Since the Grammy’s are tonight I decided to publish a special post in support of my pick for Best New Artist. There’s a lot of great singers in this prestigious category, including the already popular Meghan Trainor, so Kelly has surely won a great deal of respect from her nomination alone. Still, a lot of people haven’t heard about her before, so I thought I’d share a bit of her story and some personal reasons why she’s such a rare gem among pop music culture today.
The 23 year-old singer-songwriter grew up in California and auditioned for American Idol but was cut during Hollywood week.
Two years later, she wrote, produced and recorded her first EP, Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly in her bedroom and posted numerous YouTube covers on her personal channel. She became a YouTube sensation with tantalizing riffs and covers of songs like Suit and Tie and PYT. The EP performed well on iTunes and by the end of the next year popular manager Scooter Braun had signed her to Capitol Records.
The following month she released her second EP, Foreward and toured with Ed Sheeran in the UK. It was around this time that I had the chance to see Kelly in person after having seen her on Idol and following her on YouTube for awhile. She performed a solo show at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill that November (the same night Justin Timberlake was in Raleigh for The 20/20 Experience tour in fact) and it was AMAZING. She was sweet, talented and beautiful in every way a fan could have imagined. Singing Confetti along with her and the crowd was truly an unforgettable experience:
Since then, Kelly has been a part of several high-profile projects, and released her debut album Unbreakable Smile last summer. She was also named the the ambassador for William Rast, Timberlake’s clothing line, scored a Pepsi commercial, and won the Breakthrough Artist award from Billboard’s Women in Music. Tonight, she’s set to take the stage with fellow New Artist Grammy nominee James Bay.
What makes Tori different is not just her soulful pipes and iconic curly, big hair. It’s her undeniable faith and values that she’s managed to bring to the biggest, most secular stages in contemporary music.
Tori’s signature feathers that appear on all of her albums and merchandise are taken from one of her favorite scriptures, Psalm 91:4 “He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings shall you trust: his truth shall be your shield and buckler.”
She also recently released a hit single, Hollow, which she told Ryan Seacrest is “directly connected to our faith and just how a lot of the time we feel really hollow inside. Jesus, for me, is the only thing that’s ever filled that [space.]” Billed as her “love song to God” the single has reached Top 100 charts in three countries and peaked at 25 on the US Top 40. She sings:
I confess (yeah), my weakness/Til you pick up the parts that are broken/Pour out your perfection on me now/And hold me/Wrap me in love, fill up my cup/Empty, cause only your love can fill up my cup.
It’s easy to see why Tori is taking the pop world by storm when you listen to her vocals, but her strong themes of faith, self-confidence, vulnerability, modesty and non-conformity don’t get the credit they deserve in today’s culture, but Kelly has changed that. She’s proven to be a talented musician and architect of her own work, and she’s stayed true to her values while enjoying the incredible ride to pop stardom that she’s always dreamed of.
So don’t miss out on Tori’s performance tonight and win or lose, we’ll all be cheering her on for her first Grammy nod tonight! Check out the dates for her tour here!