So often these days we’re used to hearing of new music because of a celebrity co-sign, a viral Vine or the latest hashtag. It’s usually the case that you can explain who someone is in a single sentence, “Oh, she was the one who…” – it’s rarely about the voice or the music. And while Tori Kelly could be “the one who went on American Idol and was slated by Simon Cowell” or “the one who is managed by Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun”, these aren’t the reasons that you’re hearing about her. The 23-year-old Californian has been dazzling listeners with her phenomenal range, and touching fans with her uplifting song-writing – finishing up last year with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and a Breakthrough honour at Billboard Women In Music. She’s been hustling for a while now, yet she just released her debut album Unbreakable Smile at the end of the year and approaches every day as a newcomer. We caught up with Tori Kelly to discuss how she’s handling it all…
How has the reception been to releasing your debut album Unbreakable Smile?
I feel really good. I guess I just feel kind of humbled through all of it. It’s been really fun. For me, the focus has always been about the music and the fans. So I try to just keep it about that, and not lose sight of what it was before all of the extra things happened. That’s been working for me. But I’m having fun, just trying to live in the moment.
It’s testament to what you’re saying that with anything crazy happening, you can go to something like the VMAs, in a year where there’s plenty of drama and impress with just your voice. Apparently you were the most Shazam’ed performance and one of the top 5 most blogged about, and that was only about the music. How does that feel?
That’s the best feeling ever, just knowing that I don’t have to change myself or compromise any of my beliefs to get that recognition is such a good feeling.
Have you felt a change in your life since the release of your debut album?
I have a little bit, I think in my career so far everything has been such a gradual process for me, at least from my perspective, it hasn’t been like an overnight thing. So I think in a way that’s actually been really cool, because I can ease my way into things. Even just the mindset, I can take things slow and make sure I’m appreciating every moment rather than ‘Oh this thing happened, so now we’ve got to rush into this.’ There’s other people to worry about that for me, so it is nice to just take it day by day.