Tori Kelly keeping it real with her fans

American Idol star in town for Youth Waves

- CSA Presents: Youth Waves Concert Festival Tour with Tori Kelly, D-Pryde and Jenny Suk at UBC's Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Saturday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. Tickets $25. For more info go to youthwavesfestival.com.

AS a four-year-old, Tori Kelly would stand up inside grocery carts and sing songs and at the age of 16 she was a finalist on American Idol Season 9.

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Now the California singer is getting ready for her first-ever performance in Vancouver tomorrow night.

On Sept. 29, Kelly will be performing at the Youth Waves Festival at the Chan Centre at UBC. She will be sharing the stage with fellow Californian Jenny Suk along with Toronto native D-Pryde and New Yorker Mitchell Grey. Some of the proceeds from the festival will be donated to various charities including Ride 2 Reach, and ALS Ontario.

"I am looking forward to this performance because even though it's just me and my guitar, I am going to be switching up a few songs and making the set a bit different," she says.

The trip to B.C. will not be her first time to Canada. Kelly performed in Toronto earlier this summer, but she says she's excited to visit the West Coast.

"I've been asking what is there to do in Vancouver because I just want to see it all."

Kelly likes what a live environment can do to her music.

"I have more of a raw acoustic element to my sound," she says. "I definitely like live sound but having some sort of pop element with it, whether it's like a hook or something catchy that people can gravitate towards."

"I like to tell people that it's my own sound that you kind of have to hear it and then you'll get it," she adds.

American Idol was not the first time Kelly appeared on a reality TV show. At 10 years old she appeared on Star Search and a year later she performed on America's Most Talented Kid along with another American Idol alumni Jordin Sparks.

She says those early TV gigs helped her going into the American Idol auditions in 2009.

"I think it prepared me for it more from a stage aspect because those shows were nationwide," she says. "Being on American Idol was completely different because they had cameras in your face all the time."

Kelly made it as a finalist on American Idol Season 9 Hollywood week. She says her experience on the show taught her how to handle herself on TV.

"What I took most from that show was being more comfortable in front of the camera," Kelly says. "I learned how to be myself whenever there is a camera in front of your face."

Growing up Kelly had a wide taste in music and was heavily influenced by Justin Timberlake, Jill Scott, Led Zeppelin, and Lauryn Hill among others.

"I think all those people influenced me a lot," Kelly says.

Listening to a wide variety of musicians growing up also influenced her writing style.

"I take in little pieces of each of those artists that I gravitate towards," she says. "I feel like I kind of take those pieces and put them into my own sound and it somehow creates my own style. I am constantly taking things that like and meshing them all together."

As is the case with almost every musician today, Kelly is active on the social media front. She has her own web blog and frequently uploads videos on YouTube. At the moment, Kelly has 46,726 likes on Facebook and 89, 678 followers on Twitter. She even has a number of fan pages and fan accounts on Twitter.

"Social media has been leading the whole ship," she says. "I want to make sure I always keep it real with the fans."

Earlier this year Kelly released a six-song EP titled Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly, an EP that she wrote and recorded in her room.

According to Kelly, Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly is an album that shares her personal experiences and her musical experiences since appearing on American Idol.

"You can hear me just telling my story," she says. Not only did Kelly write and record her EP but she also mixed the album and acted as her own producer. It was something she says wasn't always easy.

"The fact that I created the whole EP in my bedroom was kind of a challenge in itself. When you're in a big studio creating with different producers and stuff it can be easier in a way. You have all these people with different opinions and you just go with the flow," she says. "But when you're doing it all by yourself there is a lot of stuff you have to do that people don't realize. I don't even think I realized it at first."

"It got kind of overwhelming at times but the beauty of it was I could say that I did this all by myself. This is what I created. I wouldn't have changed anything and I am really proud of how it came out," she adds.

Currently, Kelly is concentrating on performing shows and taking her music to as many places as she can travel too.

"I am trying to travel as much as I can," she says. "It's really cool being able to travel . . . it's been awesome, even being able to go to Vancouver. I am super stoked because I haven't been there."

After her performance at the Youth Waves Festival, Kelly will perform in October at the Roxy in Los Angeles with her full band.

"It's always fun when I get to jam out with band," she says.

For more information on Tori Kelly visit torikellymusic.com or follow her on Twitter @ ToriKelly.

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