What You Don't Know About Bruno Mars

Known for his smooth dance moves and even smoother voice, Bruno Mars has established himself as one the biggest artists in pop music. With eight No. 1 hits and five more in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Mars dominated the 2010s and beyond. More than just working solo, he's paired expertly with other artists like Anderson .Paak in their band Silk Sonic. In 2022, Mars went six years straight winning every single Grammy that he was nominated for, 13 in all, bringing his career total to 15. 

In 2021, his songs "That's What I Like" and "When I Was Your Man" became RIAA diamond certified, meaning over 10 million copies of each tune were sold and streamed. These joined Mars' previous hits with the same designation — "Just the Way You Are," "Uptown Funk," and "Grenade" — and made him the first artist to ever have five songs diamond certified. When asked if he had the golden touch when it came to crafting a hit, Mars quipped to Rolling Stone, "Google me. Do I?"

Even though Mars typically sings about good times and extravagance, his real life hasn't been one big party. Along the way to fame he encountered legal troubles, family tragedies, and one fateful night that could have changed everything for the singer. Thankfully, none of these setbacks could hold Mars back from creating pop hit after pop hit. Grab your dancing shoes for a look at what you don't know about Bruno Mars.

Bruno Mars had a rocking childhood

Bruno Mars was literally born to be a star. According to his father, the delivery room at the time of Mars' birth resembled a dance club with subdued lighting and old school hits playing in the background, Rolling Stone recapped.

Around the age of two, he began to perform as Bruno and was billed as the world's youngest Elvis Presley impersonator. Video of his performances show the adorable youngster rocking a studded white costume with his hair expertly quaffed. When asked what he loved about the King, little Mars said, "I like his singing and his dance and his lip," while imitating Elvis' signature snarl. These gigs made Mars popular enough to land several TV interviews, including a guest appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show." Being in the music industry at such a young age meant that he was especially infatuated with female performers he ran into. "I was like, 'These girls don't look like the girls I go to school with,'" Mars remembered about his kindergarten days to Rolling Stone.

His love for the ladies was secondary to his love for music, however, as Mars clearly had big aspirations and a desire to grow his fanbase beyond Elvis lovers. Mars' sister, Jaime Hernandez, once posted a photo on Instagram of her brother in the studio. With the singer belting into a microphone almost as big as his head, she captioned that dreams come true to those who believe, never give up, and practice.

Meet the Love Notes, the star's family band

In the documentary "Viva Elvis," a young Bruno Mars explained that he started impersonating Elvis Presley after sharing a love for the King with his uncle. He also helped out at his mom and dad's shop in Hawaii, where they sold Elvis memorabilia. The family connection extended further into music, when Mars' siblings began to join him onstage for two shows a night in Hawaii. The family band — aka the Love Notes — performed covers of old school R&B hits from artists like Frankie Lymon. "I would look forward to getting out of school ... just looking at the clock, waiting for it to hit 2:15," Mars told Rolling Stone about his time playing with the band.

Sadly, the group ultimately broke up when Mars was around 11 years old. But after making a name for himself as a solo artist, Mars once again looked to his family as he assembled a band and called on his older brother, Eric Hernandez, to play the drums. At the time, Hernandez had been a policeman for 10 years but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to play with his talented sibling. "If I don't give this up and I'm watching some other guy play drums for my brother, that's going to eat me up," Hernandez explained to Rolling Stone of his choice. Plus, he admitted he could learn a thing or two from Mars, saying, "Honestly, I wish I had his swag."

Hard partying nearly ruined Bruno Mars' rise to fame

After decades of performing and years of crafting his songwriting, Bruno Mars finally saw the light of superstardom. He released his debut single "Just the Way You Are" in 2010, and it would soon peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Understandably elated, Mars celebrated the success in Las Vegas. However, his time in Sin City turned into a nightmare when he was arrested for cocaine possession. When cops busted the singer in a Hard Rock Casino bathroom, Mars claimed he never used drugs before. 

