The rising pop star dishes on songwriting, her new single, and the time she made Sam Smith cry.
If there’s one thing Tori Kelly knows how to do, it’s hustle. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has spent the past few years building a following through appearances on competition singing shows, self-released EPs, YouTube covers, Vine freestyles, and more. All that hard work is finally paying off with the release of the lead single off her upcoming debut album, “Nobody Love.” The brassy Max Martin-produced track has all the makings of a pop smash so get to know the curly-haired cutie before she blows up later this year.
1. What’s something ~nobody knows~ about your single “Nobody Love”?
Tori Kelly: We rewrote the lyrics three different times.
2. What did you learn from being a competitor on Star Search, America’s Most Talented Kids, and American Idol?
TK: I learned how to talk to people as myself. Watching back all those different shows that I did, it’s really easy to put up a wall and be like, I’m in artist mode now. Those shows really taught me that it comes off way better when you just walk in as yourself.
3. You opened for Sam Smith! What was the most memorable moment of that tour?
TK: I thought it was so sweet every time he would say thank you on stage because you don’t have to do that, you don’t have to thank your opener in front of everyone. Oh! He loves “Paper Hearts,” he told me he cried during it.
4. What’s something ~nobody knows~ about your friend Ed Sheeran?
TK: Ed does impressions as, like, alter egos. He has a rapper alter ego. He’s just so cool. We wrote a song together.
BuzzFeed: Can you tell us anything about the song?
TK: This doodle is a tease, kinda. All the hearts.
5. Who is your dream duet?
6. What’s the story behind the “Sun Is Out” Vine; did you expect it to become so popular?
TK: Vine was very fairly new and I had been posting Vines sort of but it was super random. I was literally just in my car, being weird, and then other famous people on Vine were starting to do covers of it. I was so confused by it. I would get people coming up to me being like, “Who’s that girl from Vine?”
7. What’s your most used hashtag?
TK: Why do we even use hashtags? It’s just like a sub-thought. Who clicks on hashtags? Nobody.
8. What’s your favorite song to cover?
TK: “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” by Michael Jackson.
9. What’s the most exciting thing about finally releasing a full-length album?
TK: The fans! I’m excited for people to dissect it. I want to get their take on it. People will come up to me at shows and tell me that a song touched them in a completely different way than I wrote it. That’s fun. Fans translating it in their own way.
10. You wrote “Nobody Love” with legendary songwriter Max Martin, was that nerve-racking?
TK: It’s always a collaboration between him and the artist. It’s never like, “Here’s this song that I perfectly made for radio, it’s a perfect pop song and you’re gonna sing it.” For me and him, it was very collaborative, very hands on. It felt really good for him to actually respect me as a writer and an artist.
11. What’s more fun to write: love songs or kiss-offs?
TK: Kiss-offs are way more fun. I feel like they’re more personal in a way; when you’ve been burned it’s like a specific thing that happened. I like to write from those darker places. It’s more fun for me, it’s like therapy.
12. What was it like recording “Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy” with the Pentatonix — are they naughty or nice?
TK: They just won a Grammy! I’m down to support them in any way because I knew them before they won The Sing-Off or anything. I knew them before they were even an official group. It’s been cool to watch them do their thing.
13. What’s your favorite food?
14. What’s your favorite emoji?
TK: I also like the dance girl.
15. You’re known for your trademark curls — any pro-tips for curly girls?
TK: I woke up like this! Kidding. I use this brand called Ouidad, they’re great. Not Your Mother’s is another one. Garnier Fructis. I use a bunch of stuff. Literally, I just throw a huge concoction of stuff in my hair after I get out of the shower and then I diffuse it.
16. What’s your biggest fear?
TK: It used to be falling off the stage but now I think it would be kind of funny. It would be all over YouTube. Iggy did it. I was there! I low-key kind of want it to happen so I can cross it off my list. You’ve gotta face your fears!
17. What’s your favorite word?
18. What do the Bible verses cited in your Twitter and Vine bios mean to you?
TK: I actually change them all the time but Psalm 91:4 is what my logo, my feather quill, is based on. It’s one of my favorite verses. It was my phone’s lock screen for a while. I switch up the verses all the time, whatever is rocking me in that moment.
19. What can fans expect from the “Nobody Love” music video?
TK: The video shoot was really smooth and the crew was amazing, but I think a highlight would be the chef in the video. He was really cool. I’m going to be mysterious: the chef. Cliffhanger!