Tori Kelly. (Getty Images)
The 20-year-old California native's song, "Fill a Heart," has been covered by both "Glee" star Amber Riley and Cody Simpson for ConAgra Food's "Child Hunger Ends Here" campaign benefiting Feeding America, and is currently available for download on iTunes.
"It's a really cool feeling to have somebody actually cover your song," Kelly, who starts her own U.S. tour on April 9, tells "omg! Insider." "For someone … someone with a name too, someone who has been successful, for them to actually take your song and put a spin on it, is really cool to hear. I heard Amber has done it live a couple of times, and it sounds amazing. Cody's verse is really fun, and upbeat, they are both really different versions too which is cool … I was really, really flattered that they would want my writing skills for this whole campaign. I was definitely up for the challenge and I knew it could really get out there and change a lot of lives."
So, what was it like to get the call from Scooter Braun, the man responsible for Justin Bieber, Psy, and Carly Rae Jepsen, to become a part of "Child Hunger Ends Here"? Kelly says she wasn't nervous, like one would expect her to be. "I think I was more excited than anything that they would believe in me enough to have me want to do that," she says. "I was really flattered."
Raising money for charity is only one of the many highlights of Kelly's young career, which began on "Star Search" when she was just 10. In 2004, she won "America's Most Talented Kids," beating out now country music superstar Hunter Hayes, and she then went on to make it to the Hollywood round of "American Idol" in 2010.
But despite that success, it was YouTube that launched Kelly's career … and her huge fan base. Her YouTube channel – which has had more than 36 million views since she joined in 2006 – is chock full of covers of some of her favorite songs, including Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie," Frank Ocean's "Thinking About You," and Michael Jackson's "PYT," as well as her own original songs.
"I started putting up YouTube videos when I was about 15 or 16," Kelly explains. "I didn't even have my own guitar yet. I was just borrowing somebody's because I just wanted to learn how to play and I saw that people were posting covers of literally just sitting in front of their crappy quality video camcorder or laptop. I was like, 'Hmm, I should try this.' People just started watching, which was kind of crazy, but I put [up] a Frank Ocean cover -- which I would say was my first viral video -- this last year and I think ever since then it's been growing a lot faster."
After playing small coffee houses, Kelly released her own EP, Handmade Songs, last May and has since gone on to headline her own concerts at New York City's Gramercy Theater and London's historic Bush Hall – not to mention, half of the stops on her upcoming tour are sold out.
"I didn't think it would get anywhere," she admits of her six-song collection. "I just wanted something physical that people could go home with after the show … and it ended up charting top ten for pop albums on iTunes. I was not expecting that at all either and [then] it charted on Billboard. It's kind of cool to see it all grow and that's where I'm at now. It keeps growing."
-- Interview by Brittany Kaplan
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