Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Tori Kelly was a would-be child star who grew into a woman who learned how to follow her own muse and bring her music to her fans through the Internet. Victoria Loren Kelly was born in Wildomar, California on December 14, 1992. Born into a musical household -- her father sang and played bass, her mother was proficient on keyboards and saxophone -- Kelly grew up listening to gospel and was influenced by pop and R&B acts such as Jeff Buckley, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott. Kelly developed ambitions to be a professional musician at an early age, and when she was ten, she appeared on the TV talent competition Star Search. In 2004, she was a contestant on America's Most Talented Kids, winning in her first appearance and moving on to the championship tournament. Her appearance on America's Most Talented Kids led to a deal with Geffen Records, but she and the label parted ways before she could release any material.
After auditioning for American Idol but failing to make the final 24, Kelly embraced a new approach; she had been learning to play guitar, and she started working on original songs and recording them on her personal computer. Kelly began posting videos of her performances on YouTube, and through word of mouth she developed a significant following; 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. 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." An immediate success, Unbreakable Smile reached number two on Billboard's Top 200, netting Kelly a Grammy nomination for Best New Arist. The following year, she made her film debut voicing a character in the movie Sing. In the summer of 2016, Kelly released the YouTube single "Blink of an Eye" in tribute to her slain friend Christina Grimmie. ~ Mark Deming