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16 Stars Who Ditched Acting & Became Musicians (PHOTOS)

Many pop stars over the years have attempted to get their foot into the film industry. But sometimes, the opposite happens: Well-respected actors and actresses try their hand at a musical career. Depending on who it is, the result can be career-changing in a good or bad way.

These 17 actors have found success transitioning to a musical path—but that doesn't mean they left the silver screen behind. Who is your favorite actor-turned-musician?


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1Ariana Grande

While this belter always sang, she concentrated on pursuing a theater career before becoming a full-blown pop star. In 2008, she got a part in the Broadway musical 13. Two years later, she got her big break on the Nickelodeon show Victorious and later, its spin-off Sam and Cat. Once the spin-off ended, Grande began to focus more on her singing career (with the exception of a brief appearance on Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens).

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Who would have known, way back when, that Jimmy on Degrassi would become one of the most popular rappers today? Toronto-born Aubrey Graham, known by his middle name Drake, get his start in commercials, but he became a bonafide actor in 2001 when he started on Degrassi. He released his first mixtape in 2006 when he was still on the show, and his first album in 2009, just as the show reached its conclusion. Today, he mainly sticks to making music.

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3Miley Cyrus

Who could forget Miley Cyrus’s chaotic, somewhat disturbing transition from Disney star to adult singer? The daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus and goddaughter of Dolly Parton largely ended her acting career in 2011, and has definitely made her mark as a recognizable singer, at the very least.

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4Selena Gomez

Long before burgeoning pop star released her mature, R&B-inspired album Revival, she was purely an actress—and she even appeared on Barney and Friends as a kid. It wasn’t until she made it big on her Disney Channel show, The Wizards of Waverly Place, that she was offered the chance to sing. Now, she does both, but her radio success points towards a growing music career.

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5Zooey Deschanel

This quirky star proved that she has some pipes in Elf, but in 2007, she formed her band She & Him with singer-songwriter M. Ward. Together, they have released two albums, plus a Christmas record. Though Deschanel has returned her focus back to her show New Girl (as well as her newly born baby), we still hope she’ll make some crooning music again.

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6Ryan Gosling

Few may know that the star of The Notebook once released a goth-rock album with his band Dead Man’s Bones. Gosling and his friend Zach Shields created the record as a collaboration with the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir. Although its music was included in two film soundtracks and garnered a cult following, Dead Man’s Bones has not released any new music since its eponymous album in 2009.

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7Demi Lovato

Like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato got her start on Barney and Friends before making it big on the Disney Channel first with Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock (which also starred the Jonas Brothers) and then her own show, Sonny With a Chance. Today, the singer has moved past her days of acting and focuses on her seriously impressive singing role. Her last major acting gig? A guest role on Glee.

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8Michael Cera

Fans were cautiously impressed when Michael Cera released a full-length album on Bandcamp in 2014 titled True That. The Canadian actor has appeared on-screen since he was a child, but his musical talent came as a surprise. Granted, he did play a guitarist in his 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

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9Jenny Lewis

Although today, music-lovers may know her primarily as the enchanting singer from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis was actually a child actress before she picked up a bass guitar. She appeared mainly in TV shows like the short-lived Lucille Ball sitcom Life With Lucy and in teen flicks like Troop Beverly Hills. It wasn’t until 1998 at age 22 that she formed Rilo Kiley and 2004 that she went solo.

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10Joaquin Phoenix

This Her actor’s step into the musical world coincided with a major acting success. He portrayed crooner Johnny Cash in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line and won a Grammy for its soundtrack, as well as an Oscar nomination. A 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here attempted to make audiences believe that Phoenix was abandoning acting for a hip-hop career—a rumor that proved seriously false. The actor sticks mainly to the screen, but his musical talent is undeniable.

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11Scarlett Johansson

This raspy-voiced actress nearly played Maria in a West End revival of The Sound of Music in 2005, but she didn’t fully make her musical debut until 2007, when she recorded an album of Tom Waits covers. The record was met with mixed reviews, and Johansson’s next big musical venture came in 2015 when she released a song “Candy” with her band The Singles—until another band with the same name filed a cease-and-desist.


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12Jeff Bridges

This Big Lebowski actor has been in the spotlight since the ‘70s, but it wasn’t until 2000 that he released his debut album, Be Here Soon. While he continues to star in major motion pictures, he also makes music. The proceeds of his most recent album Sleeping Tapes all go to his charity, No Kid Hungry.

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13Jamie Foxx

Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx started playing piano when he was five, but his music career didn’t quite break through until his 2005 collaboration with Kanye West, “Gold Digger”—over a decade after his major acting debut on In Living Color. Today, he’s considered well-regarded in the acting and musical spheres—an impressive feat.

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14Juliette Lewis

This versatile actress first gained widespread acclaim for her role in Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of Cape Fear. However, she launched her rocker career in 2003 as the frontwoman of the band Juliette and the Licks, before going solo in 2009. She also supports Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that supports music education in underprivileged schools.

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15Keanu Reeves

After burgeoning star Keanu Reeves and Rob Mailhouse met in a supermarket (Reeves liked Mailhouse’s hockey jersey) in the ‘90s, they formed the garage band Dogstar. They toured with Bon Jovi and opened for David Bowie—so although their band name might not be super recognizable now, they still did pretty well for themselves. The band lasted for 12 years and Reeves went on to become a serious movie star.

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16Steve Martin

The Steep Canyon Rangers have been a bluegrass band since 2000, but they didn’t reach widespread popularity until Steve Martin joined their forces in 2009. Who knew the Pink Panther actor could play the banjo? The band’s 2012 collaboration with the actor, Rare Bird Alert, was even nominated for a Grammy.

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17Jared Leto

Although he maintained a steady career appearing in approximately one film a year through the 2000s, since getting his start on the ‘90s show My So-Called Life, Jared Leto has since dedicated much more of his time to his band 30 Seconds to Mars. The band formed in 1998 and has released four albums—but Leto still had time to manage his music and also win an Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club.

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