John C. Reilly on his budding music career: "I consider myself the chum on the fishing boat."

"Pick projects that you believe in." This has been John C. Reilly's philosophy in navigating his 20-plus-year career in the entertainment industry. So far, it seems to be working out. 

The Academy Award-nominated actor has become somewhat of a modern-day film icon, with roles ranging from man-child Dale in Step Brothers to unstable porn star Reed Rothchild in Boogie Nights. This Saturday, however, Reilly will tap into his musical side when he performs some of the very best pre-1960 bluegrass songs with John C. Reilly & Friends at the Women's Club of Minneapolis.

"My name is on the marquee to get people in the doors," Reilly says. "I consider myself the chum on the fishing boat. People come to the show because they know who I am, but then I get to introduce them to some really cool musicians."

While some fans may not know Reilly as a musician, others likely know his chops thanks to musical roles in films including Chicago (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), A Prairie Home Companion, and, of course, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

"There was always music around me when I was growing up, and singing and playing guitar were hobbies of mine for years," he explains. "When Walk Hard came along, I sort of raised my hand and said, 'I can play the guitar,' which I don't think a lot of people knew at that point. That film really opened the door for me to meet a lot of great musicians, including Jack White, which ultimately helped me get to the point of playing music live."

Reilly would go on to record a couple of close harmony cover songs for White's label, Third Man Records, which ultimately gave him the urge to perform the music live.

"I first started doing live performances a few years ago, but people would show up thinking it was going to be me doing standup comedy," Reilly laughs. "Now I think people who come see us know what to expect. In my career I've always tried to do a variety of things, both acting and music, that people aren't expecting. But no matter what, I've always been committed to trying to produce high quality stuff, and that's what I think we're doing with this show."

Unlike many, many other actors and entertainers, Reilly has somehow managed to not only continue pushing his creative boundaries, but also seemingly picks winners when it comes to audience appeal. So what makes him successful where others have failed?

"You never know what's going to be successful, so you need to do things that you think have a chance of being good," he explains. "Whether its music or movies, especially with movies, you have to believe people might really enjoy it and pour your heart into it. It's kind of a miracle if what you're doing works, and I'm just grateful that I've had more projects that worked than didn't."


John C. Reilly & Friends

Assembly Theatre, Women's Club of Minneapolis
Saturday, June 15
8 p.m., $27.50