30 Actors Who Are Dying to Be Successful Musicians
The good, the ehh, and the downright unlistenable.
For most people, making it big in as an actor would be a dream come true. But for many A-listers, finding success in a single creative pursuit just won’t cut it. Despite the acclaim they’ve earned for their chops on the big or small screen, these actors have done their best to prove they’re more than highly-celebrated one-trick ponies. From Oscar-nominated actors to the leads on primetime TV shows, many stars have made vested efforts to carbon-copy their success in the music industry and transpose it in the recording studio.
However, for every star who’s been showered with praise for their skills behind the mic or in front of the Marshall, you’ll find an embarrassing musical effort fans are all too happy to forget. Want to see if your favorite celeb has surprising musical prowess? Then read on to discover these 30 actors who are dying to be successful musicians. And for more celebrities with hidden talents, check out these 30 Celebrities Who Are Amazing Artists On the Side.
Oscar-nominated actor Ryan Gosling doesn’t just deliver his best work on the big screen. Since the early 2000s, the La La Land star has been playing guitar, bass, piano, and providing vocals for rock duo Dead Man’s Bones, a group he co-founded in 2005 with his close friend Zach Shields. And despite having formed over a decade ago, the band has thus far only put out one self-titled album, released in 2009. And for more surprising Gosling antics, don’t miss the 11 Times A-List Celebrities Became Real-Life Heroes.
Keanu Reeves is certainly best known for his roles in movies like The Matrix and John Wick, but he’s also spent much of his time in the spotlight working on his musical career. In 1991, Reeves co-founded alternative rock group Dogstar, for which he served as bassist and backing vocalist. The band split in 2002.
Jamie Foxx may have won an Oscar for his performance in Ray, but acting is hardly the A-list actor’s only claim to fame in the entertainment industry. Foxx has also lent his talents to Kanye West’s “Slow Jamz,” and scored a bona fide hit with 2009’s “Blame It,” which hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Of course, Jamie’s got more than just acting and musical talent—he’s also one of the fittest celebs out there, and rocks one of the 50 Most Amazing Over-40 Bodies.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.’s has had one of the most impressive second acts in Hollywood, rebounding from a drug abuse-marred career to become one of the most profitable leading men in the business. However, that’s far from the only surprise the Iron Man star has revealed to fans: the actor also has had a slightly less-publicized career as a singer, releasing solo album The Futurist in 2004, recording a popular cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” and lending his vocal talents to Ally McBeal and the soundtrack to a handful of films, including Chaplin and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Bruce Willis may forever be John McClane to Die Hard fans, but the action star has tried nearly as hard to prove his chops as a singer, as well. Willis, who performs both solo and with his band, The Accelerators, has released three albums, and has been a featured artist on a number of movie soundtracks. And for more on everyone’s favorite action star and film, don’t miss these 25 Amazing Facts about Die Hard.
Lindsay Lohan’s more recent acting efforts may leave something to be desired, but they still manage to outshine her music career. In 2004, the troubled starlet released the album Speak, for which she earned a MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Pop Video for her single “Rumors,” despite the album being widely panned by critics.
While 24 kept Kiefer Sutherland busy for the better part of a decade, the star managed to find time to release an album after the show finally wrapped for good in 2014. Two years later, Sutherland released his debut album, Down in the Hole, a country album performed and produced by Sutherland and musical partner Jude Cole. And for more surprises from your favorite stars, check out these 20 Celebrity Friendships You Never Could’ve Predicted.
While it was her role as Hannah Montana that catapulted her to fame, Miley Cyrus has been eager to make her presence known in the music industry in recent years. And while her early hits, like “7 Things” and “Party in the U.S.A.” got plenty of radio play, her more recent work, like “Malibu,” off her album Younger Now, has won her far more critical acclaim.
John Stamos may be Uncle Jesse to most of us, but his die-hard fans also know him as a surprisingly talented musician, as well. Not only did Stamos release a solo album in 1994, he’s also toured with the Beach Boys on and off since 1985, both singing and playing drums and guitar for the iconic band.
Brie Larson may be best known for her tour de force performances on screen, but long before she was an Oscar winner, she was a pop star. Back in 2005, the Captain Marvel star released her debut album, Finally Out of P.E., full of angsty teenage tracks with hilariously angsty names like “Invisible Girl” and “Whatever.”
Action star Steven Seagal has more than just martial arts moves up his sleeve. The legally-embattled actor has released two albums and has toured the United States with blues rock band, Thunderbox.
Academy Award nominee Juliette Lewis has made her mark on the big screen, but in recent years, the acclaimed actress has chosen to focus more on her musical career. Lewis has performed with her band, Juliette & The Licks, on and off since 2003, as well as branching out as a solo artist in 2009.