"I was young, man! I was in f***ing Vegas. I wasn't thinking," Mars told GQ in 2013. Upon reflection, Mars said he felt like a completely different person. One of the reasons may have been that the hitmaker admitted he was particularly drunk that evening, as he added, "So a lot of that is a big blur, and I try every day to forget and keep pushing." Fortunately for Mars, the case was dropped after he completed mandatory community service, and the singer-songwriter noted that he'd learned a valuable lesson from the ordeal, namely that "it can all be taken away."

Mars had a similar realization early in his career after first landing in Los Angeles. Explaining to Rolling Stone that the partying was fun, but it overall had a negative effect, he said, "You begin to lose yourself. ... If you're out there wilding out, drinking and partying, that's not real life."

Behind the scenes with Bruno Mars

Before he was headlining tours and making audiences go wild, Bruno Mars was a secret maestro of pop behind the scenes. He and his two writing partners, Phil Lawrence and Ari Levine, went by The Smeezingtons. Though the trio had a silly name, their work was certainly not a joke, and they soon had success with Flo Rida's No. 1 hit "Right Round," which also helped launch Kesha's career

"That was our first taste of what could really happen with a hit," Mars told Entertainment Weekly. He later helped write and sang the hook on B.o.B's hit song "Nothin' on You," and also lent his pen and voice to Travie McCoy's "Billionaire." "I just write songs that I strongly believe in and that are coming from a special place," Mars said. Other songs that Mars has helped write throughout his career? The likes of "All I Ask" by Adele and "Lift Off" by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Beyoncé, per Billboard

But perhaps the biggest hit Mars took part in behind the scenes was "Forget You" by CeeLo Green. According to Green, he was first introduced to The Smeezingtons as simply "Phil and Bruno" from Los Angeles, he told SiriusXM. After their first session in the studio, however, Green admittedly felt awkward with the songwriters, lied by saying he was going to the bathroom, and never came back. Of course, the group eventually reunited and collectively finished the catchy tune, per Entertainment Weekly.

How this musician went from the studio to stardom

After graduating high school, 18-year-old Bruno Mars packed up his bags in Hawaii and relocated to Los Angeles to try and make it big in music, per Latina Magazine. Things looked bright for Mars as he quickly signed to Motown Records — except the label and artist struggled to create meaningful work together, Rolling Stone recapped. Following this frustrating experience, Mars linked up with Phil Lawrence and started to write songs for others like the Sugababes and Sean Kingston of "Beautiful Girls" fame. 

Mars admitted the paychecks as a writer also helped keep him in the wings instead of front and center. He recalled first balking after someone wanted to take all his hard work and give it to another artist. That is, until "they said, 'We'll give you $20,000,'" he told Entertainment Weekly. "I was like, 'Here. You can have it.'" Ultimately, Mars realized it was up to him to succeed as a solo artist, and so he decided to rarely write for others. According to him, "I think people want to hear the artist talking," Mars told Rolling Stone. Plus, the musician used the continued success of "Billionaire" and "Nothin' on You" to help promote his debut album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans."

A common aspect of all his work, regardless of who performs the final song, is the creative process journey. "There's a feeling you get from writing a good song that you don't get from anything else," Mars explained.

Bruno Mars faced tough times in paradise

Bruno Mars first experienced life as a star on stage as a member of his family's band, the Love Notes. Dad Peter Hernandez helped manage the group and paid each member $1000 a week for the performances. The family appeared to be doing well for themselves: in addition to an impressive home in Kahala, Hawaii, Peter apparently owned seven Cadillacs. Mars had his own piano, guitar, and drum set plus a bedroom "the size of most people's living rooms," one of the members told Rolling Stone

The success then abruptly came to an end, however, partly because of Peter and Mars' mom getting divorced. Peter's other entrepreneurial efforts disappeared around the same time and as a result, Mars, his brother, and his dad wound up living in "the slums of Hawaii." Looking back on experiencing the highs and lows in such a short time frame, Mars admitted, "I realized I wouldn't trade it for anything."

The singer later detailed how difficult those post-success times were in Hawaii. "Where we were staying at first didn't have a bathroom. So, we'd have to walk across the park to this other spot that had a bathroom," Mars revealed on "60 Minutes." Even with everyone sleeping in the same bed and going days without electricity, the future star stayed optimistic and took away "the best" memories from those days. "We had each other and it never felt like it was the end of the world," Mars said.

