Any famous musician will tell you that the path to fame is almost never an easy one. Trying to break into such a competitive industry takes hard work, sacrifice, and the ability to bounce back from rejection. But even some of the biggest names in music have proved that trying to persevere in tough times can wear people thin, regardless of how passionate they might be.
Quite a few stars have come close to quitting their dreams for good. But thankfully these singers and rappers stayed consistent and continued to grind, proving that it always pays to keep going forward. In fact, had it not been for their tenacity and grit, a lot of today’s best selling hits wouldn’t even exist. Isn’t that insane?!
17. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly once revealed that she didn’t enjoy the recording process when it came to her earlier albums, and they often tempted her to give up. In an interview, she explained: “There have just been so many times where I’ve almost quit just because at the end of the day, I’m like ‘Is this worth it? Is this worth all the drama? I don’t need to be famous, I just love singing.”
But while working on her most recent album, Meaning of Life, her experience was very different. The renowned singer mentioned that she actually felt happy for once, which can only mean good things for her the future of her music career!
16. Ed Sheeran
Believe it or not, music wasn’t always Ed‘s first love. He revealed: “I wanted to be an actor at one point. I auditioned for a programme called Britannia High back in the day as an actor. At that point, I was like, if I get this, I’ll stop music and be an actor and if I don’t get this, I’ll stop acting and be a musician.” He also confessed that he wasn’t too serious about pursuing music at the time, but after he failed at the audition, he decided to shift gears and “start singing properly.”
We’re so relieved that he went with music, especially since he gifted us with so many awesome hits. But if you think about it, Ed technically did get what he wanted. Aside from becoming a well-known artist, he also got to cameo in projects like Game of Thrones and Bridget Jones’s Baby, which sort of makes him an actor, too. Talk about impressive!
While working on her debut album, Sza struggled with a lot of self-doubt. She delayed the album for over a year and even threatened to quit music on Twitter. She said: “My anxiety had been telling me the whole time that it sucked.” And when her label scheduled a release date for the album, she said she “wanted to hurry up and fail.”
However, the fans thought differently. Although she still tends to be overly-critical of her work, her music has done really well. So well, in fact, that she got nominated for five Grammys!
When the duo was asked about the inspiration behind their name, they explained how the band was formed in a time when they were both struggling and unhappy. The two men were unemployed at the time and working constantly on their music. Theo Hutchcraft said: “We just sat in an apartment in Manchester and worked and worked and worked, and hoped one day it would get better. We just kept going and we almost gave up a lot of times.”
But eventually, all that hard work paid off. Because as of now, the synth-pop group has a huge following and two albums that have charted in several countries.
13. Cyndi Lauper
Way before she sang about girls just wanting to have fun, Cyndi was busy performing cover songs with different bands. Though she enjoyed getting to sing and perform, she wasn’t happy with sticking to covers. And by 1977, she’d badly damaged her vocal chords. She was forced to take a year off from singing and her doctors tried to convince her that she’d never get to sing again.
But the pop star didn’t let this news get the best of her. With the help of a vocal coach, she found her voice again and went on to become a Grammy-winning legend.
12. Chloe Kohanski
Before she became the season 13 winner of The Voice, Chloe considered leaving the music world behind. She said, “I was literally going to give up on music. I wasn’t making any money and I wasn’t really successful and was playing to the same 20/30 people in a small bar every weekend.”
But fortunately for her, she landed a spot on The Voice and quickly became a fan-favorite, earning her the winning title by the end of the show. As of now, she’s signed with Republic Records and she recently released her first single, “Come This Far.”
11. Hillary Scott
Before she became the leading lady of Lady Antebellum, Hillary auditioned for the show American Idol at least twice. On both occasions, she didn’t even make it past the preliminary rounds. She said: “I never got to see [the judges]. I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it.”
Well, we have no idea what those guys were thinking, but fortunately, this setback didn’t stop her. Hillary went on to form a successful country group and win multiple Grammys. Take that, American Idol.
10. Colbie Caillat
Like Hillary, Colbie also auditioned for American Idol twice, only to be rejected. She didn’t even get to perform for the judges. She said: “I was in the auditions that you were outside with thousands of people. You sleep on the street.” And to add insult to injury, by the time she finally auditioned, she didn’t make the best first impression. She added: “I am shy. I am nervous, I don’t audition well. I didn’t look great and I didn’t get it.”
The second time around, she performed an original song called “Bubbly,” and she still didn’t get through. But after she continued to pursue her music, that same song actually went on to become one of her biggest hit singles to date.
9. Paul McCartney
During his early days in The Beatles group, Paul almost quit because of nerves. He said: “I remember nearly giving it all up when we were doing a concert in Wembley – which was a Poll-Winners concert – in the really early days of The Beatles. And I remember feeling physically sick with a knot in my stomach thinking, ‘I should give this up, this is just too painful, what am I doing?’ I got over it. And as you can see, I didn’t give it up!” We’re sure that Beatles fans everywhere are grateful for this decision.
