Most of you will be familiar with Russell Crowe, the Australian actor behind such blockbusters as Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind and The Nice Guys. Fewer of you, I wager, will be aware of his musical talents and showmanship beyond the Colosseum. Over the years, Crowe has frequently expressed his love of music in tweets about his favourite bands, revealing a discerning and varied taste.
For example, back in 2013, Crowe professed his love for his home country heroes Tame Impala, as well as Miike Snow and Fabulous Diamonds. “Miike Snow (two i’s) is a band not a man,” he wrote. “The album Animal is very, very cool. Also check out Tame Impala and Fabulous Diamonds.”
Granted, actors often have a decent taste in music, but mostly I’ll find myself tuning in to the Desert Island Discs episodes of musicians when looking for a bit of insight and a few new tracks for my playlist. However, Crowe is not your run-of-the-mill Hollywood A-lister; he’s led a somewhat covert musical career for over three decades, spanning a range of styles and stages.
It appears that Crowe had always wanted to be either a musician or an actor. In fact, when Crowe first set foot in a recording studio in his 20s, under the moniker Russ le Roq, he recorded a song titled ‘I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando’. True to his first song’s name, Crowe became more like Marlon Brando than Elvis Presley, but his rock ‘n’ roll dreams never died, as they often will when one juggles an Oscar-winning acting career.
Following his humble beginnings as Russ le Roq, a name undoubtedly evoking a degree of embarrassment over subsequent years, Crowe formed his first proper band with his friend Billy Dean Cochran. They named themselves Roman Antix upon forming in the late ’80s but replaced this with a mouthful, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, in 1992 after inducting four further members.
After their 1995 debut EP, The Photograph Kills, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts went on to record three full-length albums: 1998’s Gaslight, 2001’s Bastard Life or Clarity and 2003’s Other Ways of Speaking. Impressively, Crowe established his stable acting career during this period, with notable appearances in 1997’s LA Confidential, 1999’s The Insider and, of course, 2000’s Gladiator, which saw him win the ‘Best Actor’ Academy Award.
In the space of ten years, Crowe released three albums while maintaining a prolific acting career with one win out of three ‘Best Actor’ Oscar nominations. This degree of commitment to the arts is admirable, and no doubt, like me, you feel rather inadequate beside such a towering force of willpower and talent.
In 2005, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts disbanded as Crowe sought to change lanes in his musical career. This new chapter would be characterised by his collaboration with Alan Doyle, the singer and songwriter of the Canadian group Great Big Sea. After becoming musically acquainted, the pair formed a new band, The Ordinary Fear of God, which was fleshed out with some of Crowe’s former bandmates.
TOFG, as they became known, released their first and only studio album, My Hand, My Heart, in 2005. The album introduced a more piano-driven sound, dense with balladry, including the song ‘Mr. Harris’, which Crowe wrote for his late friend and Gladiator co-star Richard Harris.
Over the past 15 years, Crowe has maintained his musical relationship with Doyle through various projects, including two compilations and a studio album. Although Crowe’s acting commitments have limited his availability, he’s embarked on several extensive tours of Australia and North America.
Most recently, Crowe and Doyle teamed up in 2017 to form yet another band called Indoor Garden Party. The band released their first and only album that year, The Musical, and appeared on the BBC’s The One Show to promote it.
Watch the promotional performance below.
This content was originally published here.