Referring to his career as an actor and his passion for music, Bridges says, "I dug what an actor did, but it took me a while to feel it, to truly appreciate the craft and the preparation. Plus, I was still playing music a lot, and I guess I had a hard time choosing: was I an actor or a musician, or could I be both?"
Bridges studied piano at a young age strongly encouraged by his mother. It was known that, while working on the 1980 film Heaven's Gate, he often played guitar with his costar, the singer Kris Kristofferson, between takes. His character in Crazy Heart, Bad Blake, was later based partly off Kristofferson. He released his debut album Be Here Soon on January 1, 2000. In 2005, Bridges, known as "The Dude" in the film Big Lebowski, showed up at a Lebowski Fest in Los Angeles singing and playing the film's theme song written by Bob Dylan, "Man in Me".
On January 15, 2010, Bridges performed the song "I Don't Know" from Crazy Heart on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. In the film The Contender, in which he co-starred, Bridges recorded a version of Johnny Cash's standard "Ring of Fire" with Kim Carnes that played over the pivotal opening credits. In February 2010, he was among the nearly 80 musicians to sing on the charity-single remake of We Are the World. On October 24, 2010, Bridges appeared at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit concert and played a set with Neko Case.
On April 19, 2011, Country Music Television announced that Bridges had signed a recording contract with Blue Note Records/EMI Music Group. He worked with producer T-Bone Burnett and released his second album, Jeff Bridges, on August 16, 2011. On November 5, 2011, Bridges played Austin City Limits in support of this album.
Bridges plays guitars such as: Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen Model G6122-1959.