On February 15, the music world will come together for the 58th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in LA. Among the night’s performers are Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Adele, Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd. As the country watches their favorite artists take the stage, we couldn’t help but consider where some of the night’s biggest nominees began their musical journeys. Below we take a look at the contenders for Song of the Year and get to know a little more about their hometowns.
Kendrick Lamar — Compton, CA
No matter how you feel about Compton, CA, it’s clear the city knows how to produce hip hop superstars. Joining the ranks of artists such as Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Coolio, Kendrick Lamar began writing lyrics as a teenager inspired by the rough streets surrounding him. Last year, Straight Outta Compton, detailed the city in the N.W.A. biopic and showed a neighborhood riddled with gang violence, crime and poverty in the '90s. However, in an interview with the LA Times this year, Mayor Aja Brown stated that, “People think of Compton as a very dangerous place. We certainly have our challenges like many communities, but when we look at the statistics and the feel of the city and we talk to people who live here, it’s a different city from 25 years ago."
While we don’t recommend visiting without caution, it’s worth a drive to get a better understanding of where West Coast hip hop began. If you are in the area, don’t miss the city’s Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum and dine at Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles. For hotels, check out the many luxury properties in downtown LA such as JW Marriott at L.A. Live, the Mondrian or the Orlando Hotel.
Taylor Swift — Wyomissing, PA
Although the megastar is known for being discovered at the age of 16 at The Bluebird Café in Nashville, she was actually born in Reading, Pennsylvania. Moving next door to Wyomissing shortly after, the Bad Blood singer spent her first 14 years in the Berks County borough (aka Tree City USA). Swift’s early years began with her crafting songs at the age of five and spending time on her family’s Christmas tree farm. As of 2014, the census estimated a population of 10,472 for the town with a median household income of $70,433 from 2009-2013. But this isn’t small-town suburbia, “it mattered what kind of designer handbag you brought to school,” Swift told New Yorker magazine.
In terms of things to do in the area, there’s not much directly in Wyomissing, so you’ll have to head into Reading. There, travelers can check out the Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, the Japanese-style Pagoda atop Mount Penn, hike the Union Canal and Wyomissing Creek Trails or catch a minor league baseball game at FirstEnergy Stadium. For accommodations, the Stirling Guest hotel is a restored 1892 mansion that is known for throwing elegant, fairytale-esque weddings on its property.
Little Big Town — Nashville, TN
Having first met in 1987, it was Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman who originally began creating music together in Alabama at Samford University. The duo went on to add Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet while living in Nashville in 1998. The group released their first self-titled debut album in 2002 with Monument Records. Since all four members hail from various states, Westbrook (Arkansas), Schlapman (Georgia), Fairchild (Indiana) and Sweet (Tennessee), we’re focusing on where the group got its break: Music City.
Considered the capital of country, there’s no shortage of attractions to see or activities to do while visiting, especially for music lovers. From Honky Tonk Row to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the quaint Bluebird Café and the Grand Ole Opry, you’ll want to spend at least a few days exploring all its sights and sounds. Local hotspots include Jack's BBQ on Broadway, East Nash (hipster territory), Barista Parlor for craft coffee and delicious biscuits, and Hillsboro Village for boutique shops. Our favorite hotel in the area is the Omni which is located directly downtown and attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth — Pittsburgh & Rumson
Born in Minot, North Dakota, rapper Wiz Khalifa moved to Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan before beginning high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although having traveled across the pond many times, the singer-songwriter considers Pittsburgh his hometown. Among those who’ve also hailed from Steel City are Christina Aguilera, Gene Kelly, Joe Montana and Andy Warhol. If you’re looking for local eats, head to Primanti Brothers and grab a cheese steak sandwich (the duo’s infamous specialty). As far as activities, visit the Carnegie Museum of Art, Andy Warhol Museum, Duquesne Incline railway and Point State Park. The Fairmont is a great centrally-located option for tourists and only a short walk to many of the city’s attractions.
Charlie Puth has the kind of success that teens across the country hope for when uploading covers to YouTube: a full-time career in the music industry. The 23-year-old singer got his first break when he collaborated with Wiz Khalifa on Furious 7’s soundtrack, but his story first began in Rumson, New Jersey. A borough of Monmouth County, Rumson is a small town with a population of around 7,000 people according to a 2013 Census. It is known for its turn-of-the-century estates situated along the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers and its summer homes that are used by wealthy New Yorkers. Rumson is very much a nature-lover’s destination; travelers can participate in activities like hiking, apple and pumpkin picking, farmers markets and winter ice skating. You’ll do best with a vacation rental here versus a hotel.
Ed Sheeran — Framlingham, Suffolk
It’s hard not to love Ed Sheeran. The red-headed singer, beatboxer, guitarist and songwriter was born in Halifax West Yorkshire and was raised in Framlingham, Suffolk. At age 11, the A Team singer met musician Damien Rice who encouraged him to write his own music. Sheeran quickly got to work and recorded his first EP The Orange Room in his hometown.
Framlingham was once a major city in Britain at a time when wool was the oil of the world's economy. The area is home Framlingham's castle which boasts 42-foot-high walls. A century after it was built, Mary Tudor declared herself Queen of England within its walls. Today, the town is described as the finest market town in East Suffolk and its people have great pride in their city. The historic core of the town has also maintained its character and is protected by law from unwanted developments. Along with the castle, travelers can visit the over six-century-old St. Michael’s church, catch an outdoor summer concert or view one of Britain’s smallest houses, the Check Out. Though you won’t find large, brand properties here, the town is full of quaint B&Bs, inns and cottages. The Crown Hotel sits in the city center and offers charming accommodations in 14 en-suite rooms.