The origins of Silk Sonic

According to Bruno Mars, the idea for Silk Sonic, the joint project between him and Anderson .Paak, started well before their 2021 debut album "An Evening With Silk Sonic." "There's a song on the album that we started in 2017, when I was on tour," Mars told Zane Lowe in a joint interview. He wanted to later record their idea, so he called .Paak, who was admittedly intoxicated from celebrating his 25th birthday, into the studio. Thus, Silk Sonic was born. 

The experimental nature of the group meant that there were no bad ideas in the studio. "We were like, 'We're never gonna play this live, so don't worry about it,'" .Paak recalled to the Los Angeles Times. As a result, Mars said the two guys could try "crazy notes" on each track. He also noted that the main goal of Silk Sonic was to "put together an imaginary show — this set list of doom."

Their lead single "Leave the Door Open" was a commercial smash and was nominated for best R&B performance, best R&B song, song of the year, and record of the year at the 2022 Grammy Awards. "We call that a clean sweep," .Paak said in their acceptance speech for the latter after claiming their fourth trophy of the night, which also marked Mars' third time winning the award. With a huge smirk and a lit cigarette in his hand, Mars closed the speech by saying, "God bless you all. Goodnight!"

How the pandemic affected Bruno Mars

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruno Mars was delighting fans across the world. The singer-songwriter was basking in the success of finishing his multi-year, international tour in support of his hit 2016 album "24K Magic," Cosmopolitan recapped. Like many others in the world, Mars had to reconcile with restrictions affecting what he was used to. "I'd been performing, and then it all went away," he told the Los Angeles Times. The singer seemed hopeless and wondered what the future of music would look like, recalling, "It felt like the world was gonna end — like, man, I don't know if we're ever gonna play again."

On the positive side, Silk Sonic may have never happened were it not for the pandemic. Mars and Anderson .Paak finally had the time to work together and create modern day music inspired by soul music from the '60s and '70s. Still, Mars still felt frustrated in the recording studio with no end in sight. As a performer from childhood, he felt incomplete without playing to audiences. "That's heartbreaking for it to be in the studio and trying to write songs, but the live element is gone," Mars told Billboard about his early days in the pandemic. 

According to Mars, he likes to imagine playing a song to a crowd during the creative writing process, and was also hopeful to reunite with his fellow performers. "I can't wait to be with my band," Mars normally thinks while writing songs.

Get up and dance with Bruno Mars

From a young age, Bruno Mars felt the connection between music and dancing. He recalled listening and grooving to songs by Bobby Brown at high school events. "Man, it was fun to dance, it was cool to smile on the dance floor with a girl and flirt," Mars said on "The Charlie Rose Show" (via Billboard). He then tried to capture these similar feelings in his own music, especially the danceability aspect, telling Rolling Stone that when he listens to one of his songs, "I want to feel good" and "I want to dance."

However, Mars admitted that this desire to see his fans move has sometimes caused countless reworks in the studio. "I'm going back and forth nonstop with all of these songs. Some, I get lucky and it takes me a couple hours. Some, it takes me two years," he told Charlie Rose about his creative process. More than just improving his songwriting skills, the performer has grown as a dancer — like when he showed off his impressive footwork during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2014. Mars revealed that he knows so many moves that he can pick and choose, but quipped to Rolling Stone, "Just because I can moonwalk, doesn't mean I should moonwalk."

Critics also praised Mars' impressive moves on his extravagant tours. "Even during the formation dances he's clearly not miming — most pop singers do while dancing," The Guardian said after one of Mars' concerts.

The hitmaker has faced legal troubles

Even with all of Bruno Mars' successes, one song stands above the rest. In late 2014, no one could avoid his infectious hit with Mark Ronson, "Uptown Funk." With funny and hyped-up metaphorical lyrics, the song ruled the airwaves and became a wedding staple for probably the rest of time. Until Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" came along in 2019, "Uptown Funk" held the Billboard Hot 100 record for the most consecutive weeks as the No. 1 song — 14 weeks total.

