Seven big stars who started small (and how they succeeded)

Despite starting out in small towns, artists like Kanye West and Macklemore had big dreams that took them from humble beginnings all the way to the top of the pops.

Big star: Macklemore
Small start: Seattle, Washington
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: Ever wondered where Macklemore first started popping tags? The rapper was born with the name Ben Haggerty in Seattle, Washington, and grew up in Capitol Hill. The famous secondhand shops from his ear-worm track Thrift Shop are dotted across Seattle, so you can do your own tribute tour through the stores when you’re next on the strip. Although the Capitol Hill Value Village closed in 2015, three years after the breakout hit was filmed there, many others are still standing, such as Goodwill Outlet and Red Light Vintage, if you’ve got $20 in your pocket. Macklemore, a proudly born-and-bred Seattle man, owes much of his huge success to the start he got in Seattle, when he teamed up with fellow local Ryan Lewis after a struggle with substance abuse; and he knows it- if you take in a Macklemore show in his home city you’ll experience a crowd like no other, or if you’re lucky you might catch him throwing the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game.

Big star: Courtney Love
Small start: Portland, Oregon
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: Courtney Love may have reached the pinnacle of punk and grunge scene stardom, but her forty-year career started all in Portland, Oregon. Although she was born in San Francisco, Courtney’s formative years were spent in Portland making music with fledgling bands, and she even returned there after a year spent in the UK. In the early 80’s the Hole singer made her mark working at Mary’s Club, Portland’s historic first strip club in downtown Portland. Her doomed romance with Nirvana frontman, the late Kurt Cobain, began on the dance floor at another famous club in Portland, Satyricon, which closed its doors in 2010 after being named the longest-running punk club in Western USA. If you’re heading to Portland, there’s every chance you’ll run into Courtney in the streets- she returns regularly to visit her family, especially her brother, Josh.

Big star: Beyonce
Small start: From Houston, Texas
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: The people of Houston probably knew Beyoncé was destined for fame far before the rest of the world, given she spent her childhood singing and dancing her way through talent shows in her home city. In fact, Beyoncé was just an eight year-old aspiring star when she was discovered at a local audition for a girl’s music group, whisked off for more training and ended up om Star Search. Although they didn’t win, Bey’s journey to becoming Queen B had begun, and she continued rehearsing alongside the future members of Destiny’s Child (under the watchful eye of her father) in her Houston backyard. Although dad Matthew Knowles sold Rice Mansion last year, the property where Bootylicious was recorded, curious fans can still stop by and relive some of the musical magic that was created there.

Big star: Kanye
Small start: Chicago
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: When someone names a child after the place they grew up, you know it has a special place in their heart. Kanye West’s daughter Chicago West is a living testament to his love for his Chicago, where moved when he was three years old. By thirteen, he had recorded his first song, “Green Eggs and Ham” in a ramshackle local studio, and after meeting his mentor NO I.D he was set on his path to stardom. He headed first to Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 on a painting scholarship, before transferring to Chicago State University to study English. He eventually chose to focus solely on music, his true passion. Today, visitors to Chicago can visit Kanye’s Chicago childhood home where his nonprofit organization Donda’s House often holds events to honour local landmarks- like ‘heartbombing’ the house on Valentine’s Day by covering it in paper hearts.

Big star: Kesha
Small start: Nashville
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: Kesha started life as a California girl, but it was her move to Nashville in 1991 that really put her on the music map. Kesha and her family moved to the “Songwriting Capital of the World” after her mother Pebe secured a songwriting deal; this talent was clearly inherited by her daughter, who spent hours watching her mother write and perform throughout Nashville and was herself inspired by events in her own life in Tennessee. Although Kesha left school at 17 to pursue her already-booming career, she played the trumpet and later the saxophone in the Nashville school marching band, and says she has been inspired by her struggles to fit in during her years at the local Franklin High School. Her out-there fashion sense and daring outfits made her a target, but today she’s used her experiences to help others through the anti-bullying organization Hack Harassment, which focuses on online bullying.

Big star: Eddie Vedder
Small start: San Diego
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: Eddie Vedder was an eight-year-old dreamer when he landed in San Diego, likely not knowing it was the city that would launch his spectacular career with Pearl Jam. He lived in a modest house in Encinitas and grew up learning piano and guitar; but by his late teens he was a central figure in the garage music scene. Despite moving away briefly as an adult, Eddie returned to San Diego made his name with a bunch of local bands and crossed paths with other musicians such as drummer Brad Wilk, who went on to perform in Rage Against the Machine and AudioSlave and Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer Jack Irons. But his big success was still a way off: Eddie spent years working in a gas station in San Diego and as a doorman at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. Eventually he found a following with the group Bar Radio, and two years later her joined Pearl Jam. The famous song ‘Alive’ from the first Pearl Jam album Ten (Redux) was written while Eddie was surfing the local break in San Diego. A true local, the rocker even recently returned to his high school, the San Dieguito High School, to play a secret show to benefit the school’s performing arts program.

Big star: Demi Lovato
Small start: Dallas, Texas
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: She was a star in her hometown right from her childhood, and Demi Lovato’s star just kept rising. The singer, songwriter and actress’ family are from Dallas – her mother was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and Demi’s older sister is named Dallas. As a young actor she experimented with TV roles, first in Barney and Friends and then as a Disney Channel star in Camp Rock. But her life in Texas wasn’t all red-carpets and photo shoots- in fact, she was bullied so badly as a student she requested homeschooling, graduating in 2009. Her struggles at school and with her fractured family life saw her battle depression, eating disorders and drug abuse; but her passion for music, fostered as a child in Dallas, has been her guiding light through her troubled times. Her latest trip home to perform was a triumph, the performer selling out her shows with DJ Khaled at American Airlines Center.

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