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Victoria Loren "Tori" Kelly (born December 14, 1992) is an American singer and songwriter who slowly gained recognition after starting to post videos on YouTube at the age of 14. When she was 16, Kelly auditioned for the singing competition television series American Idol. After being eliminated from the show, Kelly began to work on her own music. In 2012, she independently released her first EP that she produced, wrote, and mixed herself, titled Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly. The following year, Scooter Braun became her manager after seeing her videos on YouTube and introduced her to Capitol Records, with whom she signed in September. Kelly's second EP Foreword came out in October 2013 as her first major label release. On June 23, 2015, Kelly's debut album, Unbreakable Smile, was released. The lead single, "Nobody Love", was released in the spring and became her first US Billboard Hot 100 appearance. Kelly is currently nominated for Best New Artist at the 58th Grammy Awards.
Life and career
Kelly was born in Wildomar, California. Her father is Jamaican and half Puerto Rican, while her mother is of Irish and German descent. Growing up, she was exposed to a variety of music by her parents. "I give them a lot of credit for just playing all different genres, and no genre was off limits," she said when asked about her upbringing. Kelly has appeared on the show Star Search. With vocalist Tiffany Evans winning the title of Junior Champion in the junior singer division, she did not win the contest.
In 2004 she participated on America's Most Talented Kids, singing Christina Aguilera's "Keep on Singin' My Song" and won, beating out musician Hunter Hayes. She made a second appearance on the show in the Tournament of Champions, but lost to Antonio Pontarelli, a rock musician. At the age of twelve, Kelly was offered a record deal with Geffen Records, which she accepted, but because of conflicting ideas it was mutually agreed for her to be released. In 2007, Kelly began posting videos to YouTube, at the age of 14. The first video she uploaded was a cover of John Wesley Work, Jr.'s "Go Tell It On The Mountain", which she originally performed, back in December 2004. Kelly gained recognition for her acoustic cover, with a fellow YouTuber, named Angie Girl of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You".
2010–13: Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly
In 2010, Tori Kelly auditioned for Season 9 of American Idol in Denver, Colorado and made it through to Hollywood week but did not reach/make it to the "Top 24" of the artists. She had claimed that 'she was devastated' but she had 'given it her all'. She immediately began writing more songs and was asked to take part in a youth version of the 1985 charity song "We Are the World" titled "We Are the World: The Next Generation". On May 1, 2012, she released her first EP, titled Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly, which contained six songs on her own label Toraay Records. Kelly wrote, produced, engineered, and recorded the EP by herself in her bedroom. When it was released on iTunes it made it to the Top 10 Pop Albums. She called the EP a "warm up" to a full-length album that is to come in the future. The EP has sold more than 14,000 copies and reached number nine on the US Heatseekers Albums chart".
In February 2013, Kelly released a single called "Fill a Heart", which she wrote for the "Child Hunger Ends Here" campaign by ConAgra Foods and Feeding America. The song was later performed by British boy band The Wanted on Dancing With the Stars. Starting in April 2013, Kelly performed at eight different venues across continental U.S. for her "Fill a Heart" tour, helping out at the cities' food banks during the day. She has performed in venues such as the Troubador and the Roxy in Los Angeles, the Gramercy Theater in New York and Bush Hall in London. She has also been featured in magazines such as Teen Vogue, Elle and Glamour.
During mid-2013, Kelly's newly assigned manager Scooter Braun introduced Kelly to the heads of Capitol Records. She had been "very skeptical" she said about signing with a major record label in fear that things would not work out in her favor as had happened earlier in her career. "I'd been burned before. But when I met those guys, I had never felt that way: They were fans and really got me." And on September 6, 2013 she was signed to Capitol Records.
2013–present: Foreword, Unbreakable Smile and "Hollow"
In September 2013, Kelly announced on The Today Show that her major label debut, a second EP, titled Foreword, would be released on October 22, 2013 on Capitol Records. The EP has sold more than 16,000 copies, debuting at number 16 on the US Billboard 200. Kelly was the sole supporting act to Ed Sheeran at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 2013 and supported Sam Smith on his In the Lonely Hour UK tour in October 2014.
Kelly wrote and recorded a song called "Silent" for The Giver: Music Collection, supporting the film adaptation (The Giver) of the novel The Giver, which was released on iTunes on August 5, 2014. On August 7, 2014, Kelly posted a live acoustic version of the song on her YouTube channel; which has over 2.6 million views as of October 2015. Kelly was featured on "Lullaby" by British rapper Professor Green, which was released in the United Kingdom on September 14, 2014. The song peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart, thus providing Kelly with her first British top ten hit. Kelly was featured on the medley "Winter Wonderland"/"Don't Worry Be Happy" on Pentatonix's album That's Christmas to Me that was released in October 2014. On December 1, 2014 it was announced that Tori Kelly was one of MTV's Artist's To Watch. She privately performed two songs for MTV: "Funny" and "Dear No One"; both can be found on her Artist To Watch page. Her "Funny" performance was aired on MTV for several weeks.
Throughout 2014, Kelly worked with Braun on her debut album in which she had contributions from Toby Gad, Max Martin, and Ed Sheeran. The lead single from the album, "Nobody Love", was released on February 8, 2015. It was written by Rickard Goransson, Max Martin, and Tori Kelly herself. The album, entitled Unbreakable Smile, was released on June 23, 2015, and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. Kelly performed "Should've Been Us" at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
"Hollow" was released on October 22, 2015 as the first single from the new edition of the album. In the same month, Kelly became the brand-ambassador of William Rast, the clothing line co-founded by Justin Timberlake. In late 2015, Kelly received a nomination for Best New Artist at the 58th Grammy Awards.