Actors Who Are Also Musicians
Which do you prefer—their music or their acting?
Plenty of actors who have appeared in musicals can’t even carry a tune in a bucket. But for some actors, playing a musician on-screen is about more than just playing a part. For some actors, these roles come a bit more easily.
Take a look below at some actors who are also skilled musicians. Many have released their own albums and some have even had hit records and enjoyed critical acclaim.
Since 2007, the Oscar-winning Hollywood icon has been performing with his own country-rock band, Kevin Costner & Modern West. The band has released four albums, including 2012’s “Famous for Killing Each Other,” which peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. In 2010, the “Field of Dreams” star even performed at Nashville’s legendary Grand Ole Opry.
One of the most prolific entertainers working today, the “Footloose” star has nearly 100 screen credits to go along with the seven albums he’s released as part of the country-rock duo The Bacon Brothers. Alongside his older brother, Michael Bacon, Kevin Bacon writes songs, plays guitar and sings as part of the group, which has been active since the mid-1990s. In 2014, he told Rolling Stone that his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, is the first person who hears every new Bacon Brothers song and gives her opinion on it.
The star of “New Girl” has a love for vintage pop music and has been performing her own take on it since 2008 with her band, She & Him. The musical duo was formed in 2006 when Deschanel met musician M. Ward while making the movie “The Go-Getter.” Since then, She & Him has released six records, including two Christmas albums. The group has even played Coachella, and Rolling Stone called its version of “The Christmas Waltz” one of the greatest rock & roll Christmas songs ever.
The stunning star of films like “Lost in Translation” and the Avengers movies has been moonlighting as a musician since 2007 when she performed with The Jesus & Mary Chain at Coachella. In 2008, she released her first album, “Anywhere I Lay My Head.” Since then, she’s worked several times with singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, including on a five-song record, “Apart,” which was released in 2018.
Billy Bob Thornton
Hollywood rebel Billy Bob Thornton has always said that music was his first love. In fact, he’s been working as a musician since the early ’80s. After making it big in the movie business by scoring an Oscar for his writing on “Sling Blade” (which he also starred in and directed), Thornton released his first album, “Private Radio,” in 2001. The album featured a song about then-wife Angelina Jolie, called “Angelina.” The “Bad Santa” star released three more solo albums before starting his own country band in 2007, The Boxmasters, with whom he’s released three albums.
If you saw his Oscar-winning performance in “Ray,” you already know Jamie Foxx can sing. But did you know he’s a Grammy-winning musician who has topped the charts? When Foxx was just an up-and-coming comedic actor on Fox’s “In Living Color,” he released his first album, an R&B record called “Peep This,” which went nowhere. Since then, he’s released four more albums and has collaborated with music titans like Kanye West, Timbaland and Lil Wayne. In 2008, his album “Intuition” and its single “Blame It” both were smash hits.
In 1987, a year before he became a massive star because of “Die Hard,” Bruce Willis released a soul album called “The Return of Bruno.” The record was actually an elaborate piece of performance art, with “Bruno” being a character that was featured in a fake HBO documentary made to promote the actor’s album. But one of the songs from the album, “Respect Yourself,” actually became a hit, making it to No. 5 on the charts.
Willis released a follow-up album for Motown records in 1989, but hasn’t recorded a record since. In 2002, he surprised fans at B.B. King’s in New York by performing a two-hour-plus set with a blues band.
The star of action classics like “The Matrix” and “Point Break” has also spent time playing in his own band. Since 1990, Reeves has played bass in Dogstar, which released two albums from 1996-2000, and spent time touring. In 1996, he told CNN it was untrue that he dropped out of the sequel to “Speed” in favor of performing with Dogstar, which had been rumored.
In 2014, a photo of Reeves holding a “Matrix”-inspired bass guitar got the internet very excited.
Another actor who plays bass, “Apollo 13” star Gary Sinise has been playing in his Lt. Dan Band — named after his classic character from “Forrest Gump” — since 2004. The Lt. Dan Band is a cover band that often performs for American military members and raises money for disabled veterans, a cause Sinise is very active in supporting. According to Sinise’s charitable foundation, the Lt. Dan Band has played more than 150 USO concerts and more than 225 fundraising and benefit shows.
Does it shock anyone that Johnny Depp plays guitar in a hard rock band? The enigmatic star formed a supergroup called Hollywood Vampires with rock legends Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in 2015, which has so far released one album. The band has played at the Grammys and went on tour in early 2018. Depp is apparently a good enough guitar player that Perry actually asked him for some lessons.
Since his days on “Saturday Night Live,” comedy icon Adam Sandler has proven he can make magic with a guitar and some silly lyrics. While no one would likely call him the next Adele, Sandler’s musical skills have made millions smile since the ’90s. His original songs — “The Chanukah Song” and “The Thanksgiving Song” — have popped up on Billboard’s holiday music charts for years. And who could forget his 1994 “SNL” performance of “Lunch Lady Land?”
Another Avenger who has musical skills is Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Marvel movie series. Outside of acting in films like “The Hurt Locker” and the Mission: Impossible series, Renner is also a singer-songwriter who has a documentary coming out soon about his work as a musician. He takes music very seriously, telling The Wall Street Journal that he makes a playlist for every character he portrays to help him “get in the mood for the wiring” of that person.
