CHICAGO (CBS) — Jimmy Buffett arrived in Chicago for the premiere of his new musical, “Escape to Margaritaville,” which is playing at the Oriental Theater.
“Hey, what’s up Chicago?” Buffett said to a cheering audience.
The venture into the theater world is something he says has been a bit of a labor of love.
“It’s been a long process, and this is our last stop before Broadway, but I love stretching out, seeing this with great people who’ve inspired me and lead me along the way,” he said.
Buffett admits it’s strange seeing others sing his songs.
“I get out there, and today, I still can’t believe it’s happening. And then on the other hand, I’m watching how I can tweak the show,” he laughed.
Over his more than 40-year career, he says it was natural to create a musical with his enormous song book.
“It’s not much different than what we do at our other job, but I thought it was very natural to have something fun and entertaining, especially in these days and times.”
Over the years, he’s written about love, loss, regrets, growing older and escaping to the beach — something he says his fans understand.
“I think there are a lot more people in the musical theater world who are Parrotheads than people realize,” he laughed.
His fan base, who call themselves “Parrotheads,” is something of a phenomenon; something he says happened organically.
“It just kind of sprung up. I have to remind everybody, I didn’t ask them, I didn’t ask my fans to wear hats and fins, they did that on their own, right?” he smiled as he pointed to a fan wearing a shark hat.
In the end, he knows he’s in the business of escapism.
His says his inspiration comes from growing up in a beach town near New Orleans.
“Everybody gets to enjoy what I grew up with. Mardi Gras is a few days off from the rigors of the world and that’s all we ever tried to do. This is a simple extension of that. It permeates the culture. The essence of it all, to me, goes back to being a child of the Mardi Gras, growing up on the Gulf Coast. As a kid, I just loved Mardi Gras. I didn’t get good grades. The only A I got in school is in float building,” he joked.
At 70-years-old, he shows no signs of stopping. After his premiere in Chicago, he’ll be off to Miami to shoot a movie with Matthew McConaughey. At the same time, he’ll also be preparing for a hurricane relief concert with Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney in Tallahassee on Nov. 19th.
Buffett says it still amazes him how far he’s come — from that guitar player in the local dive bar.
“When you walk out on stage at a place like Wrigley Field, and you’re playing to 46,000 people, there’s times you have to stop and go, you think about the times when there was nobody there and you go, damn, you know?”
He says he’s realizing his impact on people’s lives and the music industry as a whole.
“It’s responsibility, and I totally understand and comprehend it. It’s great to have a fan base that’s that loyal and expands generations. I never thought I’d be here doing this at this point in my life.”
In addition to Buffett’s more than 30 albums, his accomplishments include: Owning and operating restaurants, casinos and a clothing line, launching “Radio Margaritaville,” writing three number one best sellers, and appearing in several movies and television shows.
“It’s been an amazing, kind of wonderful, why not try it, kind of thing all along the way.”