“I looked at you and I said, ‘There’s no way you’re not going to be a huge star.'”
Most of today’s biggest musicians had humble beginnings — but a few had a little help from their famous friends along the way. In the midst of playing gigs at small clubs and sending demos to record labels, these artists found themselves with the support of major stars early in their career.
Musicians like Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran were lucky enough to meet some famous faces on their journey to stardom and have these celebs to thank for giving their career a boost. Without their famous mentors, we may not know about a few of today’s biggest music superstars!
Read on to find out which musicians were discovered by other stars…
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1. Justin Bieber & Usher
Justin Bieber was a preteen when his manager Scooter Braun discovered his cover videos on YouTube. He then introduced him to Usher, who decided to take him under his wing. As his protégé, Usher was by Justin’s side as he worked on his debut album and traveled across the country promoting his first single. He even helped Justin sign his record deal with Island Def Jam.
“It was truly his talent, his ability to, on the spot, produce that magic. There was something really eager and something so poised to be something. I didn’t know what he would be but I knew I wanted to be involved,” Usher told “Good Morning America” at the time.
2. 5 Seconds of Summer & One Direction
5 Seconds of Summer got their big break when One Direction member Louis Tomlinson found the Australian group while browsing YouTube. Not only did they give the up-and-coming group a shoutout on social media, but they invited them to be their opening act on a massive worldwide tour. The members of One Direction are even said to now own a financial stake in the group.
“We discovered 5SOS on YouTube…and we all knew straight away they were very special. We’re so excited to have them on the road with us and we know our fans are going to LOVE what these lads do,” Niall Horan said in a press release at the time.
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3. Lady Gaga & Akon
Lady Gaga was working as a songwriter for Interscope Records when Akon heard her reference vocals on a demo she had recorded for another artist. He immediately recognized her talent and signed her to his label KonLive Distribution.
“I [was struck by] her in general. When I see a star, I just know it. From the moment she walked in [for our first meeting], her appearance and her attitude felt brand new and fresh. She was so fearless. When I [had discussions with] Jimmy Iovine, from that moment everything ignited. We got excited about her, started making records, and started to craft her image,” Akon told EW.
4. Charlie Puth & Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres was one of the first people to have faith in Charlie Puth’s music career. After hearing some of his cover songs on YouTube, she invited him on her show and signed him to her ElevenEleven record label.
“I like to think that I spot talent and have a good eye and a good ear for things and I did! I looked at you and I said, ‘There’s no way you’re not going to be a huge star’ and you are. You didn’t disappoint…I’m so happy for you and that I’m any part of knowing you from the beginning,” Ellen said to Charlie on her show.
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5. Nicki Minaj & Lil Wayne
Nicki Minaj was discovered by Dirty Money CEO Fendi when he heard her music on Myspace. He introduced her to Lil Wayne, who had also seen in the “On the Come Up” DVD. He liked her music so much that he began to make mixtapes with her which helped build hype around her career and then signed her to his Young Money record label.
“I can’t even imagine my career, um, my creative spirit without Wayne. I credit him with a lot of what I do. Prior to him, no one relevant in hip-hop really gave me that support. I feel like I’m still intertwined with him creatively. Before I met Wayne, the person that was spearheading my career was the one person who always told me, ‘Don’t be too playful, don’t be too kooky and weird…no one’s gonna feel that, nobody wants to hear that.’ So I stifled a lot of that early on, and then once that we parted ways, I was like, ‘Guess what, I’m gonna just be me,'” Nicki told Interview.
6. Janelle Monáe & Big Boi
Janelle Monáe got one of her first big breaks when she met OutKast’s Big Boi at an open mic night. He invited her to collaborate on his album “Got Purp? Vol. II” and ended up signing her. In turn, that helped her gain the attention of other big names in the music industry, like Diddy, which propelled her to stardom.
“Two of my greatest accomplishments outside of being in OutKast is signing Janelle Monae and Killer Mike. Finding those artists and seeing that there are artists that can take the baton and run with it. They both kind of knew what they wanted and I didn’t have to really babysit while they were doing it. To see where they are right now, I’m like a proud big brother,” Big Boi said on “The Daily Show.”
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7. Panic! At The Disco & Pete Wentz
Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz heard some of Panic! At The Disco’s earliest demos online and was so impressed with their music that he drove to Las Vegas to hear them perform in a small local practice space. He ended up signing the group, who were still teenagers, to his record label before they had even played a live show.
“When I came across Ryan Ross and Panic! At the Disco, that was the real inception. We were like, this needs a home. This is some strange s— … I drove to Vegas because [and] I met the Panic! guys. They had a practice space and didn’t even really know how to totally play the songs. They had all of these electronic elements and they were like, playing them acoustic, but it was clear that there was a thing,” Pete told The Forty Five.
8. Ed Sheeran & Jamie Foxx
Back when Ed Sheeran was just an aspiring artist hoping to get his foot in the door, he approached Jamie Foxx about appearing on his radio show, which often featured up-and-coming artists. Jamie liked what he heard and ended up allowing Ed to live at his home for six weeks while he worked on music in Los Angeles. He even got him a slot at an open mic night where he performed in front of an audience of 800 incredible musicians.
“He plays on [the show] and is incredible so I said, ‘I know you don’t have anywhere to go so just chill here.’ I said, ‘Listen man, I think you got the goods but I got to check you out so I took him down to this show that I was doing, a live night every Monday night in Downtown LA…He went out there on a ukulele and got a standing ovation in 12 minutes and the rest was history,” Jamie said on “The Graham Norton Show.”
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9. Rihanna & Jay Z
Producer Evan Rogers was vacationing in Barbados when he heard a then teenage Rihanna perform. She recorded a demo which was sent to Def Jam Records and ended up in Jay-Z’s hands. Rihanna was then flown to New York for a meeting and she says that Jay wouldn’t let her leave the room until she signed a deal with the label.
“The audition definitely went well. They locked me into the office – till 3am. And Jay-Z said, ‘There’s only two ways out. Out the door after you sign this deal. Or through this window…’ And we were on the 29th floor. Very flattering,” Rihanna told The Guardian.
10. Pitbull & Lil Jon
Lil Jon met Pitbull when he was in the “real early days” of his career. They immediately hit it off and Lil Jon invited Pitbull to be featured on his album, which helped propel Pitbull into the spotlight.
“I met him in Miami, just hanging out. We became cool, and I put him on an interlude on my album…Pit had a song playing on the radio out here; I forget the song but it was in his real early days. And I ran into him on the beach and told him to come to the studio and jump on some shit, because I really liked that song. So he came and just jumped on the album, and then that was it…I always believed in the guy, and I always knew he could make it commercially,” Lil Jon told Miami New Times.
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11. AJR & Sia
Before AJR went viral with some of their hit songs, the group tried to get attention by tweeting their covers to various celebrities. On their first attempt, they sent a tweet to Sia, who actually shared their music and sent them a message. She ended up taking them to brunch and helping them kick off their career.
“She introduced us to our manager and people in the industry which was very cool. She’s absolutely incredible…She’s just the most down to Earth, nice person. [We] learned from her about the songwriting process. We played her so many of our songs and she gave us her thoughts. Even now we still send her a bunch of music and get her feedback,” the band shared.
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