One of the most successful actor/musicians on this list, the Oscar-winning star has been the lead singer for the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars since the late ’90s. The band has released five albums since 2002, and has scored five Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Rock chart. The band’s 2018 album, “America,” peaked at No. 2. In 2011, Leto’s band even set a Guinness World Record by playing the most concerts ever in support of a single album, which, in this case, was 300.
Ryan Gosling has been stealing hearts as one of Hollywood’s top leading men since his breakout role in 2004’s “The Notebook.” But did you know he fronted a Halloween-themed band in 2009? The group was called Dead Man’s Bones and it was formed by the “Drive” actor and his friend Zach Shields. The guys released one spooky album, which featured singing from a children’s choir and was dubbed by the music critics at Pitchfork as, “a truly unusual and surprising record.” Gosling last showed off his musical chops in the 2016 movie “La La Land,” for which he learned how to play jazz piano in just three months.
“Gladiator” star Russell Crowe started his entertainment career as a musician before he became a box office idol. In the 1980s, in his native New Zealand, performing under the name Russ le Roq, he recorded and released a single called, “I Just Wanna Be Like Marlon Brando.” In the ’90s and into the 2000s, he performed with a band called 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, releasing three records before the band split up in 2005.
Since then, the “A Beautiful Mind” star has released two solo albums. Fans were able to hear him sing on-screen in 2012’s film version of “Les Miserables.”
Black has been cracking up audiences since the ’90s, with roles in beloved comedies like “High Fidelity” and “Tropic Thunder.” But he’s also a dedicated musician. His band, the acoustic comedy-rock duo Tenacious D, has scored two Top 10 albums out of the three it has released and has been critically acclaimed. Earlier this year, the band announced a new tour and album set for the fall.
As funny as Steve Martin is in movies like “The Jerk” and “Father of the Bride,” he’s equally as serious when picking a banjo. The comedian has won three Grammys for his bluegrass music projects, alongside the two wins he received for his comedy albums. In 2015, “Bright Star,” the musical Martin co-wrote with collaborator Edie Brickell, debuted on Broadway. Every year, Martin awards a charitable prize to a burgeoning bluegrass artist.
The likable actor, who’s earned fans with his performances on screen and in Ellen DeGeneres’ hidden camera pranks, has been playing guitar since he was a kid, when his grandfather bought him his first one at a Texas Kmart. He’s been playing with his rock band, Dennis Quaid and the Sharks, since 2000. The band plays a mix of classic covers and originals, with Quaid saying he makes “a complete and utter fool” of himself on stage, rather than pretending to be a cool frontman. In late 2017, Quaid told the Chicago Tribune that the band was working with legendary producer T Bone Burnett on an album.
Fans of “Arrested Development” star Michael Cera got to see his love for music on full display in 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” but he gave his fans an even bigger taste by releasing his own album in 2014. The “Superbad” actor has also performed with Weezer, and Vice proclaimed that he’s “really good at music” after he released a new song in 2017.
“House” star Hugh Laurie is great at playing jerks on-screen, but when he’s jamming on stage, the moonlighting musician is pure joy. In 2011, the British actor released his first of two records, a blues album called “Let Them Talk.” He told Britain’s Telegraph that he loves blues and jazz music, and has even roped his children into performing with him — but said he was unable to convince his wife to sing.
One of America’s most beloved actors, Jeff Bridges proved to movie fans that he was a great musician with his Oscar-winning performance in 2009’s “Crazy Heart,” in which he played a washed-up country singer — but many of his fans had already known that truth for years. Bridges has been releasing albums since 2000, when he cut a record with help from Michael McDonald. After “Crazy Heart,” he got serious about music again, releasing 2011’s “Jeff Bridges” to much buzz and mixed reviews. The star of “The Big Lebowski” has since dropped two more albums.
Before starring in indie favorites like “The Darjeeling Limited” and “I Heart Huckabees,” Schwartzman worked for nearly 10 years as drummer for the alt-rock band Phantom Planet. The band’s biggest hit was “California,” which was used as the theme song for Fox’s teen drama “The OC.” After leaving the band, Schwartzman started a solo project called Coconut Records, which has released a couple albums since 2007.
John Corbett, the hunky actor who became a star with his work in shows like “Sex and the City” and “Northern Exposure,” has cut two country albums since 2006. He described his first record as “a fluke,” which came about when he visited Nashville to present at an awards show. The album cracked Billboard’s Country Albums chart. The star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has been playing music since he was a child, and has described it as something he’s very passionate about.
After making his name starring in great films like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Mystic River,” Oscar winner Tim Robbins decided to try his hand at being a professional musician. Growing up, his father was a folk musician, and his brother became a film music composer. In 2010, he hit the road with his own band, Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery. He’s said that playing music is way more fun than acting.
If you’ve watched Craig Robinson in any of his big projects, from “The Office” to “Mr. Robinson,” you probably already knew he could play piano and sing. The comedy star has said that music is his life, and has been playing with his own band, The Nasty Delicious, since 2007. In 2010, Robinson sang two tracks on the soundtrack for his movie “Hot Tub Time Machine.”