20 Musicians With ADHD Whose Creativity Shines

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – commonly known as ADHD – affects around 4% of the population.

It’s true that ADHD comes with many challenges for those who live with it. But at the same time, numerous studies show that the condition is associated with high levels of creativity.

For this reason, it’s perhaps no surprise that some of the most successful musicians our time have ADHD.

Many of these artists have discussed their condition in a public setting. These musicians often offer a unique perspective in their art, bringing a level of hyperfocus that breeds intense creativity and an ability to think outside of the box.

This said, ADHD of course comes with its challenges. People with ADHD often experience difficulty with organisation and persistence.

In this article, we delve into the stories of twenty different artists with ADHD, who have spoken openly about how their diagnosis has impacted on their careers and their art.

Despite facing hurdles, many of these artists have embraced their diagnosis, allowing their talent to blossom.

Here are you twenty famous musicians with ADHD that you might surprise you.

20. Loyle Carner

loyle carner

UK hip-hop artist Loyle Carner released his debut album Yesterday’s Gone in 2017 which earned him a nomination for the 2017 Mercury Prize. He released his follow up Not Waving But Drowning two years later, earning nominations for three Brit Awards.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carner discussed his ADHD. He spoke about how he formerly took Concerta (a drug similar to Ritalin), but that it numbed his creativity. From then on he embraced the condition saying, “I realised that ADHD was the worst and the best thing I had and I needed it.”

Carner says he is “most at peace” doing physical things like football, or cooking, which he compares to meditation. As a result Carner would later start a cookery school, saying that “it undoes negative wiring” associated with the condition.

19. Elliott Smith

Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith found notoriety for his songwriting, paired with his distinctive, whispery and thin vocal style. Aside from his exceptional songwriting abilities, Smith was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, highly skilled not just on guitar and vocals, but also on the piano, clarinet, harmonica, and drums.

Smith fought long and hard with his demons over the years. Unfortunately, after being diagnosed with ADHD and a major depressive disorder, Smith self-medicated. He drank heavily, developed a drug habit, and died aged thirty-four.

In spite of his struggles, Elliot Smith became one of the great songwriters of our time, with his creativity and stunning emotional sensitivity shining through.

18. SZA

sza

Singer and songwriter SZA released two extended plays, See.SZA.Run (2012) and S (2013), before signing with the hip-hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment.

In 2014, her rise continued as she unleashed her third EP and co-wrote ‘Feeling Myself’ with powerhouse artists Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé.

The singer has been vocal about her struggles with ADHD and in a series of tweets she eventually revealed how the disorder has affected her life.

“Having unmedicated adult ADHD is really f—g hard.” SZA tweeted. “Absolutely nobody has empathy for it.”

17. Park Bom

park bom

Park Bom, the lead vocalist of South Korean girl group 2NE1, was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school. Her symptoms apparently began to show after she tragically witnessed a friend’s death aged fourteen years old.

The group went on to become one of South Korea’s most popular and best-selling girl groups of all time, and Park Bom has also released two solo singles ‘You and I’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ which both reached number one on the Gaon Digital Chart – the national music chart of South Korea.

In interviews, Park Bom has discussed the difficulties of trying to access suitable medication to help. ADHD is not well-known in Korea, and Adderall is illegal there, making it difficult to manage symptoms.

16. Chris Webby

chris webby

Chris Webby is a Billboard-charting rapper who has found significant success in the US. He has collaborated with the likes of Joell Ortiz, Prodigy and Kid Ink.

Webby released his debut studio album Chemically Imbalanced in 2014. Various lyrics in his songs address his experiences with ADHD.

The rapper has discussed in interviews how he was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, and has been on attention medication throughout his life. Webby says to this day that he has manageable symptoms of the disorder, and uses prescribed Adderall medication whilst in the studio.

15. Mel B

mel b

Former Spice Girl Mel B has revealed in interviews that she has been diagnosed with ADHD, and how she uses exercise to help her focus.

The English songwriter and television personality, known to many as Scary Spice, rose to fame in the 90s. The Spice Girls went on to sell over 100 million records worldwide and, becoming the best-selling female group of all time.

