David Duchovny follows musical muse to show at Wilbur

David Duchovny
Adam Bradley
David Duchovny

When it comes to his music, one of the first things David Duchovny will tell you is that he isn’t in it for the money. Obviously: There are sci-fi classics to reboot and movies to topline for that, after all.

No, the “X-Files” star, now 56, is running on a mix of instinct and adrenaline with “Hell or Highwater,” the folk-rock album he released almost two years ago. A tour in support of that record makes a stop at the Wilbur Theatre Wednesday.

“I feel like I’m playing an impossible game of catch-up,” says Duchovny, stepping out from a rehearsal with his backing band of Berklee-trained musicians (who perform separately as Weather) to talk on the phone.


“When I started doing this, I never thought I’d be recording or that I’d sing in front of anyone else,” he says. “It was really an experience I was having with myself of learning to play guitar, of throwing some chords together and being surprised I heard some melodies over those chords that could be my own.”

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From there, Duchovny began dabbling in songwriting. But it wasn’t until friend and musician Keaton Simons introduced him to Brad Davidson, president of Boston label ThinkSay Records, that the idea to record his music first emerged.

Sensing a Bob Dylan-esque texture to Duchovny’s music and lyrics, Davidson was quick to assemble a quintet of Berklee musicians to, as he describes it by phone, “put together something genuine that fit David’s style.” And as Duchovny became more comfortable with the band, Davidson’s excitement about collaborating on an album grew exponentially.

“I attacked the process as if David was just a normal guy who happened to write these great songs,” says Davidson, who refers to the artist-turned-musician as a “renaissance man” enamored of his musical pursuits. “I was surprised by his ability to write not only nice songs but really nice melodies.”

For Duchovny, completing “Hell or Highwater” was a matter of discipline.


“I don’t have that many ideas, so I figure I should probably tackle the few that are given me,” he says, laughing. “I have ideas when I sit down to do things, so if I sat down and said, ‘I’m going to write a song,’ I’ll probably write a song.”

A slow-rolling, low-key affair, the disc relies on Duchovny’s hangdog vocals to spin yarns of loss, love, and loneliness. By turns elegiac and easygoing, it’s an album steeped in its creator’s influences (among them Wilco, R.E.M., and Leonard Cohen) but flavored by his own sense of blunt poetry.

“My approach to lyric-writing is, the more personal it is, the more universal it is, and the more universal you can make it, the more personal it actually becomes,” he explains of songs like lamenting “Let It Rain” and the title track, on which he croons, “I said I’d love you forever, come hell or highwater/ Well baby, the flood’s in.”

“It’s not so much that I’m in touch with all the things I want to express,” Duchovny says of his creative process. “It’s more like if I sit down trying to express something, something comes out.”

Still, the actor cautions gossip aficionados hoping for peeks into his personal life that the characters he plays across “Hell or Highwater” are often as fictitious as Fox Mulder.


“Songwriting has been my most personal but not confessional [expression],” he says. “It’s not allegorical in any way, and you wouldn’t want to draw a direct line between what I’m writing about and things that have happened in my personal life.”

For Duchovny, putting pen to paper has always been an organic process — both in terms of music and creative writing. He’ll sign copies of his 2016 baseball novel “Bucky [Expletive] Dent,” about a father-son bond informed by the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, at Brookline Booksmith at noon on Wednesday, just hours before the concert.

As with making music, publishing a novel was never part of Duchovny’s master plan.

“I discovered it in the writing rather than before you started writing,” says Duchovny, an ardent baseball fan who says multiple scattered ideas “eventually coalesced around this story I was able to tell.”

Many artists work at their crafts for financial gain. Others seek fame to go along with the fortune. Duchovny’s motivations, he says before returning to practice with his band, are more naturalistic.

“For me, if I start to feel bad enough, that means I’m not expressing myself or getting something out, so that’s a sign I’m not being disciplined enough, not trying to get it out,” says Duchovny. “It’s more like an equilibrium I’m looking for where I stop feeling so [expletive].”


At the Wilbur Theatre, Wednesday at 8 p.m.. Tickets: $29.50-$150,

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at, or on Twitter at @i_feldberg.