Some people have fame thrust upon them while others have to struggle for their success. No matter the case, almost every country music star has had a side job in order to fund their part-time music career.
The country stars in this article worked some awful jobs like cleaning toilets in order to afford writing workshops. At least two of the artists in this article actually quit their crummy jobs because their conscience couldn’t handle it any longer.
Eric Church Was A Home Shopping Call Attendant
It turns out that country music stars don’t actually make the best salesmen. There’s no better example of that than Eric Church, who told People magazine that he would actively talk people out of a sale as a Home Shopping Channel call attendant.
He worked the graveyard shift and said most of his callers were drunk anyway. Church claims that he was actually just doing them a favor and saving them from making impulse purchases of 200 knives.
Willie Nelson Is A Man Of All Trades
Before Willie Nelson decided to move to Nashville, he was a jack of all trades. Nelson started out in the Air Force and then took a plethora of odd jobs while trying to sharpen his songwriting skills.
He took a gig at a local radio network in Vancouver, Washington. Nelson is one of the few artists who has spent time being a radio personality introducing songs, and we can only imagine what a Willie Nelson radio show would sound like now.
Trace Adkins Was In The Oil Fields
Trace Adkins got a late start to country music. He always knew that music was his passion, but the oil fields were too tempting as a teenager. He spent 14 years working on the oil fields and oil rigs before becoming a singer.
He says it was his favorite job that he’s ever had. He skipped out on college early because the oil money was too intriguing. Adkins almost lost his pinky finger and had his forehead slashed open and got shrapnel in his leg.
Chris LeDoux Was A Roper
Some country music stars will sing about rodeos, bulls, and horses only because it makes for a great jingle. Chris LeDoux didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He started riding horses at a very young age and was in his first rodeo at age 13.
By 1970, he had made the professional circuit and started getting paid for his hard work. He won a bareback championship all while writing songs and cutting albums to help pay his way.
Dierks Bentley LOVES Toilets
It’s hard to believe that our favorite country music singers were just like us at one point in their lives. Dierks Bentley is one of the biggest stars in the world, but before he made it big he spent a summer cleaning the toilet. No, this isn’t a joke.
He was forced to clean 250-gallon portable toilet for properties at Lake Powell. In an interview, he talked about an incident when one of the machines he was using to clean backfired spewing everything in the air.
Big Kenny Alphin Was A Contractor
Big Kenny Alphin probably holds the world record for most odd jobs held by a country music star before they were famous. Big Kenny is one half of Big and Rich and he struggled through high school because of all the stuff he was doing.
He held several jobs and ran several businesses before finishing high school. He owned his own t-shirt company and then ran his own logging crew. By 25 he was a real estate developer and by 30 he decided to move to Nashville.
Rodney Atkins was a very ambitious young person. He didn’t want to wait until his teenage years to start his own business, so, by age 12, he had his own lawn mowing business. His lawn mowing business quickly turned into his own landscaping business, which included mowing cemetery plots for $10 a plot.
He learned some very valuable landscaping skills as a kid that he’s been able to use even after he got famous. To this day he refuses to hire a landscaper and still does it all himself.
Kip Moore Laid Sod
Kip Moore worked in South Georgia laying sod. He hated the job because it was always miserably hot and the guys that he worked with weren’t all that interesting. He relied on country music to get him through the day.
Anyone who’s ever done hard labor outside in the scorching sun knows why how exhausting one day is. His hatred for the job is what pushed him into writing music every day to avoid having to work jobs like that again.
Reba Was A Rancher
Reba McEntire sings a lot about growing up on a farm and she loved every second of it. She didn’t have the cleanest jobs either. She says that she was always tasked with helping her father castrate bulls.
He’d cut them off and then hand them to her. It was Reba’s job to place the end result into a bucket and then bring them up to the house where they would get cleaned and brought up to the kitchen to fry.
Kris Kristofferson Was A Janitor
Kris Kristofferson has a very deep and storied life. He’s incredibly smart and was previously a helicopter pilot, Army Captain, an English professor. But, what ultimately got him into music was his first job as a janitor at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville.
While he was there he met Johnny Cash who accepted some of his songs but didn’t choose to use them. A few years later Cash did end up recording a lot of Kristofferson’s music.