Energetic and at times erratic, Mel B often displayed symptoms of the condition during her Spice Girls days in particular, revealing that she has also been diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and anxiety.

14. Ozzy Osbourne

ozzy osborne

Ozzy Osbourne found prominence during the 70s as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal act Black Sabbath. Known to some as the “Prince of Darkness,” Osborne was diagnosed with ADHD during his younger years.

In an interview with GQ magazine he revealed more about his experiences.

“I am terribly dyslexic and have attention-deficit disorder. So I have to carry a tape recorder everywhere I go. If I get a melody in my head then I have to record it straightaway,” Osbourne explained.

Like many with ADHD, Osborne has a difficult time with school. “I hated school,” he says. “When I was there nobody knew what I was about.”

13. John Lennon

best songwriters of all time

Although never formally diagnosed, The Beatles guitarist and songwriter John Lennon is thought to have had ADHD from an early age.

Many have cited his disruptive behaviour and inability to focus during lessons as an indication of the condition when he was growing up.

Part of the most successful songwriting partnership in music history, Lennon dropped out of college in his final year. At that stage no-one could have imagined the heights he would reach.

As well as the reports of his childhood struggles, his bandmates and various music industry execs have often described Lennon’s hyper-focus on activities that stimulated him, like writing music.

The combination of distractedness at school, and hyper-focus in creative pursuits, has led many to speculate that John Lennon would have been diagnosed with ADHD if he was living today.

12. Dorian Electra

dorian electra

“I get bored of things that aren’t extreme,” says American singer-songwriter Dorian Electra of her ADHD condition.

Electra, who identifies as genderfluid, is renowned for non-conforming fashion choices and an experimental pop sound.

Her debut studio album Flamboyant was released in 2019 and then quickly followed by second EP My Agenda a year later.

She has discussed her experience of ADHD in depth in interviews.

“I like to use the ADHD to my advantage,” Electra explains. “It’s having all this like additional stimuli. It just helps you from getting stuck and myopically focused on one thing.”

11. Ben Weinman

ben weinman

Lead songwriter of mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ben Weinman was diagnosed with ADHD as a child.

Also a film composer and music manager, Weinman was the band’s founder and sole constant member throughout their twenty year career.

He currently plays rhythm guitar with both crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies and progressive rock supergroup Giraffe Tongue Orchestra.

Weinman has explained in interviews that he struggled to find his place in both the classroom and the wider world because of his condition. However, Weinman found solace in music.

“Rhythms and craziness are like meditation for me because repetition allows my mind to wander,” he said in one interview. “The crazier something gets, the better it is for my mind.”

10. Example

example adhd

English singer, rapper and record producer Example was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was younger before later developing symptoms of ADHD and mild autism

Example’s stage name derives from his initials being E.G, an abbreviation of the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which in English means “for example.”

“I was amazing with numbers,” Example explains in an interview with NME. “I had a photographic memory and I hated reading fiction. I prefer books on nature and history.”

In interviews, he has discussed his disruptive behaviour in school, and how he channelled his “obsessive” tendencies towards music.

9. Brendon Urie

brendon urie

Brendon Urie is best known as former lead vocalist and frontman of Panic! at the Disco. He was the only original member to remain across the band’s nineteen year career.

Many of his songs have been commercially successful on the Billboard charts, accumulating millions of sales.

Like many of the artists on this list, Urie experienced huge difficulties at school because of his ADHD.

“From the time I was in school until I was about thirteen, teachers didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Urie recalls in one interview. “Every week they would call in my mom and be like, ‘How much sugar do you give your child?’”

“(They’d say) We can’t contain him. He is rambunctious. His behaviour is insubordinate… He’s terrible. He’s making everyone laugh while I’m trying to teach them.'”

8. Dave Grohl

dave grohl

Former Nirvana Drummer and The Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has been open about his struggles with ADHD and how it has plagued parts of his life.

He spoke at length about his condition as part of a 2020 YouTube video titled “In Defense of Our Teachers,” where he revealed his childhood diagnosis, explaining a poor academic performance and early exit from high school.

Despite the challenges that are attached to ADHD, Grohl has typically used his energy and passion to fuel his music and performances.

