The world is filled with musicians who want to act and actors who want to be rock stars. But lately, some actors have recognized the limits of their musical skills and would rather save their efforts on other people they think the world needs to hear. The following five actors have started the own record labels to lend their own celebrity power to their favorite music-makers.
1. Kiefer Sutherland
Artists: Rocco DeLuca & The Burden, Ron Sexsmith, Lifehouse, Billy Boy Poison, Jim Stapely, honeyhoney
Jack Bauer doesn’t just wait around for good music to get made. He builds a studio in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood with longtime friend Jude Cole and signs some of the local talent to his own label and publishing company. “When I was a teenager, the only way I could fall asleep was to pretend I was in the band and was playing whatever song that was coming over the airwaves,” Sutherland told the TV tabloid Extra in 2005. “And trust me, in my dreams I was fantastic.” But Ironworks wasn’t created for Sutherland to make music—his first signings included Rocco DeLuca and Paste favorite Ron Sexsmith.
2. Guy Ritchie
Label: Punchbowl Recordings
Artists: the Punchbowl Band
After spending years as Madonna’s husband, the Snatch director is no stranger to music, but in January, he announced that he was launching his own record label, named after his pub. His first signing is the pub’s house band, a traditional Irish quartet of Willy Barr, Brendan McAuley, Steve Mulhern and Daniel Gott who’ve contributed music to Ritchie’s latest film, Sherlock Holmes. The band’s debut, Journey, is due out soon on Ritchie’s Universal imprint. “[The music industry] is a tough place, but I’ve seen this band connect with people… They have every chance of being embraced by a wider audience and I genuinely wish them the very best of luck with their debut album,” he said in a recent statement.
3. Elijah Wood
Label: Simian Records
Artists: Apples in Stereo, Heloise and the Savoir Faire
Wood has long been known for his indie rock tastes—he told me earlier this year at Sundance that he’s been listening to a lot of Sleigh Bells lately. But in 2007, he took his fandom of Apples in Stereo a step further, starting an imprint on indie powerhouse Yep Roc Records to release the band’s album New Magnetic Wonder (and direct their video for “Energy,” below). He’s since added Brooklyn disco-punk Heloise and the Savoir Faire and has even pursued Radiohead. “I emailed their management knowing I had no chance in hell,” he told The Independent in 2008.
4. Matthew McConaughey
Label: J.K. Livin’
McConaughey first came across Mishka on vacation in Jamaica. He tried to contact the reggae artist to no avail, until Mishka played a show at the House of Blues in Hollywood. The Texan-born actor launched a record label with the express purpose of signing Mishka. He even produced Mishka’s 2009 album Above the Bones and co-produced the just-released follow-up Talk About with Butch Walker. “It’s very similar to making movies,” McConaughey told MTV News. “It’s very similar to telling a story. That’s what’s really neat about it. Maybe it’s a different vocabulary, but each song’s its own story. Each song kind of has their own three-act structure. ... We start with a tease, then intro everybody, take it high, climax, pull off, give it a rest and then leave them wanting a little bit more.”
5. Harry Shearer
Label: Courgette Records
Artists: Judith Owen
Any Spinal Tap fan knows that the voice of most of Springfield has his own musical chops. “Courgette” is a British term for zucchini, a reference to the infamous airport scene from This Is Spinal Tap, but the label—distributed by Warner Music Group’s Alternative Distribution Alliance—was formed to promote the work of his wife, singer/songwriter Judith Owen. Here is Owen jazzing up the Spinal Tap classic “Christmas with the Devil” with Shearer on stand-up bass.