Tori Kelly nominated as ‘Best New Artist’

Tori Kelly performs at Hotel Cafe in 2015. (Photo by Justin Higuchi - Zane Carney 01/12/2015 #7. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons) Photo by Justin Higuchi-Zane Carney

Tori Kelly performs at Hotel Cafe in 2015. (Photo by Justin Higuchi – Zane Carney 01/12/2015 #7. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons) Photo by Justin Higuchi-Zane Carney

A little more than five years ago, Canyon Lakers got to hear a lovely young lady named Tori Kelly sing the National Anthem for Fiesta Day. Just a few months earlier, many followed her journey to the top 26 of American Idol. She didn’t make it into the show’s televised finals, but the 17-year-old didn’t give up. This week it was announced that Tori was one of five finalists for the Grammy’s Best New Artist award.

After hearing about her nomination, Tori tweated, “i’m nominated for a Grammy. my heart is heavy & i am just speechless.”

It isn’t difficult to follow Tori’s public life. She’s on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where her fabulous face and hair are as memorable as her soulful voice and original songs. After her run with American Idol, Tori began making full use of social media. She wrote original songs and, from what appears to be her own home studio and computer, began recording videos that she posted on YouTube.

The website, explains what happened next:

“In time, her page had close to 700,000 subscribers and her cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinkin’ ‘Bout You’ was viewed 17 million times. Kelly proved there were paying customers in her new fan base when she digitally released an album, ‘Handmade Songs’ by Tori Kelly, which she recorded herself and featured her playing most of the instruments; the album sold well enough to hit number nine on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and number six on Soundscan’s New Artist tally.”

The iTunes bio continues, “Kelly followed the success of Handmade Songs with a series of live dates, headlining clubs and theaters and opening at larger venues for Jewel and Ed Sheeran. Scooter Braun, who helped guide Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen to stardom, became Kelly’s manager, and she scored a contract with Capitol Records, which released her EP Foreword in the fall of 2013.”

“In 2015, Kelly released her debut full-length album, ‘Unbreakable Smile,’ which featured production from Max Martin (Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Ellie Goulding) and included the singles ‘Nobody Love’ and ‘Should’ve Been Us.’”

This past August, Tori, 22, was invited to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards, where, according to, “Tori Kelly blew the audience away with her VMA performance” (of “Should’ve Been Us”).

In the February 26, 2010 issue of The Friday Flyer, Tori talked about her experience with American Idol. At the time, she was still trying to live a relatively normal life centered on her family and Calvary Chapel Murrieta where she attended church and participated in a home school program. She continued to take vocal lessons from Riverside’s Billy Purnell, the same voice coach who helped her make it onto “Star Search” at age 10.

Since that 2010 interview, it’s been a little more difficult to reach Tori as her family understandably seeks to guard her privacy in Canyon Lake.

Nevertheless, her posts at provide a regular and heartwarming look at this young artist on her way to stardom. Who can resist the charm of this post on December 3: “what an incredible night @ the white house w/ these beautiful ladies + more. It was super cold. the president hugged me. goodbye merry christmas”

The other 58th Grammy nominees for Best New Artist are Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt and Meghan Trainor. The awards show is scheduled for Monday, February 15, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. on CBS.