JAKE OWEN, 1987
“Growing up in Florida made me a saltwater rat,” says the Vero Beach native, 31. “It was so great to be where the sun shines most all the time.”
MIRANDA LAMBERT, 1986
“I cried every day of first grade because I was away from my parents,” Lambert, 29, recalls of her childhood in Lindale, Texas.
BLAKE SHELTON, ca. 1980
“It’s unbelievable how crazy I was about country music,” says the singer, 37 (with his first guitar). At 8, he made his debut in a local talent show.
LUKE BRYAN, ca. 1988
“If you can picture Mayberry, you can picture Leesburg,” says Bryan, 37, of his upbringing in rural Georgia.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD, 1996
“My parents were easy with me, but I never gave them any trouble,” says the Oklahoma native, 30 (on a trip to Nashville, above).
TAYLOR SWIFT, 1993
Talented toddler! At 13, Swift, now 23, persuaded her parents to move from their Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania to Nashville.
JASON ALDEAN, 1979
As a boy in Macon, Ga., “I played a little bit of football, but baseball was what I loved,” says Aldean, 36.
FOR MORE PHOTOS
Pick up a copy of PEOPLE’s new book Before They Were Country Stars!, out July 19, featuring 200 photos of some of Nashville’s brightest before they made it big. (Adorable baby pictures, awkward teen phases and embarrassing moments all included!)