At 12, Tori Kelly sang a Christina Aguilera song on American television and was offered a major record deal. At 14, she started uploading videos on YouTube singing covers and original songs.
Today, the now-23-year-old from Wildomar, California, has just released her debut album, ‘Unbreakable Smile’ and charters her journey through the music industry so far with a spirit that is exactly that – unbreakable.
‘It took about a year and a half to make this album, but I like to say it’s been 10 years in the making! That’s how long I’ve been in the music industry for,’ Tori says. ‘It’s pretty much my life in audio form.’
For Tori, it took years of being said ‘no’ to and disappointments to inspire the idea of being ‘unbreakable’. ‘It’s really about all the doubts I had while growing up, figuring out who I wanted to be and taking in all the negative comments, doubts, ‘no’s’ and twisting them into something positive,’ she says. ‘It’s about having that positive presence, like an inner peace.’
Tori thanks her major influences ‘gospel music, Lauryn Hill, Crystal Lewis, Jeff Buckley’ for inspiring her music, as well as being a 90’s kid.
‘I love 90’s music! I love that people think my music sounds 90’s-esque,’ she says. ‘It’s a really fun sound that I think kind of naturally made it’s way into the album.’
Her favourite 90’s music includes TLC, Michael Jackson and N’Sync – ‘I had a huge crush on Justin Timberlake,’ she confesses.
At the moment, Tori is on tour promoting ‘Unbreakable Smile’ but found some time to perform at the Global Citizen Festival, alongside Beyoncé, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran, who she hinted at collaborating with at some point in the future, ‘I’m waiting for the right moment for Ed and I to do a song together,’ she says.
I ask what gives her confidence, and she says: ‘The more selfish I am about my career, the more unhappy I am, I’ve found. I get to touch and impact other people’s lives; it’s more about them than it is about me. Simply that gives me a lot of confidence.’
Amen to that. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, this album is it.
Tori Kelly’s ‘Unbreakable Smile’ is out now.
WORDS: Kate NG