Before-they-were-stars videos are fun to watch for a few reasons. We love to search out songs and footage of our beloved favorites. Seeing them in their formative years can paint a larger picture of the artists we now know as superstars. If you’ve worn out all of the music in their catalog, back-tracking for rarer material fills a glaring void in your current playlist.
On a deeper level, these types of videos can encourage the struggling worker, artist or student to see that even superstars like Garth Brooks or Shania Twain struggled for success for years. Whether you’re seeking a pick-me-up in that regard or a less obvious performance by your favorite country singer, check out these ten videos.
Before reshaping the charts and reinventing the arena rock stage show for country audiences, Garth Brooks, his band and a pretty sweet ‘stache offered a glimpse at his undeniable talents. Here, he covers George Strait on local television in his home state of Oklahoma.
Success came slowly for Jason Isbell and several other current alternatives to mainstream country. Long before the Grammys came calling, Isbell drummed up grassroots support for 2007 album Sirens of the Ditch at such spots as Atlanta record and comic book store Criminal Records.
Before he became one of the definitive figures of ’90s country, Tim McGraw hung around Nashville, searching for a break just like his peers. In this clip, he sings a few cover songs at Barbara’s while looking the “hat act” part.
Fame waited a few more years to rear its head after this clip was shot, but Kacey Musgraves sounded and performed like a star long before she caught a break. Here, she sings “Halfway to Memphis,” a co-write with Rick Lambert, Miranda’s dad.
Not too long ago, Margo Price and a couple of her current bandmates performed in Buffalo Clover to less fanfare. Before solo success came with an assist from Jack White, a preview of Price’s beloved sophomore album hid in plain sight.
LeAnn Rimes impressed at a young age by belting out songs with conviction as if she was Patsy Cline herself. Shortly before becoming a teenage country music star, Rimes went the same route as Justin Timberlake (then a miniature cowboy), sharing her burgeoning talents in Star Search‘s junior vocalist competition.
Many future country stars cut their teeth as bluegrass musicians. Examples of teenage pickers turned mainstream stars include Alison Krauss, Keith Whitley and Marty Stuart. As far as footage of this trend goes, nothing tops a tiny Ricky Skaggs holding his own on television with Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.
Shania Twain looked and sounded like a star in the ’90s, positioning her for record-setting success. A decade prior, she tussled for a place in the spotlight as a very young, Canadian-based singer. Initially billed as Eileen Twain, the future superstar first wowed audiences as a pre-teen.
Pre-American Idol Carrie Underwood stacks up well against anyone on the list. As a teenage unknown, Underwood led a band called 71 South in this performance of Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing.” The mighty voice heard before Sunday Night Football sounded fantastic years before the Idol judges crowned Underwood the next big thing.