When I was younger, I really wanted to be a singer. I don’t know exactly how this idea came about, but spending years listening to artists such as Britney Spears, Hayley Williams and Sierra Kusterbeck, I thought I had what it took to do exactly what they were doing, in place of going to college and getting a degree.
Yet, as I grew, I realized how unwise that would be (both because I really don’t have that great of a voice and because I should really have some type of validation for a career in the future). Since I have put my dreams of being the next X-Tina on the backburner, I have noticed how many of the artists I admire and love now also had my thought process–well, sort of.
For all of those who ever wondered what specific artists did before hitting the music scene, just check out the list I have complied below.
SHARON JONES | SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS
In the absence of a recording contract as a singer in the early 1970s, the New York native worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island, as well as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo. Luckily, the funk, soul and R&B singer received a mid-life career break in 1996, and has been wowing audiences with her soulful talent at the forefront of the revivalist movement of soul and funk music popularity like that of the late 1960s to mid-1970s.
Listen to: “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?”
CHARLES BRADLEY | CHARLES BRADLEY AND THE MENAHAN STREET BAND
After running away from home at the age of 14, Bradley headed to Maine to train as a chef, and remained a chef for the next ten years. A co-worker at the time also told Bradley that he looked a great deal like the legendary James Brown; when moving back to Brooklyn in 1996, Bradley worked as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs under the name “Black Velvet.” It was here that the artist was discovered by Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records; Bradley has been performing to much acclaim since he was signed in 2002.
Listen to: “Why Is It So Hard?”
JACK WHITE | THE WHITE STRIPES, THE DEAD WEATHER, AND THE RACONTEURS
At the age of 15, White began a three-year upholstery apprenticeship in his hometown of Detroit; he later went on to start an upholstery business named Third Man Upholstery. The shop, like his later bands, had a specific color scheme (yellow and black) and had the catchphrase: “Your Furniture’s Not Dead.” After his work in upholstery, White went on to form the classic underground band The White Stripes with former wife Meg White in 1997, and has been going non-stop in the music scene since.
Listen to: “Sixteen Saltines”
GREG GILLIS |GIRL TALK
While studying biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Gillis started his solo “Girl Talk” project. He worked in tissue and biomedical engineering after graduation, but decided to quit in 2007 to focus completely on his “project.” Since then, Girl Talk has been taking on the music world with five LPs, tons of remixes, and crazy cool performances.
Listen to: “Oh No”
BRANDON FLOWERS | THE KILLERS
Growing up in Nevada means a few things for Flowers, but one of them involves his occupations: he formally worked as a casino worker in Las Vegas, but it is unknown as to what his responsibilities were. Regardless, Flowers left that job behind to take on the career of ultimate bada** in The Killers, performing since 2001, and having just packed Wembley Stadium’s 90,000 capacity in June for their biggest solo show of their career.
Listen to: “Crossfire”
SANTI WHITE | SANTIGOLD
It’s hard to believe Santigold could be anything other than the force of nature she is onstage, but the singer was not always in the spotlight. Graduating from Wesleyan with a double-major in Music and African-American studies, White went onto work at Epic Records as an A&R representative in the 1990s. She left the position to co-write and executive produce the first record from singer Res; she was offered a solo contract years later by Martin Heath of Lizard King Records, and has been performing as Santigold/Santogold since 2007.
Listen to: “The Keepers”
KANYE WEST | THE MAN, THE LEGEND
Before the man known as Yeezus had the money to afford Coach, Prada and Chanel, he was working his way up in the world as a Gap employee. In 2000, he got his big break at Roc-A-Fella Records, where he achieved recognition as a producer for helping to revitalize Jay-Z’s career on his 2001 album “The Blueprint.” Since the company issued “The College Dropout” in 2004, the singer has been making genius music and hilarious lyrics for the public ear.
Listen to: “The Good Life”
BEYONCE KNOWLES | THE QUEEN
The queen we all admire today once worked at her mother’s hair salon to help out the family business. She then went on to be a member of numerous girl groups and began to gain fame in 1996 with a little group known as Destiny’s Child. Since the group’s disbandment in 2001, Beyoncé has been rocking a solo career, now shown to have a net worth of over $450 million.
Listen to: “Countdown”
GREG GRAFFIN | BAD RELIGION
Graffin is a bada** in more ways than one. A founding member of Bad Religion at the age of 15, Graffin went onto attend UCLA where he double-majored in anthropology and geology. He later earned a master’s degree in geology from the university, and then received in PhD in zoology at Cornell University. When not touring with the iconic band, who earlier this year released their fifth album “True North,” Graffin shares his profound knowledge with students at both of his alma maters as a professor.
Listen to: “Nothing to Dismay”