Not everyone was pleased by the success, however, as several artists sued Ronson and Mars for alleged copyright infringement. The '80s band Collage claimed that "Uptown Funk" stole components like the rhythm and harmony from its song "Young Girls." The lawsuit was dropped in 2018, per TMZ, but two other suits were still in progress at the time. The Sequence, an early rap group, filed a lawsuit that claimed the hit featured "significant and substantially similar compositional elements" to its song "Funk You Up," TMZ reported. Additionally, Lastrada Entertainment sued as the owner of Zapp's 1980 song "More Bounce to the Ounce" and wanted to forbid Ronson and Mars from ever performing "Uptown Funk" live. Before going to trial, all parties settled the suit in 2018, Pitchfork reported. 

Previously, Mars and Ronson tried to avoid this problem by adding songwriting credits to writers from the Gap Band after "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke and Pharrell lost a similar lawsuit, per Pitchfork.

He has opened up about his heritage

Bruno Mars' mixed race comes from the Philippines on his mother's side and his father, who is half Puerto Rican, half Ashkenazi Jewish, according to CNN. Unfortunately, Mars remembers sticking out as a child because of his ethnicity. "Growing up in Hawaii, there are not too many Puerto Ricans there, so because of my hair, they thought I was Black and white," he told Latina Magazine. He went on to explain that while some may think it can be beneficial to have an ambiguous heritage, this is missing the point of the real experiences of minorities. "I hope people of color can look at me, and they know that everything they're going through, I went through," Mars added.

The star still later faced criticism because some felt he was ripping off other artists through cultural appropriation. "You can't find an interview where I am not talking about the entertainers that have come before me," Mars told "The Breakfast Club" when asked about this, adding that all of his success could be attributed to iconic artists like James Brown, Prince, Bobby Brown, and Michael Jackson. As a result, Mars said his "music comes from love. If you can't hear that, then I don't know what to tell you."

A paparazzo once asked R&B legend Stevie Wonder what he thought about claims that Mars was using cultural appropriation in his music. "He's a great talent, so the other stuff is just bulls***," Wonder told TMZ.

Bruno Mars suffered a family tragedy

Bruno Mars grew up close to his mom, Bernadette "Bernie" Bayot Hernandez. In fact, the matriarch inspired his love of music, and once told Lifestyle Inquirer, "I bought him a piano when he was just two, and he went on the piano and just started playing tunes, not just banging on it, but he'd play actual tunes!" Even after becoming a star, Mars always thought of his mom and her influence — so much that he tattooed her entire name on his arm. He also invited Hernandez to the 2011 Grammys, where she saw her boy win his first award at the event. 

Tragically, she unexpectedly died from a brain aneurysm in 2013. Hernandez was only 55 years old. "My life has changed. She's more than my music," Mars later told Latina Magazine. The singer revealed that he felt indescribable pain from the loss, saying, "If I could trade music to have her back, I would." Mars continued to make music, of course, and said he forever keeps the memory of her close by. For example, he added that he can hear his mother telling him to "keep going and keep doing it."

On Twitter, Mars expressed gratitude to all his supporters, whom he credited with helping him get through the loss. Looking back, Mars said that his mother's death taught him to realize what is most important in life. "Nothing else matters in this world but family and your loved ones," he said.

Who is Bruno Mars dating?

Bruno Mars first linked up with model Jessica Caban in 2011 after he spotted her eating at a nearby table in a New York City restaurant. The couple reportedly moved in together the following year, per The Knot. Fans might recognize Caban for her small role as Sonia on "Jane the Virgin." Mars was actually on the TV show before Caban, playing himself in the Season 2 finale as a wedding singer. The two also appeared together in Funny Or Die's "Whatta Man" online sketch.

