Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Bruno Mars began to find success in the early 2000s by writing songs for popular artists. After several years as one of pop music’s premier songwriters, Mars broke out as a singer in his own right with the 2010 hit “Nothin’ On You.”
Born Peter Gene Hernandez on October 8, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Mars grew up in a very musical family. His father, Pete, was a Latin percussionist of half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish descent, originally from Brooklyn. His mother, Bernadette (“Bernie”), who emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii, and was of Filipina and some Spanish ancestry, was a singer.
In Waikiki Beach, Mars’s family performed a Las Vegas-style revue that included Motown hits, doo-wop melodies and celebrity impersonations. Growing up around entertainers, Mars began picking up musical instruments from early childhood. “I’ve always had a drum set, a piano, a guitar … and never got trained to play. It was just always there,” he later recalled. “That’s just how I learned, just being surrounded by it my whole life.” At the age of 4, he joined the family musical act as an Elvis impersonator and quickly become one of the stars of the show. He continued to perform with his family throughout his childhood, and as he approached adolescence he added Michael Jackson to his impersonation repertoire.
After graduating from high school, Mars decided to leave Hawaii for Los Angeles, California. Over his first few years in L.A., he struggled to make a breakthrough in the music industry. And especially because he had performed so frequently while growing up in Honolulu, Mars grew frustrated with waiting for his career to move forward. It was during this period that Mars first turned to songwriting. “I only started writing songs when I moved up to L.A. because when I was in Hawaii, I never really needed to,” he recalled. “But it stemmed from just learning that you have to do everything by yourself. It’s not like what you see in movies, where you walk into a record company and you’re given all these great songs to sing. You have to write the song the world is going to want to hear and play it over and over again. I learned that the hard way here in L.A.”
Mars received his first eight career Grammy nominations for 2010, including nods for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. He took home his first Grammy win that year for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Just the Way You Are.” In 2014 Mars also won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. Other popular songs by Mars include “Locked Out of Heaven” (2012) and the Grammy-winning tracks “Uptown Funk” (2015) and “That’s What I Like” (2017), which was recorded and engineered at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank, California.
Mars continued his immensely successful run with the release of his third studio effort, “24K Magic,” in November 2016. The album included the catchy title track, a retro-tinted dance number in the vein of “Uptown Funk,” as well as the sultry “That’s What I Like,” which climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mars cleaned up at the 2018 Grammy Awards, winning in all six categories for which he drew nominations, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
“It’s just all love. That’s what music is. That’s why music was created. To make people feel good, to uplift people.” — Bruno Mars
Listen to our #AFM47 Bruno Mars playlist, featuring songs recorded union in Los Angeles.