Not all artists have the luck of a teenage Lorde, who learned to drive and win Grammys at the same time. Some artists play opening gigs for years, sell albums from their cars and wear Playboy Bunny outfits before making music history.
So don’t cancel this week’s garage band practice just yet! In fact, do consider quitting your day job. Check out this list of major musicians who made a splash after their friends and family thought it was too late.
In 2011, Playaz Circle’s Tity Boi decided to make his name more “family friendly” and 2 Chainz was born. Apparently being a family man was all he needed, because his seventh mixtape, T.R.U REALigion, jumped onto the charts when he was 34. Since then, he’s topped the Billboard 200 and rapped with the best of them, recording songs with Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
Before creating LCD Soundsystem, Murphy dropped out of NYU and turned down writing for Seinfeld before it exploded. So maybe he didn’t write one of the most acclaimed comedy shows of all time, but he did manage to heavily influence electronic music past the age of 30. In 2005, LCD Soundsystem released its first album and was nominated for two Grammys.
Matt Berninger and his National bandmates kept their day jobs while promoting the band’s self-titled first album in 2001, but in 2004, they left behind the 9-5 slog to focus on their band full time. Their third album, Alligator, was released in 2005 to critical acclaim when Berninger was 34, and their sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, was nominated for a Grammy for best alternative album in 2014.
Although he composed the immortal jazz standard “‘Round Midnight” before turning 30 and was a well-respected sideman, Thelonious Monk didn’t make much of an impact as a top-billed artist with mainstream audiences until his album Brilliant Corners (1957), which was released when he was 40. Monk would go on to become one of the most covered jazz composers of all time.
It wasn’t until 2015, when she released her Fight Song EP, that Platten rose to fame. By the time “Fight Song” entered the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10, the singer-songwriter was 34 — since then, it’s been used by Hillary Clinton at presidential rallies and on the show Pretty Little Liars.
Hugh Hefner probably didn’t realize a former Playboy Bunny would eventually create one of the most successful bands of the late 70s. Blondie’s first album was released when Debbie Harry was 31, but their massive commercial breakthrough didn’t occur until their third album, 1978’s Parallel Lines, delivered the No. 1 Hot 100 hit “Heart of Glass” when Harry was 33.
Leonard Cohen was a poet and writer long before he started on the folk singer-songwriter track. In hopes of making more money in music than he did in literature, he moved to the U.S. from Canada and released his first album, 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen, when he was 33. The album became a classic and kicked off a decades-long run of celebrated releases, including the endlessly covered “Hallelujah.” In 2010, Cohen won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.