Photos © 2016 by: Roman Sobus
Biography: Tori Kelly first rose to attention when her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You,” went viral, racking up over 24 million views. In 2012, Kelly made her Billboard chart debut with her self-released album Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly. It peaked in the top 10 of the Heatseekers Albums chart, and was followed by her debut EP release for Capitol Records: Foreword. That set debuted in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 and foreshadowed her breakthrough in 2015 with her full-length set Unbreakable Smile, which bowed at No. 2 on the chart. It launched the top 20 Pop Songs hits “Nobody Love” and “Should’ve Been Us.”
Kelly co-wrote “Nobody Love” off of debut album ‘Unbreakable Smile’ alongside Rickard Goransson and Max Martin. Martin says, “After hearing Tori sing, we felt so inspired that we had no choice but to get involved. It’s been such a pleasure to be a part of her journey.” She also co-wrote with such vets as Savan Kotecha, Toby Gad, Claude Kelly, Chuck Harmony, Wolf Cousins, and Ed Sheeran. The album, she says, does not depart from her soulful roots. “It’s like a marriage between that soulful urban thing and a mainstream pop vibe. It was hard to get to that place, but once we had ‘Nobody Love,’ I knew we’d cracked the code. It felt seamless.”
Working with one of the most successful hit makers in the industry is a long way from Kelly’s early years making songs in her bedroom and posting them online. Born and raised in Temecula, California, Kelly is the daughter of musicians, her dad is a singer and bassist and her mom plays piano and saxophone. She sites early influences like gospel singer Crystal Lewis, Jill Scott, Jeff Buckley, and Maxwell.
Over the past year and a half, Kelly has sold out shows in several major cities (including The Wiltern and The Troubadour in Los Angeles, the Best Buy Theater and Bowery Ballroom in New York City, and KOKO and Bush Hall in London), headlined a thirty-two-city sold-out U.S. tour, and supported Ed Sheeran, and Sam Smith on tour.
“I’m excited to get out and play for people. That’s always the dream.”
Combined, her songs and albums have sold nearly 1.5 million in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music; while her songs and videos have accrued 163 million on-demand streams. She is the definition of DIY. To date, Kelly’s YouTube channel boasts more than 1 million subscribers with over 110 million views, Kelly has delivered knockout performances at this year’s MTV EMA’s, VMA’s, Billboard Music Awards, BET Awards and most recently, the GRAMMYs as a Best New Artist nominee. Her album ‘Unbreakable Smile’ featuring the brand new single “Hollow” is available now on Capitol Records.