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Music

Rock Star Wannabes

These 12 actors are chasing their musical dreams

Kevin Bacon

The Bacon Brothers

En español | Only one degree separates Kevin Bacon from his big brother, Michael, here in a 2013 performance at Florida’s inaugural BaconFest (dubbed “an annual celebration of pork”). The music bug bit the younger Bacon early on: “My father would turn his pants upside down at night,” recalls Kevin, 55. “I’d pick up all the coins and buy 45s.” The Bacon Brothers have recorded six country-rock CDs since 1997. Their next collaboration, 36 Cents, is expected this spring.

Ralph Notaro/Splash News/Corbis

Jeff Bridges

The Abiders

His friends weren’t surprised when Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his portrayal of a flamed-out country singer in 2009’s Crazy Heart. Bridges was obsessed with music as a teen, but acting tugged, too. “I had success with acting, so I went that way,” explains Bridges, 64, shown headlining a gig in 2013. “But I always carried my guitar with me.”

Daniel Knighton

John Corbett

The John Corbett Band

Sex and the City star John Corbett enjoys strumming a power chord during a 2012 gig. His two albums — the latest is Leaving Nothin’ Behind — balance Americana and country rock. “People expect to see a guy just doing an ego thing” in concert, says the 52-year-old. “But by the third song, they know they’re in good hands.”

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner & Modern West

Costner, 59, started his country-rock group at the urging of his second wife, Christine. “I get a lot just from the camaraderie,” says Costner. “Some kind of bond comes with just being in the room together.” Between Costner’s movie shoots, Modern West tours worldwide, as in this 2013 gig in Russia.

ITAR-TASS/Sergei Karpov

Russell Crowe

The Ordinary Fear of God

Once you’ve played Noah, what else could you name your band but The Ordinary Fear of God? Crowe’s Aussie rockers have undergone numerous name and personnel changes since getting together in the 1980s. “Probably the closest to [being] me, and how I am with my family, is how I am when I stand in front of a band,” says Crowe, 50. (That’s an ear monitor, BTW, not a hearing aid.)

Bob King/Redferns

Jeff Daniels

Solo artist

Daniels is seen here singing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium in 2011. Aptly, the songs on his five acoustic folk-and-blues albums (such as “Grandfather’s Hat” and “Orville Wright”) are as American as baseball. His first six-string, purchased in the late 1970s, “became a solace, my church, a road into the artist I didn’t know existed,” says the 59-year old.

Mark Sullivan/WireImage

Johnny Depp

Sideman to famous pals

Hollywood’s most famous moonlighting rocker may be the 50-year-old Depp (trading licks with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards.) The pirate-cum-guitarist jams, produces soundtracks and shoots videos with everyone from Paul McCartney to Keith Richards. And the spillover is useful: “I use music in my work,” says Depp, “because it’s the fastest way to an emotional place.”

Kevork Djansezian/WireImage

Hugh Laurie

The Copper Bottom Band

As a 10-year-old piano student in England, American blues and jazz hit Laurie “like an electric shock.” (Those genres are the focus of his second CD, Didn’t It Rain.) “There’s music in acting and there’s acting in music,” notes the 54-year-old “Dr. House” of blues, shown singing on stage in 2013. “[Both are] about storytelling and inhabiting a character.”

Matthew McConaughey

Bongo player and music producer

Oscar winner McConaughey, 44, has directed music videos and played in them as well. Notoriously once arrested for playing bongos in the nude, he owns the J.K. Livin record label and coproduced a hit reggae album in 2009. As for his studio prowess, says the Dallas Buyers Club star, “Half the time it’s charades.”

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Eddie Murphy

Solo artist

It’s been 20 years since his last album —  the new 9 is scheduled for release this year —  but singer and guitarist Eddie Murphy plans to return to live performances soon: “I reveal myself. That’s the show now.” Says the comic, 53 (on stage with Stevie Wonder, in 2012): “Even if I was dead broke, I would still play my guitar.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision

Dennis Quaid

The Sharks

Is that Dennis Quaid or guitar great Alvin Lee? The actor, 60, lobbied hard to do his own vocals in Great Balls of Fire!, the 1989 biopic in which he channeled rocking pianist Jerry Lee Lewis. The Killer nixed that notion, but Quaid still loves to front his party band. “I don’t really want a career in music,” he concedes. “But I’ve played since I was a kid, and I always will.”

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Bruce Willis

The Accelerators

Willis (with bassist Tad Wadhams) belts out a blues tune at the Kennedy Space Center. The Die Hard star, 59, has played music since the 1980s and blows a mean blues harp. “I learned to dance to Motown in fifth grade,” he told an interviewer, “so that is my sensibility of music.”

Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

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