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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.
1992–2007: Early life and career beginnings
Kelly was born in Wildomar, California. Her father is of Irish, Puerto Rican and Jamaican descent, and her mother has Irish, English and German ancestry. 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. She didn't win the contest, but later in 2004, she made an appearance on America's Most Talented Kids, singing Christina Aguilera's "Keep on Singin' My Song" and won, beating out singer and songwriter, Hunter Hayes.
2007–2012: YouTube recognition and American Idol
Kelly began posting videos to YouTube in 2007, at age 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 in December 2004. She was signed to Geffen Records at the age of 12 but because of conflicting ideas, it was mutually agreed for Tori to be released. Kelly gained recognition for her acoustic cover with fellow YouTuber Angie Girl of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You" in 2012. When later asked about her first YouTube cover she said, "It was just me in my bedro
om, it was "The Only Exception" by Paramore and it wasn't even my own guitar. I knew like...three chords".
Kelly later auditioned for Season 9 of American Idol in Denver, Colorado and made it through to Hollywood week but did not reach the "Top 24." She stated in a phone interview that after her elimination, 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".
2012–13: Handmade Songs and record deal
On May 1, 2012, she released her first EP, 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. Later on Kelly stated that this was one of the things that she was most proud of because of the fact that she did it all on her own. "It was something that I felt like I needed to do to prove to myself that I could do it..." She called the EP a "warm up" to a full-length album that's to come in the future. The EP has sold more than 14,000 copies and "reached No. 9 on Billboard's 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's 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.
In 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 and Unbreakable Smile
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 and "debut[ed] at No. 16 on the 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; it has 1,426,619 views to date. Kelly was featured on Professor Green's single "Lullaby" which was released on September 14, 2014. It debuted in the HOT40UK's Top 40 at No. 8 and peaked at No. 2 after 6 weeks on the chart. 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.
Now, Kelly is working with manager, Scooter Braun, to release her debut album in the spring of 2015, in which she has worked with artists including Toby Gad, Pharrell Williams, Max Martin, and Ed Sheeran. Kelly's first single for her new album, Unbreakable Smile, is titled "Nobody Love" and was released on February 8, 2015. It was written by Rickard Goransson, Max Martin, and Tori Kelly herself.The album is set to be released on June 23, 2015.
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