Here's how 7 country music stars got their big break

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Singer-songwriter Sarah Evans' music career almost didn't happen. Here's how she got her big break. (CMA Awards)

Ever wonder how country music's biggest stars got their start?

The answer often involves years of practice, countless gigs and even record deals years before ever becoming a household name. For many stars, though, there is that one song, that one gig, that one moment that served as a launch pad for the rest of their careers: their "big break."

From country music staples to today's rising stars, here's how 7 artists got their big breaks.

Dolly Parton: Replacing Norma Jean

A 1977 photo of Dolly Parton at the Country Music Awards in Nashville,Tenn.


Parton moved to Nashville immediately after graduating from high school. Three years later, The Porter Wagoner Show was looking for a replacement for Norma Jean, Wagoner's female counterpart on the show. Wagoner was looking for someone completely different from Norma Jean, so the audience, who had grown attached to Norma Jean, would accept the new singer, according to Smart Blonde: The Life of Dolly Parton. Though it took some time for the audience to warm up to Parton, after she and Wagoner released their first duet together, they began a "six-year streak of virtually uninterrupted Top Ten singles," according to Billboard.

Sara Evans: Forgetting the lyrics

Country singer Sara Evans poses in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 28, 2001.



Evans was familiar with the stage and even the recording studio from a young age thanks to her family's band and her act Sara Evans and North Santiam. Her big solo break, though, came in 1996 when she sang a cover of "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" for Harlan Howard, the song's writer.

"I sang a demo for the legendary Harlan Howard and he got me a record label audition a few days later," Evans reminisced, "which was great, until I messed up the words!"

Though Evans said her break "almost didn't happen" because of this flub, she had sufficiently impressed the label. When she got home, she a contract offer waiting on her answering machine.

Rascal Flatts: Making magic from the start

Country trio Rascal Flatts arrives at the 37th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards Wednesday, May 22, 2002, in Los Angeles.


The first time Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney performed together in Feb. 1999, they knew the way their voices blended was something special, the group told the Penniscula Clarion.

"The sound was incredible," said DeMarcus. He and LeVox, second cousins, were already playing together and had asked Rooney to fill in when their part-time guitarist couldn't make a gig.

Their sound caught the attention of singer Mila Mason, who would introduce them to their first producers and help them score a deal with Lyric Street Records. Less than a year after the trio came together, they were in the recording studio.

Blake Shelton: Leaving an outgoing voicemail

Country singer Blake Shelton poses for photographers as he arrives for the 41st Academy of Country Music Awards, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, in Las Vegas.


Like many country stars, Shelton moved to Nashville just after finishing school. Eight years later, though he was still struggling to catch a break, even with the help of Giant Records. Then, after breaking up with his girlfriend, he realized he had made a mistake and recorded the outgoing message on his phone to tell her he still loved her. It caught the attention of two fellow songwriters, who turned the story into 2001's "Austin," which would top the charts for weeks.

Carrie Underwood: Charming as America's country Idol

Carrie Underwood, left, reacts after winning ''American Idol'' as host Ryan Seacrest looks on at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles Wednesday, May 25, 2005.


Underwood proves that the first step to superstardom isn't always moving to Nashville. The sweet 22-year-old won the country's heart during Season 4 of American Idol, which she won. "Jesus Take The Wheel," the lead single in her first album topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for six weeks. More than a decade later, Underwood's persona goes well beyond her Idol roots.

"Her career needs to be defined in the context of country superstars instead of reality-show contestants," her Billboard bio reads.

Florida-Georgia Line: Hitting the road

Brian Kelley, left, and Tyler Hubbard, of musical group Florida Georgia Line, perform at ACM Presents: Tim McGraw's Superstar Summer Night on April 8, 2013 in Las Vegas.


Brian Kelley ("B.K.") and Tyler Hubbard decided to take themselves on tour after college, playing any gigs they could get.

"That's like, old-school rock-and-roll. Just go out and tour," Kelley told the Washington Post.

It was at one of these many gigs when their future manager, Seth England, first saw them. He paired them with songwriters, and not long after they had their first hit single, 2012's "Cruise."

Mickey Guyton: With a little help from a tweet

Mickey Guyton is seen on the Universal Music Group stage at the SXSW 2015 Experience, Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Austin, Texas.


Up-and-coming star Guyton went on her first big nationwide tour thanks to a tweet. When Charles Worsham saw her perform in her Grand Ole Opry debut in January 2015, he tweeted about her incredible voice.


Brad Paisley saw his tweet and asked Guyton to come on tour with him. That same month, Guyton released her debut single, "Better Than You Left Me," which now has 3 million views on YouTube. Music publications such as Billboard and the Rolling Stone have labeled her country music's next big star.

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