Exclusive: Tori Kelly Chats YouTube, Sam Smith And Opening For Ed Sheeran

YouTube, Madison Square Garden and Sam Smith - here's everything you need to know about Tori Kelly...

If you’re a fan of Kelly Clarkson, you need to listen to the next big thing, Tori Kelly…

Marie Claire spoke to American singer/songwriter Tori Kelly to discuss everything from writing music, to opening for Ed Sheeran at Madison Square Gardens – not bad for a 22 year-old who started off making YouTube videos.

Did you always know you wanted to be a singer?

Yes. I remember growing up singing even when I was just three years old I was singing all the time in the house. My parents said I was singing before I could even talk properly.

You started by putting your stuff out on YouTube, what made you want to do that?

I was scrolling through and browsing online one day and noticed that people were doing covers of other people’s songs and getting all these views on them. They were cool covers, because they would twist them and kind of make them their own. I was super into my own original music but I thought it’d be cool to start posting covers and then maybe throw in a couple of originals just to see how people would react. I didn’t have any expectations, I just thought it would be kind of fun. But yeah, it just kind of slowly but surely grew into this fan base that I have now.

Do you think YouTube is a bit of an audition process these days? Scooter Braun – your manager – discovered both Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepson online…

I think it’s one of the many ways to get noticed. I think there are so many good platforms now and it’s ironic because growing up, having been in the industry since I was a kid, I would get told that a lot, ‘you have this voice, but what’s your platform’ or you know, ‘you have this talent but where do we start with you?’ A lot of people just want to see some traction – that’s why YouTube or even, you know, some friends of mine just got signed off of Vine – there are so many ways now to do it and to just make yourself seen.

What was it like going on American Idol as well?

American Idol was fun, it was definitely an experience. I was 16 years old when I did it and I was curious about how I would do on the show. I didn’t expect to meet some of my closest friends on the show now that I still keep in touch with. Looking back I think it was a blessing in disguise that I got cut from the show when I did because right after that was when I got more serious about songwriting and that’s actually when I started posting videos.

When and how did you first hear from Scooter?

Scooter was actually at my very first show right after my Frank Ocean cover video came out and he had the video sent to him – we always kind of joke about it because he actually had to buy a ticket for the show. He didn’t have any other way of getting in! I didn’t see him that night because it was kind of chaotic and overwhelming and it wasn’t the right time to make the introduction but later on we had the meeting and then a couple of phone calls and he’s been really passionate ever since.

You’ve been able to work with people like Ed Sheeran through him – what was it like opening for him at Madison Square Garden?

Oh that was very surreal! I was just freaking out the whole time and Ed was just great to have me as his opener and to write with me too – we have a song on the album. That was definitely a dream come true to play at that venue.

You also opened for Sam Smith as well, what was he like to work with?

Sam is so super talented to work with and everyone knows that. His voice is just amazing on everything and to see how quickly his career has exploded was really awesome to watch. I remember meeting him at his very first show in the States in LA and it was just like a small, 300 person room and we met and we were both fangirling over each other. It’s been cool because we follow each others careers and we can respect each other as artists and yeah, his show is really amazing too. It’s just all live. Nothing is fake, there are no gimmicks. It’s very special.

Have you been able to meet any of your idols through the work that you’ve done?

I haven’t necessarily met them in person but I did geek out when P!nk tweeted me right after the VMA performance because I really, really respect her as an artist and I think she’s amazing. Twitter is really the main source of all that right now but I’m sure you’ll all know when I meet someone in person, I’ll probably tweet all day about it.

Do you have any advice for anyone who is looking to emulate your success?

I would say to be really careful about comparing yourself to other people and try not to think too much about what everyone else is doing and saying around you. You know what is best for yourself and you know what makes you unique, so try hold onto that and don’t let the craziness of the industry get to your head.  

Tori’s career has only just started – with over 89 million views and one million subscribers her fan base continues to grow, and we can see why. Tori is currently on tour and will be returning to London’s KOKO club on the 16th October.

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