Born and brought up in a musical family, the Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, producer, choreographer and instrumentalist had no choice but to follow suit. His stage performance and retro showmanship have won the hearts of many fans every time he takes up the mic. The multi talented artist is popularly known for hit singles like 'Just The Way You Are', 'Grenade' and 'Locked out of Heaven'.
The American singer-songwriter was born Peter Gene Hernandez in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Peter Hernandez was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent while his mother, Bernadette San Pedro Bayot, was an emigrant from the Philippines. Originally, the two had similar interests and met at a show where Bernadette was performing as a hula dancer and Peter played percussion. In 2013, Bernadette however died at the age of 55 due to a brain aneurysm. At only two years old, Bruno was not only chubby but also confident, strong-willed and independent. For that reason, his father nicknamed him ‘Bruno’ as he resembled Bruno Sammartino the wrestler.
Bruno has six siblings and comes from a musical family. His four sisters, Tiara, Tahiti, Jaime and Presley are members of a musical group called Lylas while his only brother plays drums for his band. Similarly his mother was a dancer come singer, his father a percussionist and one of his uncles was an Elvis Presley impersonator. As a result of growing up alongside entertainers, Mars could play a variety of musical instruments such as a drum, piano and guitar, yet he was never trained to play them. His uncle always encouraged him to practice performing on stage at a very early age. He then would perform songs by his musical idols, Michael Jackson, Isley Brothers and The Temptations. In fact, at only four years, little Mars was already performing almost every day with the family band. It is at this time that he also became part of the Elvis impersonator show and quickly became one of its stars. He also had a chance to perform a Las Vegas style revue with his family at Waikiki Beach that included Motown hits, doo-wop melodies and celebrity impersonations.
Mars attended President Theodore Roosevelt High School and graduated at the age of 18 years. While at school, Mars still had great interest in music and would therefore perform in a group called The School Boys. The group mostly performed classic oldies and this experience perfected his comfort on stage.
After his high school graduation, Bruno skipped college and instead moved to California to pursue a musical career. At this instance, he felt like his life was out of this world as he didn’t attract as many girls as he expected. For this reason, he adopted his stage name as Bruno Mars to indicate that he must have been a musician out of this world.
On arrival in Los Angeles California, penetrating in the music industry was tough for him. It initially seemed bright after he signed a deal with Motown Records but nothing fruitful came out of it. It was a big frustration for the upcoming musician especially because he was already used to performing regularly when growing up at Honolulu. To make ends meet, he at one time had to work as a DJ to be paid $75 yet he had no prior experience on the skill. Unluckily for him, he lost the job even before he settled. It is due to these disappointments that he turned to songwriting. Previously, he never needed to write songs while in Hawaii as everything was done for him. There is no doubt that necessity made the young Bruno discover his other skills in music.
Although Bruno Mars never had any success with Motown Records, he happened to meet Philip Lawrence who was a songwriter and producer. Lawrence had also been signed to the same label with Bruno but appeared to be more experienced in the industry.
Upon leaving Motown barely a year after signing the deal, Bruno landed a music publishing deal. It is here that he met Steve Lindsey who was a great mentor to Mars. Lindsey showed him how to write pop music and how to become a great songwriter and musician. While still working under Steve Lindsey, Mars had the opportunity to play cover songs together with his brother Eric Hernandez.
Philip Lawrence kept in touch with Mars even after leaving Motown Records. When they finally got in touch, Lawrence started writing songs for Mars and presenting them to various labels. However, they were rejected. On the verge of giving up, they received a call from Brandon Creed who offered to buy one of the songs ‘Lost’ for $20,000. Following this success, both Mars and Lawrence decided to collaborate and write songs for other artists, some of whom included; Alexandra Burke, Flo Rida, Sean Kingston, Travie Mccoy, Brandy and Adam Levine. Together, they formed a production team and named it The Smeezingtons. It was a great success for the two friends as they were honored many awards that include the coveted ASCAP Pop Music Awards for Songwriters.
Lawrence also introduced Mars to Aaron Bay, the A&R manager at Atlantic Records. He was later signed into the label 3 years later. It is from Atlantic Records that his career finally took off in Los Angeles.
After songwriting for a while, Mars stood on his feet once again after the signing the contract with Atlantic Records. His first appearance as a singer was on the track 3D in Far East Movement’s album Animal. He also got featured on Jaeson’s Ma’s track ‘Love’ in August 2009. Mars worldwide prominence however came after featuring on ‘Nothin’ on You’ by Brandy and Travie Mccoy’s ‘Billionaire’. Having co-written the two songs, it was a plus for Mars seeing them make the top 10 on most of the charts in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Mars finally released his first solo single ‘Just the Way You Are’ in July 2010 as the lead song for his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The song was a great hit across the globe and it reached the first position on the Billboard Hot 100. Following the success, he released more singles to promote the album; ‘Liquor Stores Blue’, ‘Grenade’, ‘The Lazy Song’, ‘Marry You’ and ‘Count On Me’. ‘Grenade’ was also a big success as it sold over 55,000 copies and debuted number 3 on Billboard 200. ‘The Lazy Song’ also made it to the Hot 100 top five. Though being his first album, it exposed Bruno to the international arena of stardom as it was named the 2010 finest pop debut. Doo-Wops & Hooligans has since sold over 45 million copies and certified 39x platinum globally.
