From boyband member to turkey farmer: 10 of the best pop star career changes

Lauren Laverne, Isaac Hayes, and the other music stars who had equally unexpected second winds

Lauren Laverne

Kenickie frontperson turned radio presenter

With Cerys Matthews and Guy Garvey ensconced at BBC 6 Music, you might see the “indie star turns DJ” career path as fairly routine. But Laverne blazed a trail on leaving punk teens Kenickie for Xfm. That the presenter of Desert Island Discs once roared “She threw up and I was glad” in ripe mackem tones suggests the voice of the nation is changing for the better.

Dan Spitz

Anthrax guitarist turned master watchmaker

Spitz’s shredding is all over the big-shorted thrashers’ Persistence of Time LP. Were the clues always there? Having completed two degrees, he is now one of the world’s top horologists. And definitely the most metal. “When it comes to a watch’s quality, the truth is that the movement sucks ass or the movement kicks ass,” he advises.

Stand and deliver .... Erykah Badu.
Stand and deliver .... Erykah Badu. Photograph: Alamy

Erykah Badu

Neo-soul pioneer turned doula

More of a sideline than a new career (she is also threatening a lifestyle store with scents including Badu’s Pussy, made from her burnt pants), in 2011 Badu qualified as a doula. Working among friends – and under the name Badoula, naturally – she has since delivered more than 40 young ’uns. To set the scene, they “like Wu-Tang”, apparently.

JB Gill

JLS singer turned turkey farmer

We are used to former X Factor stars moving into musical theatre or light entertainment, but the outdoors-loving Gill was having none of that. After JLS split, he expanded his Kent smallholding into a 15-acre turkey farm. If you happened to ever wonder where Little Mix and Zayn Malik buy their birds for Christmas, wonder no more.

Niall O’Flaherty

Sultans of Ping FC singer turned university lecturer

Many alt-rockers go back to college. But who, really, on hearing 1992’s nutty student-pleaser Where’s Me Jumper?, could have predicted that the Sultans of Ping shouter would have an impressive second act as a lecturer in the history of European political thought at King’s College London?

Saucy ... Isaac Hayes.
Saucy ... Isaac Hayes. Photograph: Anthony Barboza/Getty

Isaac Hayes

Soul-funk crooner turned barbecue expert

Hayes had done it all by 1971, and when South Park gave him a surprise late-career voice turn as Chef, you could be forgiven for thinking they were simply riffing on his loverman persona. In fact, by then he had a barbecue restaurant and his own Memphis Magic range of sauces.

Richard Coles

Communards keyboardist turned vicar

Previously a purveyor of political disco-pop, the now Rev Richard Coles was surprised on joining theological college to find an ex-member of Roxy Music and someone who wrote songs for Sinitta had beaten him to it. Still, he remains the UK media’s go-to rocking vicar.

Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter

Jazz-rock guitarist turned US military consultant

While one wouldn’t want to deny anyone a living, it must be a disappointment to Baxter’s old comrades in Steely Dan that he now deploys his signature precision for the Man. His expertise in defence software stems from his research into digital recording. Be warned, Russia: Baxter’s also threatened to “reach out” to fellow boffin Brian May.

Sofa so good ... Alannah Currie with the Thompson Twins in 1984.
Sofa so good ... Alannah Currie with the Thompson Twins, 1984. Photograph: Mike Prior/Redferns

Alannah Currie

Thompson Twins percussionist turned arthouse upholsterer

“You stitch me up, oh-oh!” In the exact opposite of Jack White’s career trajectory, this icy 80s xylophone basher and big hat enthusiast went from pop star to cushion stuffer. In truth, her work is more Damien Hirst than Dunelm. A chaise longue exhibited by Currie in 2011 came with a stuffed swan for an armrest.

The drummer from Shed Seven

Shed Seven drummer turned quiz software developer

“Alan Shed” has gone from pub quiz question (what was his real name?) to the man who sets the questions – via a team of 16 employees. Initially made for linking up pub quizzes, Gala Bingo-style, his SpeedQuizzing app was recently used by schools worldwide for remote teaching.


Martin Horsfield

The GuardianTramp

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