8. Tim McGraw
When he appeared on Oprah’s Master Class, Tim McGraw shared his story about how he once doubted his future as a singer. He didn’t feel too confident about his music, and to make matters worse, a producer who’d heard him sing wasn’t a fan either. Tim recalled: “He goes, ‘You know, you’re a nice guy… But I don’t think this is for you… Unless you want to find another part of this business you want to work in, you [maybe] should not be involved in being a singer.’ At first, I believed him… [I was] questioning myself and questioning whether I should do this anymore.”
But then he realized that singing was his true passion. So with just $150 to his name, he sent out invitation letters to record labels and producers, then gathered all his musician friends to put on a show at a bar. Thankfully, one producer took notice, began to work with Tim, and helped catapult him to country stardom.
7. Lana Del Rey
Before she rose to fame, Lana tried to break into the music industry using different aliases. But after several failed attempts, the singer started having doubts. She said: “I definitely thought, ‘If it’s gonna be this hard, I’m not gonna be a singer and have nothing.’ That would have been fine, but it’s only in the last two years that I started getting tired. In my mind, I was always thinking about [quitting singing]. I stopped playing shows. I definitely didn’t want to be a singer anymore.”
Even after she did finally break through, she considered quitting music again. But we’re happy to say that she’s actually working on a new album this year. Plus, as of now, she’s sold over 14 million albums worldwide. We bet she’s glad she never gave up!
6. Norah Jones
Before she released her debut album and earned recognition in the music industry, Nora almost quit singing. She started to feel discouraged after she’d spent some time working as a waitress, waiting for her big break. She said, “I’d gained weight – waiting tables, I was eating a lot of corn muffins and I didn’t know they were filled with butter. I felt fat; I felt gross. I called my mom crying and said I wanted to go back to Texas. But my mom said, ‘You know, you’ve only been there six months, at least give it a full year.’” Thank goodness she listened to her mom, she’s now a nine-time Grammy Award winner!
5. Shania Twain
Although she was already getting a headstart with her music career, the country singer had to step away from singing after the tragic death of her mother and stepfather. She decided to take care of her siblings, putting her own dreams on hold in the process.
But this lengthy hiatus didn’t stop Shania from getting right back in the game. After helping to raise and look after her family, she returned to music and earned herself the title “Queen of Country Pop.”
When Nas‘s daughter was born, he contemplated quitting rap for good. He said: “It’s crazy, because when she was young, she was a baby, I thought, Aw, man, I’m gonna quit this rap sh*t before she becomes old enough to even know what I’m doing. I never thought that I’d be still doing it while she’s a teen, growing up. And I’m still in the game. It’s weird as f*ck sometimes. But then, other times, it’s perfect. I’m glad it worked out this way.” We get the feeling his daughter couldn’t be prouder of him!
In one of his interviews, the rapper revealed: “The first time I rapped in front of actual people that mattered, in a club, I got booed. And it was very traumatic for me. I just remember it being so traumatic, and I think I went home and I was like, man, I quit.”
He also rapped about how difficult it was to break into the industry in his song “White America,” when he said: “No labels wanted to sign me, almost gave up, I was like ‘F*ck it,’ until I met Dre, the only one to look past and give me a chance…”
2. Bruno Mars
Bruno’s uncle, John Valentine, once shared that when his nephew started out, his slow-moving career began to discourage him – almost to the point where he quit. Bruno had left his family in Hawaii and moved to L.A. in hopes of making it big. But then he got homesick and reconsidered his decision… until he got a phone call.
John said: “Four years later, he called me and he was about to give up [because] he misses the family, he misses that, the parties, the gatherings. He said, ‘Uncle, let’s make a band, I’m coming home!’ and I said ‘No, you should stay there [because] that’s where the labels are and I can feel it, it’s gonna happen!’ Two months later, everything picked up.” So if it wasn’t for his uncle, we probably would’ve never gotten hits like “Just the Way You Are,” “24K Magic,” and “Finesse.” It woulda been a tragedy!
1. Cardi B
The female rapper was so close to turning her back on music, all because her part got cut from someone’s song. She explained: “I did a verse to somebody’s song, and other artists was in the song as well, and I was so excited because I felt like my verse was so poppin’. Then, the artist told me that I couldn’t be on the song anymore because one of the artists that was on the song felt like I was too small, and they were too big for me to be on the same song with them. That sh*t broke my heart so bad, it broke my heart to pieces… It almost tore me up so bad that I was like ‘I don’t wanna do this sh*t anymore.”
Well, whoever those artists were, they must feel silly right now. With the encouragement of her manager and publicist, the former reality TV star stuck with rapping and then skyrocketed to fame.