January 15, 2004 |
Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas, U.S.
|Origin||Suffern, New York, U.S.|
Grace Avery VanderWaal (born January 15, 2004) is an American singer-songwriter from Suffern, New York. In September 2016, at age 12, she won the eleventh season of the NBC TV competition show America's Got Talent (AGT). In December 2016, she released her first EP, Perfectly Imperfect, on the Columbia Records label. VanderWaal also posts videos of her original songs and covers on YouTube. Her 2017 performances have included the opening and closing of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, appearances in Japan and performances at several benefit concerts. She won the 2017 Radio Disney Music Award for Best New Artist and a Teen Choice Award, and she has twice been named to Billboard magazine's 21 Under 21 list of fast-rising young music stars. In November 2017, VanderWaal is set to release a full-length album, Just the Beginning, and to launch her first tour the same month.
Early life and music
VanderWaal was born near Kansas City, Kansas, to Tina and David VanderWaal, who lived in Lenexa at the time. David is of Dutch descent. The family later moved to Suffern, New York. Since winning America's Got Talent, VanderWaal has been home-schooled and enrolled in online courses.
VanderWaal began composing her first songs at age three, using a wireless microphone. As a preteen, she found songwriting inspiration by watching movies and trying to imagine what a character was feeling, and "what it would be like if I were them, and wrote a song." She was inspired to learn the ukulele after watching a family friend play and seeing a Twenty One Pilots video on YouTube. She then bought one, using money she had received for her 11th birthday, and watched more videos to teach herself how to play.[a] She has also played the saxophone in her school's marching band. After learning to play the ukulele, VanderWaal began to perform during open mic events at small venues near her home and to study music theory. In July 2016, after her audition on AGT, VanderWaal performed at the Lafayette Theatre in Suffern and at the Ramapo Summer Concert Series at Palisades Credit Union Park.
In 2015, VanderWaal began to record song covers and original songs, accompanying herself on ukulele, and post them on her YouTube channel, "Oh Never mind it's just me". Julia Lennox of AndPop.com reviewed 15 of VanderWaal's covers, praising her arrangements, vocal delivery, musical taste, and "the combination of sass, attitude and confidence she brings to every cover". She includes among her musical influences such artists as Jason Mraz, Twenty One Pilots and Katy Perry.
2016: America's Got Talent
On the June 7, 2016, broadcast during the eleventh season of NBC's AGT, VanderWaal auditioned with her original song, "I Don't Know My Name", and was Howie Mandel's "golden buzzer" act. Simon Cowell called VanderWaal "the next Taylor Swift." Brittany Spanos in Rolling Stone magazine termed the song an "emotional, catchy, quirky tune". VanderWaal continued to perform only original songs on the show, including her next performance at the quarterfinals on August 23, 2016, titled "Beautiful Thing", a song written for her sister; USA Today characterized VanderWaal's voice as "endearingly croaky". Others have called it "raspy" and "timelessly soulful". For the semifinals on August 30, she performed "Light the Sky", and for the September 13 finals, she sang "Clay", a song about dealing with bullies. Lindsay Peoples wrote for New York Magazine: "The songs she wrote and performed on AGT were not only catchy but emotional and unique to her own sound, a mix of raw and folk". AGT's video of VanderWaal's audition has accumulated more than 70 million views. It was ranked as the No. 5 trending YouTube video of 2016.
VanderWaal again performed "I Don't Know My Name" for the September 14 finale episode, then introduced a performance by Stevie Nicks, who compared her style with VanderWaal's and said, "[W]e like to be a little different ... and not like anybody else. She's got it. Whatever happens, Grace is going to the top." At the end of the broadcast, VanderWaal was announced as the season 11 winner. She was the second female winner and second child act winner in the show's history.
Post-America's Got Talent
VanderWaal planned to use part of her AGT winnings to make a donation to charity and to buy two tree houses, built by the team from Treehouse Masters, for herself and her sister. VanderWaal was a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in September 2016, and she headlined four sold-out concerts in the PH Showroom at the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in October, performing with other AGT finalists. VanderWaal headlined the America's Got Talent Holiday Spectacular in December on NBC, where she performed her arrangement of "Frosty the Snowman".
VanderWaal signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in September 2016 and released her debut EP, Perfectly Imperfect, on December 2, 2016. The five songs on the EP, include all four of VanderWaal's original songs from AGT and another original, "Gossip Girl", all produced by Greg Wells. A Walmart version features one additional song, "Missing You (Coffeehouse Version)". The EP debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 9 and was the best selling EP of 2016. The lead single, "I Don't Know My Name", debuted on Billboard's Digital Song Sales chart at No. 37 and on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at No. 24. Another song on the EP, "Light the Sky", was featured as background music in Google's "Year in Search 2016" video. Billboard magazine praised VanderWaal's vocals, finding them "reminiscent of a Taylor Swift-Regina Spektor hybrid". Brianna Wiest of Teen Vogue wrote: "The EP takes you through Grace's range, touching on issues that are all-too-well-known for young people, as well as soul-stokingly beautiful medleys that almost anyone could relate to. ... [W]e see ... her ability to master both a softer, vowel-breaking folk tone as well as push through a serious power-ballad by the end. It's rare that you see both at once, but that's part of the magic of Grace's sound: it's at once completely new, and totally unexpected."