Kellie Pickler Was Rolling Around
Kellie Pickler shot to stardom after her time on American Idol, but not before she spent a lot of time working in the fast food industry. She worked at the Sonic in Albemarle, North Carolina, in the three years leading up to her appearance on the reality show.
She said that her favorite part of the job was that she got to race around in roller skates serving unbeatable chili cheese dogs. She has nothing bad to say about Sonic. In fact, she even bought a Sonic ice maker for her bus tour.
Martina McBride and Faith Hill Were T-Shirt Girls
Faith Hill and Martina McBride are selling out arenas around North America, but before that, they were merchandise girls. Hill was selling t-shirts for Reba McEntire’s booth at the 1987 Fan Fair.
Her friend Martina McBride paid her dues the same way. She was the one selling Garth Brooks shirts in the early ’90s as well. She ended up impressing Brooks so much that he gave her an opening spot for some of his concerts.
Joe Nichols Packed Frozen Meats
We’ve all had those jobs that we knew we’d hate the first day we were on the job. Before Joe Nichols put out multiple platinum singles, he was hustling frozen meat out of the back of a truck in the Nashville heat.
Joe said that he hated the job so much that by the end of the day he would leave the meat halfway up the driveway of his customers and make them come out and get it. He lasted only one day on the job.
Phillip Sweet Worked At The Nashville Mall
Phillip Sweet of Little Big Town used to work at the Nashville mall doing custodial work. He was tasked with cleaning the washrooms and floors after closing time in order to fund his songwriting workshops.
Sweet said that the bathrooms in a mall at the end of the day are worse than you could ever imagine. He was alone most of the time so he would come up with song ideas to pass time during his shift.
Johnny Cash Was A Farmer
Johnny Cash held a number of jobs before he jumped into the national spotlight with his first record in 1954. He grew up on a farm, so he was put to work from a young age picking cotton. He sang a lot about his time in the field and how physically taxing it was.
After he finished high school he moved to Detroit to get a job in the automotive industry but that was pretty short lived. Cash joined the army as a Russian Morse code encryptor stationed in Germany. Finally, he sold appliances before he got his break at Sun Records.
Steve Earle Was A Gas Station Attendant
Before Steve Earle moved to Nashville in the early 1970s, the troubadour worked at a Houston, Texas, car wash during the gas crisis of 1970s. Earle looks like someone who you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of in a fight with, so he was perfect for the job.
He had to carry a gun with him while he was washing cars in case any of the motorists got out of hand. It was a wild time.
Zac Brown Was A Restaurant Owner
It’s a little bit ironic, but before Zac Brown was singing his hit “Chicken Fried” on stage for tens of thousands of fans, he was cooking it. Zac Brown from the Zac Brown Band owned a restaurant called Zac’s Place near Lake Oconee, Georgia.
He had some previous experience serving up catfish and working at McDonald’s. It’s kind of crazy to think that there was a time when Zac Brown was asking people if they want fries with their Big Mac.
James Otto Served In The Navy
Before becoming a country music star, James Otto was serving his country in the U.S. Navy. He always knew that he wanted to become a musician, but he wasn’t sure what steps he needed to take. He ended up moving to Nashville, but his career didn’t take off right away.
He drove a bus for Opryland and then when that ended he drove an oil truck. It’s not hard to imagine this country music hitmaker behind the wheel of a big rig.
Lee Brice Worked At His Father’s Electrician Company
Before and during his time at Clemson University, Lee Brice was helping his father out at their business in his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina. His dad owned a commercial electric business and while Lee didn’t spend too much time suspended in a bucket fixing wires, he did admit to doing almost everything else.
Brice went to college on a football scholarship and said he might’ve been able to make it to the NFL as a long snapper. An injury ruined his plans so he picked up his guitar and headed to Nashville.
Gretchen Wilson Was A Bartender
Gretchen Wilson has quite the story that resonates very well to the music she makes. Wilson paid her dues to Nashville before hitting stardom at local dive bars around town. She dropped out of high school at 15 to bartend and cook for pub crowds.
In 1996, she moved to the Music City in hopes of finding more success. She served at bars in downtown Nashville while honing in on her songwriting skills with John Rich and Big Kenny. In 2004, she had her first big smash.