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Originally published Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Concert Preview: Jeff Bridges is the dude who loves to play music

Jeff Bridges is back in Seattle playing with The Abiders, but this time he’s not promoting “Crazy Heart,” which sparked the band, he’s just having a good time.

Seattle Times music critic

Concert preview

Jeff Bridges & the Abiders

8 p.m. Friday at the Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle; $37-$65 (877-784-4849 or www.stgpresents.org).

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“Yeah, man. I’m having a good time,” says Jeff Bridges on the phone, in precisely that disarming, laid-back, “regular dude” tone you’d expect.

But then Bridges is “The Dude,” so it’s no surprise his band is called The Abiders, since, as everyone knows, “the Dude abides” (in the film “The Big Lebowski”).

Bridges and his band abide at the Moore Theatre Friday. But this time it’s not to promote the film “Crazy Heart,” for which he won an Academy Award playing Bad Blake, letting the world know he wasn’t just a great actor, but a more than plausible country singer and guitar player. No, this time it’s just for the fun of it.

Bridges has two films “in the can,” he says — “R.I.P.D.” and “The Seventh Son” — so he’s “making a little time for music.”

The 63-year-old actor, who took up guitar as a kid, has often told interviewers he had a hard time choosing between acting and music.

“ ‘Crazy Heart’ was an opportunity for me to steep myself in both genres,” says Bridges, who first got hip to country music on the set of “The Last Picture Show,” whose soundtrack featured a lot of Hank Williams.

Though he has never taken a formal lesson, Bridges has hung out with the best, picking things up as he goes along. He says the kernel for the “Crazy Heart” music started during the filming of the 1980 film “Heaven’s Gate,” with Kris Kristofferson, who in part inspired Bridges’ take on Bad Blake.

“Ronnie Hawkins was with us,” says Bridges of the “Heaven’s Gate” experience. ”We did a lot of music.”

Hawkins was the leader of the group that became The Band, which backed Bob Dylan, another master Bridges has hung out with.

“Bob Dylan called my agent up and said he wanted me to be in a movie he was writing,” says Bridges, referring to the 2003 film, “Masked and Anonymous.” “That was a wonderful time. We made the whole movie in two weeks. I got to act with him. We did some pickin’, too. I’ve been around a lot of famous guys, but can you imagine being Bob Dylan? But he put me at ease.”

Playing the role of a musician was nothing new to Bridges, as he co-starred as a jazz pianist in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys,” set in the Emerald City. “American Heart,” based on the documentary “Streetwise,” also brought Bridges to our neck of the woods.

“Seattle is one of my favorite towns,” he says, sounding perfectly sincere. “I’ve got a lot of friends up there. Tom Skerritt. Dale Chihuly is a buddy of mine.”

Bridges also mentions Richard Peterson, the Seattle street musician who “retired” several years ago. He knows our city pretty well.

The Abiders don’t just play country music, but Americana, psychedelic rock, jazz and a little blues, as well. He’s bringing a crackerjack band from the Santa Barbara area (he lives in nearby Montecito) — Chris Pelonis, lead guitar and vocals; Bill Flores, pedal steel and accordion; Tom Lackner, drums; and Randy Tico, bass.

“My dear friend Chris Pelonis put this band together,” says Bridges. “They’re the cream of the crop. I thought it was going to be a long process, testing them out. But these guys just showed and we clicked right away. All of them.”

Though Bridges is out front, singing, with the Abiders, he’s a backup guitarist.

Nor surprisingly, the Dude is humble about his musicianship.

“I just keep trying to get better as a player, in a natural way,” says Bridges. “I do my best.”

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com

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