Actors who are also genuinely great musicians

As Dylan Minnette's Wallows head to the UK, we look at more actors in bands we love

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It’s no rarity for musicians to try their hands at acting. Everyone from Harry Styles to Vanilla Ice to Tom Waits has had a crack, with varying degrees of success. But flip that trope on its head and there’s a whole subset of actors who are are pretty damn talented musicians. Here are some of our favourites.

Donald Glover (Childish Gambino)

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video)

From Childish Gambino to the adorably goofy Troy on Community to the mind-bending Atlanta series, Glover’s talents as an actor, musician, writer and director are as diverse as they are irrefutable. The Mr & Mrs Smith star has recently announced he’s retiring his Childish Gambino alter ego following two final albums and a farewell world tour, but it’s hard to imagine him staying away from music for long.

Juliette Lewis (Juliette & The Licks)

Juliette & The Licks - Hot Kiss

Lewis recently had a renaissance in the wonderful Yellowjackets, which spent half of its time back in 1996, an era when Lewis was famous for roles in Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Til Dawn. In between then and now, she had a high-profile run fronting The Licks, a 00s indie sleaze outfit born out of her friendship with Hole drummer Patti Schemel. The band split in 2009 but reformed in 2015.

Michael Shannon (Corporal)

Corporal - Committed - 9/27/2018 - Paste Studios - New York, NY

One of the few non-terrifying things that Michael Shannon has done is this quartet, whose self-titled debut album is filled with captivating folk rock. Shannon’s delivery as a vocalist is as off-kilter and intense as his acting performances, but there’s a rusted quality that suggests abandoned steelworks and overgrown rail tracks. Shannon has since toured the US with Jason Narducy (Bob Mould Band) covering R.E.M.’s debut Murmur in full. They even managed to reunite the band briefly for a performance in their hometown of Athens, Georgia.

Finn Wolfhard (Calpurnia/The Aubreys)

The Aubreys "Smoke Bomb" (Music Video)

The star of Stranger Things, It and Ghostbusters: Afterlife appeared in two videos for Canadian punks PUP in 2016 and shortly after formed his own band Calpurnia, who signed to Transgressive. The band proved short-lived, breaking up in 2019, but Wolfhard and drummer Malcolm Craig soon formed a new band, The Aubreys. Their debut single ‘Loved One’ appeared on the soundtrack to Wolfhard’s film The Turning and a collection of singles arrived in 2021.

Kevin Costner (Kevin Costner & Modern West)

Kevin Costner plays earnest, hard-worn Americana. Hardly surprising, seeing as that could also describe almost all of his best films. But Costner plays genuinely very, very good earnest, hard-worn Americana, far from the stereotype of the A-lister using his clout to get some records out. With his band Modern West, he’s soundtracked two of his series (Hatfields & McCoys and Yellowstone) and released three albums. There’s a touch of Ryan Bingham about their dusty sounds and their track ‘Superman 14’ is a country rocker hot enough to leave scorch marks.

Ryan Gosling (Dead Man’s Bones)

Dead Man's Bones - "In The Room Where You Sleep" (live video)

Ryan Gosling’s band is a Halloween-themed duo (with screenwriter Zach Shields) that sounds for all the world like Arcade Fire backed by an army of trick or treaters. Their excellent debut album is positively ghoulish, heightened by Gosling’s eerie baritone croon and instrumentation that sounds like it’s been lifted from Carnival Of Souls. Sadly they only made the one record (initially intended as a musical), but Gosling’s superb musical turns in Barbie have led to renewed calls for a second album.

Zooey Deschanel (She & Him)

She & Him - In The Sun (Official Video)

Everyone remembers that moment in Elf where we realised Zooey Deschanel can sing. Singer-songwriter M. Ward had the same realisation and jumped at the chance to record a duet with her for her film The Go-Getter. From there, She & Him was born and the duo have since recorded six studio albums (including two Christmas albums) and earned a Grammy nomination for their song ‘So Long’ from Disney’s Winnie The Pooh film (one of the best kids’ movies ever made). They also got to record with Brian Wilson on his 2015 album No Pier Pressure.

Jason Schwartzman (Phantom Planet/Coconut Records)

Coconut Records "West Coast"

It’s not terribly actor-like to be the drummer in a band, but Schwartzman more than ably filled the stool for Phantom Planet, the indie poppers who provided The OC with ‘California’, its endless earworm of a theme song. Schwartzman left the band in 2003 to focus on his acting but returned to music a few years later with his own project Coconut Records. His track ‘West Coast’ is well worth your time.

Maya Hawke

Maya Hawke - By Myself (Official Music Video)

Maya’s old man Ethan has always had a strong musical connection, showing some nifty piano skills in Boyhood, convincingly playing a washed-up singer-songwriter in Juliet, Naked and portraying Chet Baker in Born To Be Blue. Maya’s a whole other deal though. The Stranger Things scene stealer released one of our favourite albums of 2020, the superb, Laurel Canyon-flavoured Blush. She’s had pretty big shadows to step out of, but she’s done it in style.

David Duchovny

David Duchovny - "Nights Are Harder These Days" (Official Audio)

It’s hard to describe exactly what you’d expect a David Duchovny album to sound like but whatever your expectations, his 2021 album Gestureland defies and exceeds them in spades. There are touches of 90s post-grunge and alt rock with a layer of dusty Americana and a touch of The National’s late-night noir. It’s very, very good.

Steve Martin (Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers)

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers - "So Familiar" (Official Video)

The banjo has long been a part of Steve Martin’s career. The great comedian picked up the instrument as a teenager and gradually incorporated it more and more into his stand-up. It only really became a thing of its own when he appeared on The Prairie Home Companion with the Steep Canyon Rangers in 2009. Martin released his first album of bluegrass tunes later that year and has since gone on to record two albums with the Steep Canyon Rangers, two with Edie Brickell and one with both of them.

Maya Rudolph (The Rentals/Princess)

The Rentals - Waiting (Video)

After Matt Sharpe left Weezer, he formed beloved cult indie poppers The Rentals. For a time, the band included Maya Rudolph (of Bridesmaids, Idiocracy and Saturday Night Live fame) on backing vocals and keys. Of course, Rudolph has musical pedigree, being the daughter of Minnie Riperton (“Luuu-vin’ youuuuuuu”). Since she parted ways with The Rentals, she’s gone on to form the Prince cover band Princess with Gretchen Lieberum.