How Did Bruno Mars Make It?

560x200-BM-coverIf you stay in the game despite poverty and set-backs, sometimes success is the outcome -says Lisa Popeil

Bruno Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, one of six children from a musical family.

His father, a Latin percussionist from Brooklyn, New York and his mother, a hula dancer and talented vocalist formed a Vegas-style revue which featured the entire Hernandez family.


Bruno Mars, aged 4, on the UK documentary ‘Viva Elvis’.

They performed doo-wop medleys and impersonations for enthusiastic crowds.

Peter was nicknamed Bruno at age 2 because of his confident personality and because, as a pudgy baby, he resembled the wrestler Bruno Sammartino.

Mars’ father is Puerto Rican and Eastern European Jewish, while his mother was from the Philippines.

A Full Performing Schedule at 3 Years Old

At the age of 3, Mars began performing as the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator, encouraged by his uncle, also an Elvis impersonator.

Mars added songs by Michael Jackson and The Temptations to his nightly act. Eventually, Mars began performing with his family’s band, The Love Notes, and, at age 4, was performing five nights a week.

Mars moved to Los Angeles after high school to pursue a musical career. He replaced his last name Hernandez with Mars after feeling pigeon-holed as a “latin” artist.

A Winding Road in the Industry

In 2004, Mars signed to Motown Records and was dropped a year later. While at Motown, he met songwriter and producer Philip Lawrence which led to a music publishing deal in 2005 with Steve Lindsey at Westside Independent.

The focus of Mars’ early years was a focus in the art and science of writing hit songs.300x126-BM-QUOTE1

As Mars became proficient at playing drums, keyboard, bass, and guitar, he performed cover songs with his band around LA.

Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine co-founded a writing/production team “The Smeezingtons”.

Though Mars met his future A&R manager at Atlantic Records, Aaron Bay-Shuck in 2006, it took the label three years to actually sign Mars since they felt he needed more time developing as an artist.

Becoming a Featured Singer

His influences include Michael Jackson, Prince, James Brown, Little Richard, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and the doo-wop and reggae music he was exposed to as a child.


Bruno Mars performing in Las Vegas in 2010

After producing multiple R&B acts, he got his chance to sing as a featured singer on B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”, both Top Ten hits.

Mars then released “Just the Way You Are” in July of 2010. The song was the lead single from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 2010.

In 2014, he was named “Artist of the Year” by Billboard and ranked number one on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Throughout his singing career, he has sold over 12 million albums and 68 million singles worldwide, including such hits as “Grenade”, “Locked Out of Heaven”, and “When I Was Your Man”.

What this means to you:

1. Performing on stage constantly creates a level of natural comfort.

2. Playing multiple instruments and dancing well can help position you as an all-around entertainer.

3. Get a signature look (pompadour and a hat anyone?)

4. If you stay in the game despite poverty and set-backs, sometimes success is the outcome.

5. Having a catchy name can help you stand out, be memorable and not pigeon-hole you by race or nationality.

6. Finding mentors and collaborators is crucial.

7. If you’re in the game, be in it. Working your butt off all day, every day, will help you move forward in the small window of time young artists have.

This is the fifth article in the series. Missed last week’s? Find out how Meghan Trainor made it!

Next: How Did Jessie J Make It?

Lisa Popeil

Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches. She is the creator of the ‘Daily Vocal Workout for Pop Singers’ CD download (for Male and Female) as well as the Voiceworks® Method and the Total Singer DVD, conducts cutting-edge voice research, lectures internationally and is a vocal health consultant. Lisa is a voting member of NARAS, the Grammy® organization, ASCAP, AFTRA and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

  • Mrsincere

    Don’t like his style, don’t like his music, & the less important don’t like his looks! Sorry is not the green monster in me is just my opinion

  • Thi Ha

    Possess awesome voice, is an awesome singer and moreover awesome songwriter. Love him!!!