To fans of the American version of the sit-com The Office Creed Bratton is instantly recognisable as the oddball character he shares a name with.
Over nine series he played paper company Dunder Mifflin’s quality assurance director who was prone to making baffling statements and whose worldview always seemed slightly off-kilter.
But those who know him only from the hit show, may not be aware that he also possesses a pedigree as a musician going back to the 1960s.
The California-native signed to Dunhill Records with The 13th Floor, who then morphed into The Grass Roots. The folk-rock act scored top 10 hits and toured the world. He stayed with them for three albums.
‘We did have some success. We didn’t get paid though – the record company just took everything! The Mamas and The Papas were on the same label, they ended up owing $250,000 and they sold millions of records. I talked to the guys from Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night and we all got treated the same – no-one got paid.
‘But we could play live, it kept me off the streets, and it kept me off the streets, being a rock’n’roll star’s not a bad gig…’
So did he get sucked into the hippy lifestyle – the sex and drugs?
‘You know, you can’t be objective when you’re the object. I’d been playing music professionally since I was 17, and I was in my mid-20s by then. So when this happened it was like: “Oh, I’m getting paid a bit more, and it’s bigger stages, but I’m still getting up onstage, playing my guitar and singing.” This is your life. It’s only in retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight you realise: “Oh my god, I was part of the zeitgeist!”
‘We played the Fillmore, Miami Pop Festival, we toured with Cream, The Young Rascals, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Hendrix – we played with everybody.’
Several of those people he mentions are sadly no longer alive – casualties of that lifestyle.
‘That’s part of the deal as an artist – it’s expected of you in a rock band at that time, I don’t know if it is so much now, you kind of have to imbibe and go to the other side of the veil to glean these little chestnuts of introspection, and then try to get back and be lucid enough to write them down as a song – and that was the game, and I accepted that.
‘But don’t go too far – I tried to use it as an instrument, a means to an end. But some people don’t moderate…’
Creed recently released his eighth solo album, While The Young Punks Dance – his first in seven years, but he’s already working on the follow-up: ‘I’m working on my ninth studio album now – by the time I get to the UK, I hope a couple of them will be ready.’
However, Punks was inspired by the period where his career was in the doldrums – he kept working, but he wasn’t setting the world alight.
‘It was a very introspective album, they’re very personal.
‘There was a time between The Grass Roots and The Office, I was in class, I was working any job I could get, doing movies and TV shows, still recording – little parts here and there.
‘All these songs are my subconscious giving me advice, or warnings, or direction – hopefully trying to help me. Sometimes I may not know until six months or a year or two later, and then it’s: “Oh, I see… that’s what that was about! I should have taken that advice. But I didn’t,” he laughs.
‘I’m basically just sitting down like the old folkies, with an acoustic guitar, finger picking and singing.’
It also includes the song All The Faces which he sang in the final episode of The Office: ‘That’s the first time that’s been on album, so that’s kind of cool.’
And is he really like The Office’s ‘Creed’?
‘Everyone seemed to think that I was that guy
‘But the reality is I think John Krasinski, was more like his character (Jim Halpert), a likeable guy, quick-witted and funny, than I’m like “Creed”.’
‘I was a big fan of Ricky Gervais and the original Office, I loved it. I was working on a show called Bernie Mac, and the director came on and I found out he was doing an American version of it, so I lobbied him, I wrote the character, created it and ad-libbed a bunch of stuff, had a friend shoot it and submitted it.
‘I exaggerated, he’s like a broken tuning fork, he vibrates at a very oblique angle, and I’m not that guy.
‘Every actor has some of yourself in the characters of course – unless he’s a Daniel Day Lewis or a Jaoquin Phoenix! You can’t get away from yourself at an intrinsic level.’
But do people expect the character when they see him in real life?
‘Yeah, sometimes they’re relieved I’m not like him. and sometimes they’re disappointed!
‘I was in a market one time and there was this woman with a kid, I could see she recognised me, and she sort of smiled – and then she pulled the kid away from me a little bit. I went: “Really? I’m an actor!” She said she was sorry, so I told her I took is a compliment.’
Engine Rooms, Southampton
Thursday, September 26