Hear This Year's Grammy Nominees For Best New Artist Before They Were Famous

Never give up on your dreams.

The big question on everyone's minds going into this Sunday's Grammy Awards seems to be whether Beyoncé or Adele will come out on top in the big categories — or if a dark horse will best them both. But there's another category worth getting excited about, and that's Best New Artist.

Past winners include celebrated artists such as Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and even The Beatles. Last year's trophy went to Meghan Trainor. Just being nominated is a huge milestone in a musician's career, and this year's nominees have definitely earned it. While you may have just heard their names for the first time in the past year or two, their journeys to fame started well before that.   

Below, check out videos of nominees Kelsea Ballerini, The Chainsmokers, Chance The Rapper, Maren Morris, and Anderson .Paak before they were Grammy-nominated. Their early performances might just inspire you to keep going after your own dreams. It could be your own name on the list of nominees one day.


1. Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini started writing songs at age 12 and signed a deal with Black River Entertainment when she was attending Lipscomb University in Nashville. After releasing a self-titled EP in 2014, Ballerini's debut album The First Time (featuring "Love Me Like You Mean It," "Peter Pan," and "Dibs") made a splash. She became the first female solo artist in almost 25 years to have her first three singles top the country charts.

This video, uploaded to Ballerini's YouTube channel in January 2013, features the singer performing an original song called "Lost and Found" during an acoustic set at the Bluebird Café in Nashville when she was just 19. At the time, Ballerini called it "my favorite song I've ever written," and several commenters agree that the heartfelt track would make a great single on her next album.

2. The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers consist of DJs Drew Taggard and Alex Pall, who teamed up in 2012 and started remixing popular artists to get people's attention. "We used the opportunity to get our name out there," Pall said of their early work. In 2014, the duo had their big break with the track "#Selfie," which Taggard said was meant as a joke. Last year, they blew up with their No. 1 single "Closer" featuring Halsey, which is nominated for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Grammy.

The Chainsmokers have performed at several music festivals over the years, including multiple gigs at Belgium's Tomorrowland. In the video below, they entertain the crowd with their track "Kanye" during a 2014 appearance at the event.

3. Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper, born Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, grew up in Chicago. He started work on his first mixtape, 10 Day, during a suspension in high school. After collaborations with Childish Gambino, and increased activism and community engagement (including "Open Mike" events for high schoolers), he's made a name for himself. His third mixtape, Coloring Book, is the first streaming-only project to earn a Grammy nomination.

Below, the rapper performs "Nostalgia" in 2011 at YOUmedia Chicago, a learning space for teens at the Chicago Public Library. It's interesting to see him spitting rhymes while people peruse books in the background, considering this weekend he'll be performing for a huge crowd at the Grammys — and maybe even taking home up to seven awards. Nostalgia, indeed.

4. Maren Morris

Maren Morris released her first studio album, Walk On, when she was just 15. Before making a name for herself, she wrote songs for other artists, including Tim McGraw. Her talent hit the mainstream in 2016 with the release of her first major label album, the Grammy-nominated HERO, which reached No. 1 on the country album charts. Last year, Morris was named CMA New Artist of the Year. "It's crazy to think what's happened in a very short amount of time, even though it feels like forever," she has said.

In the video below, from a 2011 appearance on the 95.9 The Ranch radio show Texas Music Interactive, Morris performs her song "Born Again" on a guitar she received for her birthday. She explains to host Adam Drake that she wrote the track, from her third album Live Wire, in just 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak, born Brandon Anderson Paak, grew up playing drums in church. He and his wife and child were once homeless, an experience he said "built a lot of character" and influenced his music. He released a few EPs and albums under the name Breezy Lovejoy, and in 2015 he was featured on six tracks from Dr. Dre's album Compton. Paak's album Malibu is nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammys.

Below, the artist known as Breezy Lovejoy jams on the Knocksteady Live podcast in 2011. The soulful performance has racked up almost 120,000 views, as fans look back at how their favorite new talent got his start. "Look how far you've come!" one commenter praised last year.

Find out which of these artists will take home the Best New Artist award when the Grammys air on CBS this Sunday, February 12, at 8 p.m. ET.


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