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Mary Steenburgen Embraces Mysterious, Later-in-Life Musical Talent

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Mary Steenburgen (Getty Images)

Mary Steenburgen woke up one day with a song in her heart.

After undergoing routine arm surgery in 2007, a procedure which required her to be sedated, the 60-year-old awoke to find that, completely out of the blue, she had a new musical ability.

"It was a minor surgery, but I had to go under general anesthetic," the Oscar-winning actress said in an interview with Metro newspaper. "When I came out from underneath it, I [was] feeling very strange. I kept saying I had a reaction to my anesthetic. I [was] drinking water, trying to get it out of my system, [but] kept feeling so odd. I felt like there was a radio in my brain. Everything was kind of musical. Someone would say a sentence and the sentence would get put into this whirlwind of music."

Steenburgen couldn't figure out why it was happening, but — after getting over initial worries that she was perhaps ill — she started to embrace it.

"It was very confusing and when it hadn't gone away after a number of days, it became upsetting, terrifying. I couldn't sleep at night," she continued. However, "after a few weeks, I looked in the mirror and thought, 'Look, you're a mother. You're a wife. You're a daughter. You're a sister. There's a lot of people who count on you and you cannot go crazy. You better figure out how to make this work for you.'"

After her pep talk to herself, she started studying music and composition and reading up on great songwriters. And while she had never written music — or ever considered writing it — she penned her first song on October 17, 2007, and hasn't stopped. To date, she's written (or co-written) more than 40 tunes and recently inked a deal with Universal Music. In her new film, "Last Vegas," you can hear her singing one of her original tunes.

In an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend, she revealed that her musical talents have now extended to the accordion. She took up it up after her husband, actor Ted Danson, gave it to her on Valentine's Day.

"I'm obsessed by it," she said about the instrument. "I love it beyond belief. There's something about it that just appeals to me. I don't know why."

Danson, who has been married to Steenburgen for 18 years, said he too was shocked by his wife's later-in-life musical talent.

"At first it was scary and threatening to our relationship. Is she humming to herself, or is she pissed off? I can't tell!" he joked to CBS News.

But he could tell it brings her great joy. Turning to his wife in the interview, he told her, "When you write, you go to heaven. You really go to some other place that is really almost divine."

As for launching a second career at this point in her life, Steenburgen quipped, "Hey, it's a miracle to have a career in Hollywood, but it doesn't begin to sum me up."

Watch Mary talk music and play the accordion at the end of this interview -- when there are about 2 minutes and 50 seconds left.

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