But their history was once almost cut short during a rough patch in the relationship. Mars was fearful that Caban might break up with him and, in despair, the singer naturally used music as his emotional outlet. The result was the song "When I Was Your Man." The deeply moving tune simply features Mars' voice over a piano. Even though Caban never walked away — and the song was a hit, to boot — Mars still finds it difficult to play it live without getting emotional. "When you perform it, you know, you're bringing up these emotions again. It's just like bleeding," he explained to Rolling Stone

Mars rarely likes to even talk about the smash hit because he said "it's too close to home." Most importantly, however, it strengthened his relationship with Caban and made him even more grateful for his girlfriend. "When you find that one, you buy them flowers and you hold their damn hand," Mars advised.

The singer-songwriter's charitable side

More than just creating happiness through upbeat songs, Bruno Mars has used his influence to help others in philanthropic ways. For example, the hitmaker donated $1 million to the MGM resort in Las Vegas during the COVID-19 pandemic. "With the closures across Las Vegas, Bruno wanted to show his appreciation to the amazing employees," his representative said (via Good Morning America), noting, "The people at MGM have given Bruno Mars the rare opportunity to be able to continuously gig while he's in the creative process of working on his next album." Mars held hope that the generous donation could help the employees displaced during the difficult period, and that they could soon return to "having fun together" at the venue. It turns out the singer-songwriter has a long history of performing at Park MGM and returned for back-to-back performances to close out 2021.

Mars has also given back to his hometown state of Hawaii. The last stop on his international "24K Magic World Tour," for example, included three shows in Honolulu. To celebrate the end of the tour and to give back to his community, the musician gifted 24,000 turkey dinners to the Salvation Army, which runs a yearly Thanksgiving food drive, per AP News.

According to Looking to the Stars, Mars' philanthropic endeavors have extended to a number of other charities over the years, including organizations like DoSomething.org, Global Poverty Project, the Grammy Foundation, MusiCares, Red Cross, Save the Children, and The Rainforest Foundation.

The truth behind Bruno Mars' stage name

As cool as the name Bruno Mars is, in reality, it's just a stage name. The singer is actually a junior, named Peter G. Hernandez after his dad, per Rolling Stone. Apparently, Mars' father came up with the idea to call him Bruno when he was around 2 years old. The little Hernandez's appearance supposedly resembled Bruno Sammartino, a popular wrestler at the time, and so the nickname stuck, GQ reported. Since he also started to perform at a young age, the boy's original plan was to go by simply Bruno, similar to Prince — but eventually, the entertainer tacked on the Mars name to add an out-of-this-world association. 

"Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life," he told Latina Magazine. The singer insisted that the adopted name was strictly for entertainment reasons and had nothing to do with his heritage, noting that he was proud to be Puerto Rican and had no intention of hiding that fact with his stage name. "That's so insulting to me, to my family. That's ridiculous," Mars said of the insinuation. "My last name is Hernandez."

That said, the star did admit that avoiding the Hernandez name helped him not become pigeonholed into specific types of music. "Your last name's Hernandez, maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music," Mars recalled to GQ of what people might have told him early in his career. "... Enrique's so hot right now."

How much is Bruno Mars worth?

Along with all the Grammys and airplay from Bruno Mars' catchy catalog of songs came big paydays. According to Cosmopolitan, his international tours are known to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars. In early 2022, Mars and musical partner Anderson .Paak — fresh off the success of Silk Sonic's debut — signed a Las Vegas residency contract for 13 performances at Park MGM. Mars has also made money through various other ventures like album sales and streams, and once collaborated with French fashion brand Lacoste on a clothing line called Lacoste x Ricky Regal, in reference to his fashionable alter ego. All of this has contributed to his impressive fortune, estimated at $175 million, per Celebrity Net Worth.

A small chunk of this money went toward Mars' luxurious $6.5 million mansion just north of Los Angeles. (Fun fact: He's neighbors with George Clooney!) The high price tag came with built-in saunas, a wine cellar, and other impressive amenities on a two-acre plot of land, Architectural Digest recapped.

And sure, Bruno Mars may not have reached billionaire status yet, but that also isn't necessarily the goal, despite the lyrics he crooned out on one of his first big hits. "I don't need much. I'm a simple man. I think that success is having fun. And when I'm having fun doing music, I'm happy," Mars told CNN back in 2010. "If I can make a little money on the side doing it, I'm really happy."