VanderWaal promoted the EP with a series of appearances and performances. In November 2016, she performed "Light the Sky" and "Riptide" at halftime during a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and "I Don't Know My Name" in the 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, on NBC's Today show and at the Christmas tree lighting at South Street Seaport, in New York City, where she also sang "Light the Sky". In December, she sang "I Don't Know My Name" on The Wendy Williams Show, at Cyndi Lauper's annual holiday fundraiser at the Beacon Theatre (where she also duetted with Lauper on "True Colors"), on CBS's The Talk, and at Z100's Jingle Ball Tour 2016 stop at Madison Square Garden. In reviewing the last event, Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented: "One of the loudest receptions of the night was for Grace VanderWaal, a precociously thoughtful 12-year-old singer-songwriter-ukulele player". Later that month, VanderWaal returned to NBC's Today Show to sing her song "Light the Sky".
2017–present: Just the Beginning
In January 2017, VanderWaal sang "I Don't Know My Name" on Live with Kelly. She performed atop the Empire State Building for engaged couples at the building's Valentine's Day lighting event in February. In March 2017, she performed at WE Day Illinois at Allstate Arena to celebrate young people's action on social issues. She also sang "Light the Sky" at the annual benefit gala "One Night for One Drop", organized by Cirque du Soleil at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The same month, VanderWaal appeared twice at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, duetting with Jason Mraz on two of his songs at the opening ceremony and performing her own songs at the closing cerermony. In April, she performed at WE Day charity events in Seattle, and Los Angeles, and she appeared at the 2017 Radio Disney Music Awards. Her May appearances included a fundraiser at Ramapo High School in New Jersey for The Valley Hospital's children's programs. In June 2017, VanderWaal launched Perfectly Imperfect in Japan, performing and meeting with fans there. She also donated funds to help establish an elementary school show choir in the East Ramapo Central School District in 2017.
By early 2017, VanderWaal began working on a full-length album, eventually titled Just the Beginning, that she said will be "more produced ... really the same sound ... [but] less acoustic" than her debut EP. She told an interviewer for Rookie magazine about how her process changed for the album, writing songs "on demand" with a collaborator: "I've never done this before; it's kind of weird to go into a room with usually a 30-year-old man and just be like 'Oh, let me open up about my life to you and write a super personal song!'" In June, she participated in VidCon's opening show, YouTube OnStage, in The Arena at Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, where she premiered the first single from the upcoming album, "Moonlight". She later released additional singles from the album. In July, she performed at the Starkey Gala in St. Paul, Minnesota, to support hearing charities. In August, she returned to AGT as a guest performer, singing "Moonlight". The same month, Windex used VanderWaal's "Beautiful Thing" as the soundtrack to an advertisement, Honda used her cover of "Over the Rainbow" for a Japanese ad, and SheKnows Media ranked "I Don't Know My Name" as one of the 16 most empowering songs for women so far in 2017. In September, VanderWaal performed on Live with Kelly and Ryan. The same month, she appeared on Treehouse Masters in an episode about the tree houses that VanderWaal had planned since her appearance on AGT, and modeled at New York Fashion Week for Marc Jacobs. She also promoted the album with performances in September on Ellen and in October at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where she was "[o]ne of the fest's biggest breakout acts ... whose soaring voice and sweet pop songs charmed large ... crowds." She performed at another WE Day event in Vancouver, Canada, in October.
VanderWaal's Instagram account has more than 1.9 million followers, each of her YouTube channels has more than 1 million subscribers, with combined total views of more than 150 million, and her Facebook page has more than 900,000 likes.
Billboard magazine named VanderWaal to its 2016 21 Under 21 list of "music's hottest young stars", and Variety listed her in its "Young Hollywood Impact Report 2017". She was a finalist in the Best Female Artist category at the International Acoustic Music Awards in 2017, the youngest finalist in the awards' history. VanderWaal won the 2017 Radio Disney Music Award for Best New Artist and a 2017 Teen Choice Award. Refinery29 included her on its 2017 list of 29 young actors, singers and activists "on the verge of superstardom." In 2017, Billboard again named VanderWaal to its 21 Under 21 list.
Awards and nominations
|2016||America's Got Talent||Won|
|Radio Disney Music Awards||Best New Artist||Won|
|2017||Acoustic Music Awards||Best Female Artist||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Next Big Thing||Won|
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions|
|Just the Beginning||—||—|
|Title||EP details||Peak chart positions|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|BEL (Wa) Bub.
|"I Don't Know My Name"||2016||24||82||—||Perfectly Imperfect|
|"Moonlight"||2017||—||—||3||Just the Beginning|
|"Sick of Being Told"||—||—||—|
|"So Much More than This"||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
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