Besides working on his album, in 2011 he made appearances on collaborative singles ‘Lighters’ by Bad Meets Evil, ‘Mirror’ by Lil Wayne and ‘Young, Wild & Free’ with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg. All the songs made it to top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Bruno Mars then released his second album Unorthodox Jukebox in December 2012 which explored a variety of styles like reggae, disco, soul and rock music. The album was debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and was later honored with a Grammy Award for being the Best Pop Album. The album release was however preceded by the release of the lead song ‘Locked out of Heaven’ in October 2012. The song was nominated for the Record and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards. He then released his second single ‘When I Was Your Man’ in January 2013 peaking the first position in Billbard Hot 100 and later getting nominated for the Best Pop Solo Performance at the Grammy awards. Although his third single ‘Treasure’ was not much a success, he collaborated with Major Lazer and featured Tyga and Mystic to release his fourth single ‘Bubble Butt’. With Mars on the vocals, the band’s single became one of the most successful in the United States. Bruno Mars finally released his last two singles for the album that reached the top 40 in the Billboard Hot 100; ‘Gorilla’ and ‘Young Girls’.
With Unorthodox Jukebox being a huge contribution to his commercial success, Mars embarked on The Moonshine Jungle Tour in June 2013. He started off in North America, headed to Europe and Oceania before concluding the tour in North America.
Mars embarked on his third album immediately after concluding The Moonshine Jungle Tour. He later confirmed the upcoming album title as 24K Magic and Mark Ronson and Jeff Bhasker would be the producers. The album was preceded by the release of the lead song with the track title ‘24K Magic’. The single reached number four on the BillBoard Hot 100 after a promotion with his performance on Saturday Night Live. The album was finally released in November 2016 and debuted position two on the Billboard 200 Charts. Early in 2017, he released his second single ‘That’s What I Like’ with more singles expected to be released in the course of the year 2017.
In September 2010, Bruno Mars was arrested in Las Vegas with claims of cocaine possession at the Hard Rock Casino. Mars then pleaded guilty citing that whatever he did was embarrassing since he had never used drugs before. Having agreed to the accusation of felony drugs possession, his charges were deleted from the criminal records with a promise that he would stay out of trouble for a year. Nevertheless, he received a demanding punishment for his mistakes and this attracted media attention. Besides paying a $2,000 fine, he had to undertake a drug counseling course and commit 200 hours to community service.
However, in an interview with GQ magazine in 2013, Mars confessed that he had lied to the authorities about never having done drugs. In fact, he confirmed that he was really intoxicated at the time he was talking to the policemen. His actions were highly criticized as he was termed a bad example to his youthful role models.
In January 2014, Mars found himself at crossroads with the law after Demetrius Orlandus Proctar accused Bruno of holding the copyright of Travie Mccoy and Mars track song ‘Billionaire’ illegally. As a proof to his claims he submitted his registration certificate as issued by United States Copyright Office. Proctar therefore wanted Travie and Mars to destroy all the copies that they held either physically or digitally.
Even then, Bruno’s image remains clean as ever. The young man is known for his charitable acts and support for humanitarian deeds. Mars partnered with Hawaii’s Community Foundation and Grammy Foundation to create the Grammy Camp Scholarship. The camp is aimed at supporting upcoming music stars in Hawaii with financial aid.
Another remarkable humanitarian cause was when he donated $100,000 to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. He also donated an equal amount in the Philippines to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. And on campaign missions, Mars has on several occasions performed on various events whose goal has been to help those in need.
Mars was born in a family of six siblings. His brother, Eric, has been of great support to Mars as a drummer for the multitalented backup band called The Hooligans. His four sisters have also followed suit by forming an all-girls band called Lylas.
In June 2013, Mars life received a big blow after his mother passed on. Bernadette suffered a brain aneurysm and died at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu Hawaii. On a message to his fans, he said that the news of his mother passing on was very difficult but he would be strong again and face the reality. He nevertheless cordially thanked his mother for being of great support in his musical career.
On relationship matters, Bruno Mars was initially involved with singer and actress Rita Ora from 2009 but broke up in 2011. The couple cited work pressures that could not allow them to remain together. However, romors had it that, alongside Rita Ora, Bruno was also romantically involved with Chanel Malvar at the same time. Bruno however cited this as baseless gossip.
In 2011, Mars started dating model Jessica Caban and the two are still together to-date. Mars and Jessica reside together in the Hollywood Hills at a mansion called Geronimo.
On his side life, Bruno says his all time favorite food is Chicken Adobo. The food is uncommon in most US restaurants but it is the national dish of the Philippines. This comes as no surprise since Bruno’s ancestry can be traced to the Philippines where his mother hailed.
The songwriter also confesses to be an ink lover and has several tattoos on his body; a gypsy on his left arm and an anchor on the right arm. His mother’s name is embedded on his shoulder and as an appreciation to his dad, the words ‘Pete’s boy’ are clear on his left bicep.
Written by: Peris Ngaruiya