Johnny Depp has long been up front about his interest in the music industry, serving as part owner of Los Angeles rock venue The Viper Room from its inception in 1993 until 2001. The actor has also been a member of rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires since 2015, as well as playing rhythm guitar for glam metal band Rock City Angels from 1986 to 1987.
Hilary Duff may be best known for her acting these days, but the Younger star hasn’t given up on her musical roots. The actress has released a total of seven albums, the most recent of which was released in 2015.
Macaulay Culkin’s acting career may have stalled in recent years, but the Home Alone star has kept plenty busy as a musician. For three years, Culkin performed with comedy rock band The Pizza Underground before officially announcing the band’s split in 2018.
Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale got her start as a singer and has recently returned to her musical roots. In 2004, Hale competed as a contestant on reality competition show American Juniors before opting to focus on acting. However, in 2014, she returned to the studio, releasing her first solo album, Road Between.
Hugh Laurie is one of the few actors whose musical careers might just surpass his dramatic skills. The former House star is both a multi-instrumentalist and singer, lending his talents to Band From TV, a cover band that donates the entirety of the proceeds from its performances to charity, as well as releasing two acclaimed studio albums showcasing his skills as a jazz and blues musician.
Jada Pinkett Smith
It seems as though every member of the Smith family is multitalented, including matriarch Jada Pinkett Smith. Since 2002, the actress has been a member of metal band Wicked Wisdom, which has opened for Britney Spears and performed at Ozzfest.
Joe Pesci might be wise to stick to his gangster act instead of getting behind the mic. The Oscar winner, who started his career as a lounge singer, released the much-maligned Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You in 1998, 30 years after the release of his debut album.
In addition to her decades-spanning acting career, Anna Kendrick has managed to find some serious success as a singer, too. In 2013, the Pitch Perfect star released the hit single “Cups,” and has also performed on the soundtracks for films including Up in the Air, The Last Five Years, and Trolls.
Eddie Murphy’s 1985 hit “Party All the Time” was hardly the actor’s first and last foray into the music biz. Murphy has released three full-length musical albums and has been consistently releasing singles throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with his latest track, “Oh Jah Jah” hitting the airwaves in 2015.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jennifer Love Hewitt’s musical career may have been overshadowed by her on-screen presence, but make no mistake: she gave singing her best shot for quite some time. Hewitt has released four full-length albums over the course of her career, including 1995’s unfortunately titled Let’s Go Bang.
While his roles in Wes Anderson movies made him a household name, Jason Schwartzman has actually been one of the more successful actors to attempt a musical career. In addition to spending many years as the songwriter and drummer for rock band Phantom Planet, he’s also known for his solo project Coconut Records, which he released the popular single “West Coast” in 2007.
Taylor Momsen may have dropped off most people’s radars after she since Gossip Girl, but the actress has still been working hard as a musician since the show wrapped in 2012. Since 2009, Momsen has also served as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for rock band The Pretty Reckless, releasing three studio albums with the act.
While Scarlett Johansson’s acting résumé has earned her worldwide acclaim, her foray into the musical world has been somewhat less successful. In 2008, Johansson released Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Waits covers featuring a single original song. However, the album wasn’t exactly well-received, with Spin calling her, “about as capable as a karaoke enthusiast needs to be.” That said, Break Up, her indie-folk album with Pete Yorn, made waves in the indie rock community. (We suggest listening to “Relator,” a feel-good folk jam perfect for any summer get-together.)
Kevin Bacon’s extensive connections in the entertainment industry extend well beyond the world of acting. The star has also been a member of rock duo The Bacon Brothers with his own brother, Michael Bacon, since 1995. And while you might not be familiar with their songs, they’re relatively prolific, having released eight albums in total.
Long before Russell Crowe’s acting career took off, the Oscar winner was performing as a musician in his native Australia. Since then, Crowe has performed with the bands 30 Odd Foot of Grunts and The Ordinary Fear of God, as well as showcasing his talents as a solo artist.
Zosia Mamet’s musical career has been a surprising source of controversy for the former Girls star. In addition to performing with band Chacha, Mamet and her sister, Clara, launched an ill-fated Kickstarter campaign to fund a music video, asking fans for $32,000—of which they made under $3,000 in total.
Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton’s rock and roll lifestyle didn’t begin and end with his blood-necklace-wearing days. The actor has released nine studio albums in total, both as a solo artist and with his band, The Boxmasters.
When she’s not busy leading a revolution full of jade eggs and Moon Juice, Gwyneth Paltrow has been honing her craft behind the mic. While she’s never released a solo album, the Goop founder has let her singing talents shine in movies like Duets and Country Strong, as well as during stints on Glee. And if you think that’s a shocker, just wait until you see The 30 Most Outrageous Celebrity Interview Moments.
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