He has also raised awareness about the importance of seeking help and treatment for ADHD, advocating for mental health awareness and a need to remove the stigma around neurodiversity.

7. Aaron Bruno

aaron bruno

Aaron Bruno was first diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in high school, and from an early age used his character traits to creatively influence his musical output.

During high school he was nicknamed “AWOL” which was a nod to his habit of leaving parties early. He has even previously used this nickname in rap battles.

Bruno is the founder, lead singer and last remaining original member of Awolnation. He is also a former performer in the post-grunge band Home Town Hero, indie rock outfit Under the Influence of Giants, and Insurgence.

6. Joyner Lucas

joyner lucas

Joyner Lucas gets a special mention on this list not only for speaking out about his ADHD, but for going so far as to name an album after the condition.

The rapper first received critical acclaim after the release of his single ‘Ross Capicchioni’ in 2015 and eventually announced his debut studio album ADHD in 2020.

He has been quoted confirming his ADHD diagnosis early in life. Lucas embraces his condition but struggles with mental health and so channels his frustrations into his music.

“When I was a kid I was diagnosed with ADHD,”  Lucas said, speaking to Billboard Magazine in October 2018. “They said I was aggressive, fidgety, hyperactive and impulsive.”

5. Solange Knowles

solange

Solange Knowles, better known mononymously as Solange, first featured as a backup dancer for her elder sister Beyoncé’s group Destiny’s Child.

However, she went on to become a hugely successful and boundary-pushing neo-soul artist in her own right, signing with her father Mathew and his Music World Entertainment label.

“I was diagnosed with ADHD twice,” Knowles said in one interview. She revealed that while “always being full of energy” her sporadic speech and extroverted nature led to people believing she was on drugs.

4. Will.i.am

will.i.am

Black Eyed Peas star Will-i-am received his ADHD diagnosis in his youth, and has lived with its symptoms for years.

As well as his singing career, the pop and hip-hop producer has worked with a number of massively high profile artists including Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. He has also been involved with numerous business enterprises.

In an interview Understood, Will.I.Am discussed how ADHD fuels his creativity.

“One thing I learned about ADHD is that it’s hard to keep your attention, you can’t sit still, you’re always moving and thinking about a whole bunch of things,” the artist explained.

“But those traits work well for me in studios and in meetings about creative ideas.”

3. Adam Levine

adam levine

Adam Levine became famous as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the pop rock band Maroon 5. He was diagnosed with ADHD during his early teenage years.

Levine has discussed the stigma that can come with being a high profile musical and also having mental health issues.

“ADHD is not a bad thing,” the Maroon 5 frontman said in one interview, lending his voice to those looking for acceptance, understanding and even treatment advice.

“You shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD,” he continued. “Remember that you are not alone. There are others going through the same thing.”

Levine began his musical career in 1994, yet it wasn’t until 2002 and Maroon 5’s album Songs About Jane that he saw real success.

2. Britney Spears

britney spears

The “Princess of Pop” Britney Spears is often credited with influencing the revival of teen pop during the late 90s and early 00s. She was reportedly diagnosed with ADHD in her teens whilst making her way into the industry.

The pop culture icon finally went public with her ADHD in 2012 while performing as a judge on The X Factor.

Spears’ unpredictable behaviours have often unfairly been attributed to ADHD, although struggles with the conditions may have heightened her sometimes erratic public appearances.

Spears has been involved in a number of high profile incidents over the years which have been influenced by both her ADHD, and the struggle to cope with the extreme pressures of fame.

1. Justin Timberlake

justin timberlake

Singer, producer, and actor Justin Timberlake confirmed that he has ADHD during a 2008 interview with Collider.

The artist did not expand much on his experiences, alluding only to the difficulties it has brought him. “I have OCD mixed with ADD – you try living with that,” he commented.

Clearly, the condition has not stopped him from finding phenomenal success.

Timberlake has over 88 million record sales and numerous accolades including ten Grammy, nine Billboard Music Awards along with the Contemporary Icon Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

According to Billboard, Timberlake is the best performing male soloist in the history of the Mainstream Top 40.


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