Why do so many Actors want to be Musicians?

Recently I suffered a serious bout of Doomscrolling which I only broke free of when I started to notice a lot of Corey Feldman’s music videos crossing my phone screen.  Fortunately, this motivated me enough to break the scrolling cycle, and drop my phone to step away.  Okay, the truth is that the charging cable was in the other room, but nevertheless the few minutes away from my phone gave me enough time to ponder the question: Why do so many actors pursue music careers?

More than just a side hustle

In case you think I’m overstating the number of actors with more than a passing interest in music, here are just a few. And this is in no way a complete list.  (I have linked them to HCPL's Freegal if you would like to give them a listen).

Keanu ReevesJeff Goldblum - Scarlett JohanssonRussell CroweBilly Bob Thornton - Bruce WillisJoe PesciMinnie DriverJennifer Love Hewitt - Ryan Gosling - William ShatnerLeonard Nimoy - Michael Shannon - Michael CeraKevin Bacon - Katie Sagal - Stephen Seagal - Jason SchwartzmanJuliette LewisJada Pinkett SmithHugh Laurie - Brie Larsen - Johnny Depp - Alyssa Milano - ZendayaMaya HawkeJeff Daniels - Ansel ElgortTyra Banks - Priyana Chopra - Gaten MatarazzoJeremy Renner - Tom Felton - Emmy Rossum - Jacob AndersonDon Johnson  - Robert Downey Jr. - Kevin Costner  And of course, Cory Feldman 

My first instinct here is to start making some very easy jokes at the expense of these actors, but the truth is I’m sure many of them have creative and performance talents that crossover from one medium of expression to the other. For example, Corey Feldman utilizes a whole arsenal of Michael Jackson dance moves while he is playing with his band.  I can’t dance like Michael Jackson – I can’t even dance like Corey Feldman dancing like Michael Jackson.  Additionally, I can’t play bass guitar like Keanu Reeves. I mean I’ve never tried, nor should I... but I probably couldn't.   So why are all these actors drawn to performing music like moths to a flame?

I think it comes down to two things; opportunity and the universal power of music. 

How few people in the world can really understand what it is like to be as famous as the people on the list above?   I know every famous actor’s personal story and situation is different, but a universal truth is that being famous (or infamous) brings opportunity.  Fame and the publicity that comes with it is like a money train leaving the station – everybody wants to be on board, and nobody ever wants it to stop.  Think about it, if someone--through talent, drive, or circumstance--demonstrates that certain “it” factor and captures the attention of the world, why wouldn’t you gamble that they can also succeed in other areas as well?  Why wouldn’t the actors themselves believe it?  Maybe the “failure” in a musical venture isn’t even considered?  Maybe they just want to express something through music that their latest movie can’t?  This brings us to the power of music. 


You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the number of successful musicians who make the move to the big or small screen.  This seems to be a less common but easier transition and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to reward their acting efforts regularly.  Here are a few recent examples of musicians to receive Oscars for Acting; Lady GaGa, Barbara Streisand, Cher, Jared Leto, Jennifer Hudson.

I love books and literature, but no matter how many languages you translate a poem into it will never have the same reach or influence as music.  Music is at the top of the heap when it comes to expression and communication.  It transcends language, borders, time and even species.   So, I can understand the lure to pursue it artistically, even at a non-professional level of talent.  The real “Why’ as to why actors pursue music should really be stated as, “Why not?”  

Victor Hugo said, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."  I take from that quote that maybe music can offer something to the artist that acting cannot.  Perhaps the actors who pursue music have something so deep and profound inside them that it cannot be expressed in such a limited art form as acting.  This theory made sense for a awhile until a friend of mine pointed out that the actors could just be in a musical on Broadway.  That's a good point.  And to be honest I don't have an answer for that.  Of course another theory is that being a successful musician was the goal for the actor the whole time and they just thought the path through television and film would be easier.

Is there such a thing as "Doom-Blogging?"  If so, I think we're close.

One thing for sure is that the trend of actors trying to become musicians doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon.  Does this mean I'm going to do a deep Freegal dive into The Bacon Brothers?  Probably not.  But maybe I will try a little harder not to go the easy route of hating on these musical efforts and just assume that there is a sincere desire for artistic expression from these artists.  Who knows, maybe there is a hidden gem in the mix.  

So who's your favorite actor turned musician?  You can find a lot of the actors' music at the library's Freegal Music Service.  Let me know who your favorite is in the comments below.