When 12-year-old Greyson Chance posted a clip of himself performing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on YouTube in April, he never dreamed that the video would become a viral sensation viewed by more than 28 million people. The clip, shot by Greyson’s dad, shows the Cheyenne Middle School sixth-grader at the piano, singing his heart out at a choir event as the female-dominated audience looks on slack-jawed with amazement.
Greyson’s obvious talent led to an invitation to appear on The Ellen Degeneres Show just two weeks later (his first-ever plane trip), where he chatted confidently with DeGeneres, performed “Paparazzi,” and fielded a congratulatory on-air phone call from Lady Gaga herself, who advised him to “work really hard, be focused, and stay away from girls,” adding what had already become readily apparent: “You’ve already won over everyone’s hearts.”
Indeed this bright-eyed, freckled-faced kid has become a star in just a few short months. During Greyson’s second appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show a week later, DeGeneres announced that he was to become the first artist signed to her newly formed label Eleveneleven Records, which will release his first single this fall.
“This is my dream and I’m living it,” Greyson says. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else except write songs and perform them.” Greyson is currently in the studio working on his debut album with veteran songwriter/producer and Geffen Records chairman Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Black Eyed Peas, Pussycat Dolls). “I’ve already written a few of the songs,” Greyson says, adding that he has a few surprises up his sleeve.
Spending time in a professional recording studio in Los Angeles is a long way from hanging out with his friends in his hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma. Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, Greyson moved to Edmond with his family when he was four years old. His mother Lisa can’t recall a time when Greyson didn’t sing. “He’s always sung,” she says. “Loud. Anywhere. We hear it all the time.” Greyson began playing the piano at age 8 and took lessons for three years. Never having taken a vocal lesson, his preternatural ability is all guided by instinct. “He literally just listens to a song and instantly knows what he wants to do with it,” Greyson’s older brother, Tanner, says. “He just feels it.”
Greyson says he knew immediately what he wanted to do with his life when he saw Lady Gaga perform “Paparazzi” at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. “I was awestruck by her performance,” he says. “I love her sense of drama and theatricality, plus she’s an amazing singer and piano player.” In addition to Lady Gaga, Greyson also admires Christina Aguilera, the rock band Augustana, R&B singer John Legend, singer-songwriter Elton John, and late Beatle John Lennon. “I love artists who are able to communicate their emotions through music and sing from the heart. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my songs.”
Greyson is already earning kudos for his original compositions. YouTube clips of him performing “Stars” (about a woman with cancer who reunites with her husband in heaven) and “Broken Hearts,” have racked up more than nine million collective views. “I want people to be able to feel what I’m feeling when I’m singing,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about for me.”
I had the chance to talk with Greyson about things like his upcoming album, his goals, and who he’d love to work with. You can read about that below.
When did you realize you had an interest in music and what sparked that interest?
It started when I was really young, I think about 5 or 6. But it’s only gotten serious and I’ve gotten ideas in my head just recently. It pretty much started when I saw Lady Gaga perform at the VMA’s.
What has it been like to go from playing in front of your school to basically becoming a household name overnight?
It’s been an amazing journey. Really fun. Something I will always remember. It’s really a dream come true for me. It’s been great.
What are some of your plans for promoting your music and upcoming album?
I think we’re going to do the radio thing. I’m pretty excited about that. And we have a trip to Europe coming up soon. Recording the album is such an exciting process and it’s coming along great. It’s sounding really good.
What are some of your short term and long term goals that you have lined out for yourself?
My main goal is to just be myself and to stay grounded. My longterm goal is to make a career out of this. Ride the wave as long as possible.
What drives and inspires you to do what you love?
I think my inspiration to get up in the morning and go is my fans. They’ve supported me throughout this entire journey and have been there for me. They have been my support system and what makes me want to get up in the morning and do it all.
How do you balance a career and going to school while still trying to be a kid?
Well, when I’m home and with family or I visit my friends I’m just Greyson. I have a good balance between them. This year I’m actually going to be doing online school, so that will be a bit different. I think its an easy thing for me because of my parents, especially my mom, who still grounds me and takes away my computer and stuff when I’m in trouble.
Do you find it easy to play the piano and sing? Does it come naturally for you?
It comes naturally to me. About a year and a half ago I started singing and playing the piano and it opened a huge door for me that I never even knew was there.
What kind of music can we expect from you off your upcoming album?
It’s an interesting sound. Kinda a rock sense, so I’d have to say its a rock album.
If you had the chance to work with or record with anyone, who would you choose?
Lady Gaga. It would be amazing. She is great.
Besides music, what are some of your favorite things to do?
I like to play soccer. I like to watch movies, especially old time movies. But overall its soccer.
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