Some musicians seemingly appear out of thin air. For most, though, the rise to stardom is more of a marathon than a sprint. Your favorite artists likely spent years toiling away, lucky to get a local bar gig in the years before they would sell out venues across the world. For instance, Danger Mouse, one half of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, began his career by making one of the most successful mashup albums of all time. Lil Wayne was a 14-year-old newcomer when he joined The Hot Boys, a seminal group in Lousiana’s rap history.
It’s hard to imagine acts like Father John Misty, Lizzo, and Kanye West ever not being famous, but they and the other 26 artists on this list took circuitous paths to stardom. Read on for stories of perseverance and plain dumb luck, each of which proves that every successful musician’s path is unique.