ kind of show. I’m the MC and I talk to the audience and have a good time.”

Reilly organized the shows after coming to a realization.

“I knew all these different people from different places and I was playing with them one day when this occurred to me: why am I playing all these different music rehearsals with different friends? Why don’t we just all come together and make a show? And it’s turned into a pretty magical thing,” Reilly said.

Reilly said they’ve been playing in more intimate environments and there’s a reason for that.

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“We try to keep them to places where they’re really going to have an impact … theatres, church spaces. We’re not the kind of band that’s going to play 40 shows or anything,” Reilly said.

Guitar god (my words) and record producer Jack White – also Reilly’s co-star in Walk Hard – produced the two singles for Reilly, called “I’m Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar” and “I’ll Be There If You Ever Want.”

“I told him (a couple years back) that I’m doing this music thing where I’m singing and he said, ‘oh, man, you should come down. Any time you want to record anything, let me know. You can stay at my house, I have a recording studio. I have a vinyl pressing plant. We could press the records in 24 hours as soon as we make the recordings.’ I thought that was incredible so I couldn’t pass that up,” Reilly said. “He graciously opened his doors for us and produced those singles.”

According to Reilly, White helped show the world that his music was serious — not just from another actor trying to leverage his success to churn out low-quality music.

“He also gave us a shot in the arm, and a shot of legitimacy, when we needed it. For better or worse, as an actor, you come with a little bit of baggage. In the music world, people can be like, ‘what is this, some kind of vanity project?’ But when you have someone like Jack White saying, ‘no, these guys are good, I’m putting out their record,’ it put a little wind in our sails and I really appreciate what Jack did for us.”

Reilly ended the interview with a message for fans — a quote by Tom Waits.

“Always keep a diamond in your mind.”

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John Reilly & Friends play at The Assembly Theatre at the Woman’s Club on Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and it’s open to all ages. Click here for ticket information.