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Six albums by actors-turned-singers that don’t suck

Cheryl Ladd album cover

Cheryl Ladd album cover.

Albums by actors that don’t suck

– by Shawn Conner

The recent CBC Billy Bob Thornton nterview generated headlines across the continent (North America, that is). For some reason, actors are awfully prickly when it comes to questions about their day jobs.

I was reminded of my own fateful encounter with the actor Jared Leto many moons ago. Leto had just come off the success of the TV series My So-Called Life and was on his first tour with Thirty Seconds to Mars, the band he’d formed as a response to having no musical talent whatsoever.

“Whatever you do, don’t ask him about My So-Called Life,” the record label rep instructed me. Which I heard as: “If you’re going to ask him about My So-Called Life, wait until the very end, when he’s already answered some questions.”

So when the time seemed right, I asked, “Uhm, so what was the name of that band you fronted in My So-Called Life?”

“It was called, ‘Fuck you, this interview’s over.'” Leto then stood up, and he and his band made a move towards the door of the restaurant (it was mid-day, just after lunch). But then Shannon Leto, his brother and the drummer for Thirty Seconds to Mars, returned and demanded my recording device, which I foolishly I gave up. It was soon returned to me, with about half of the interview erased.

But let’s face it, with a few exceptions, most actors who step into the music arena would be better off devoting that energy to saving the children of Darfur, or even Detroit. Most, if not all, actor-ly music projects are vanity driven. With of course the exception of Cheryl Ladd‘s recording career.

And then there are the musicians who turn to acting – I’m talking to you, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah and Ice Cube and Willie Nelson. Every actor wants to be a rock star, every rock star wants to be an actor. But that’s another article.

She & Him, Volume 1 – Actor Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man) and Portland guitarist M. Ward (Monsters of Folk) duet on original songs that are actually pretty decent.

Zooey Deschanel She & Him photo Toronto

Zooey Deschanel with She & Him at the Sound Academy, Toronto, June 11 2010. Kate Yang-Nikodym photo

Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head – Am I the only person who liked Scarlett Johansson’s album of Tom Waits covers? Oh, I am? Maybe it’s ‘cos I think the best thing Waits could do at this point in his career is shut up and just write songs.

Scarlett Johansson

Rilo Kiley – Formed by two former child actors, Jenny Lewis (Troop Beverley Hills) and Blake Sennett (Boy Meets World), Rilo Kiley has become a respected fixture on the indie-rock scene. Lewis’s solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, is pretty good too.

William Shatner, Has Been – With Ben Folds‘ help, Captain Kirk/TJ Hooker washes away the weird taste left by his earlier recorded efforts like The Transformed Man and his life-changing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and records a smart, self-reflective and, dare we say, post-modern pop record.

Steve Martin, The Steve Martin Brothers – True, he’s a comedian first, and actor second… or is that banjo player second, and actor third? On this record, Martin recorded one side of comedy and the other of bluegrass tunes. Not only is he technically adept, but the comic also recorded one of the best stupid songs of all time: “King Tut”.

Various Artists, Nashville (soundtrack) – In no small thanks to director Robert Altman, a number of actors rose to the occasion, perhaps most notably Keith Carradine and his tune “I’m Easy”, a soft-rock favourite around the guttersnipe offices to this day.

10 responses to “Six albums by actors-turned-singers that don’t suck

  1. 12 years ago  

    I interviewed Jared Bimbo on the phone. It would be unprofessional to describe him as arrogant and defensive in that context so let’s just say he was a real gentleman and a fascinating interview subject. Then his bus crashed in the middle of our conversation, which was a hoot. He just kept on talking and let the others deal with it. The most interesting thing to me was that Bimbo had just wrapped up his role as Mark Chapman in the movie Chapter 27, about which he had nothing, and I mean NOTHING of note to say. I got the impression that Bimbo’s research into the subject amounted to watching the E Hollywood True Story.

    I feel that 30 Seconds to Mars is basically continuing the work of Mark Chapman on a broader platform.

  2. 12 years ago  

    Actually, I’d like to retract that last line about 30 Seconds to Mars and Mark Chapman because I don’t think Mark Chapman’s “work” was actually Mark Chapman’s “work”, if you get me drift… cough**patsy**cough…

  3. 12 years ago  

    Phhhffftt!!! well at least you wrote about a subject I would look at twice, that’s the Leto Bros…. the rest is dreck!
    The Leto’s from first hand experience, have been patient and kind… almost always… and even to bozo/ bimbo “So Called” journalists.
    Guess they did not like you

  4. 12 years ago  

    The reason Billy Bob got so upset about his movie career being mentioned in that interview was because if he wasn’t a movie star first, no one would give him a chance as a musician. He knows he never paid his dues as a musician, like so many struggling artists have. Billy Bob is a phony. His music sucks. I never even watched any of his movies yet…don’t plan to either.

  5. 12 years ago  

    You know, I liked Billy Bob a lot back then. He was amazing in Tombstone and Dead Man. Hell of an actor. It all went downhill with Angelina and that rank fuckin solo record he put out. I believe he also opted for either a toupee or a weave at that point, thereby destroying all credibility. There were niggling factual errors in his CBC performance, incidentally – Famous Monsters of Filmland was edited (not published) by Forry Ackerman, and anybody who declares that Boxmasters is the first cosmic country band in the last 30 years must be a Hollywood asshole pretending to be a musician.

  6. 12 years ago  

    Richard Harris, an ac-tor, made some of the greatest albums ever! And the first two were written by Jimmy webb!

  7. 12 years ago  

    On the other hand Musicians who turn to acting flourish. David Bowie for example in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. And so many others which I don’t have the time to type. Why? because musicians are talented to begin with. They usually worked their way from the bottom to the top and are not usually seeking the fame that comes to them. If there’s one thing worse than actors that try to become musicians, it’s relatives of musicians like sons and daughters of famous musicians that claim that they would have made it on their own, even if they didn’t have a famous father, like Jakob Dylan.

  8. 12 years ago  

    I am a John Lennon fan. Not a Sean Lennon fan. I am a Hank Williams fan. Not a Hank Williams Jr. fan. I am a Bob Dylan fan, Not a Wallflowers fan. I am a Frank Sinatra fan, not a Frank Jr. or Nancy Sinatra fan….you should do a article on this concept.

  9. Pingback: Singers who act, actors who sing—why, and what can be done about it? « Guttersnipe: Music, Movies, Comics, Books, Fashion

  10. 7 years ago  


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