When asked to describe his music, multitalented U.S. singer-songwriter and music producer Bruno Mars will say that he’d rather you just listen and have a good time. He himself would rather sing, perform and write his songs than talk about them.
Born Peter Gene Hernandez in 1985 to a musical family in Honolulu, Mars is known for co-writing and contributing vocals to 2010 hits “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, plus his own 2010 hit “Just the Way You Are.” He also co-wrote hits including “Right Round” by Flo Rida and “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan.
Mars was practically raised onstage. His father, a Latin percussionist from Brooklyn, organized a Las Vegas-style revue that featured the entire family, including his mother, a talented vocalist. When the 4-year-old saw his family performing Motown hits, doo-wop medleys and impersonations for enthusiastic crowds all over his native Waikiki Beach, “I was jealous!” he said, laughing. “My dad put me on stage and I remember singing an Elvis song and that was it. Ever since that moment, I’ve been addicted.”
Honolulu was an exciting hometown for the budding singer/songwriter, rich in diverse worldwide music. His childhood home was filled with the 1950s classics that his father loved, and the city itself was rich in traditional sounds of pop, rock, folk and reggae.
“Hawaii is basically in the middle of the world, so you’re exposed to every type of music over there,” Mars said.
He left Hawaii for Los Angeles after high school, soon co-founding the Smeezingtons—a songwriting/production team with Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine. That project succeeded quickly, crafting major hits for a diverse talent roster, including Flo Rida (“Right Round”), Travie McCoy (“Billionaire”), Brandy (“Long Distance”) and K’Naan (“Waving Flags”). His debut EP, It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, was released in May 2010, followed by debut full-length album Doo-Wops & Hooligans in October 2010, which included “Just the Way You Are.” He toured in fall 2010 as an opening act for Maroon 5.
Mars describes his time behind the scenes as important to his development as an artist.
“I realized that you have to go into this industry as an artist with a clear vision and understanding of who you are,” he said. “Being so young when I was first signed, I never really had a sense of who I wanted to be. Now things are really working out because everything that I’m singing, writing and composing is really me.”