“America’s Got Talent” season 11 winner Grace Vanderwaal is singing the praises of New York City, releasing a stunning new video for “City Song,” the third single off her album, “Just the Beginning.”
The 14-year old singer/songwriter, who was signed to AGT judge Simon Cowell’s Syco Music and Columbia Records after winning the NBC competition, wrote the song as a love letter to her home state, which just hosted the 60th annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28.
Set to a percolating beat, Vanderwaal invites listeners to, “Just keep moving and take it all in,” before celebrating with the catchy chorus to “take the city and make it our song”
“Growing up so close to New York City, I always loved going to the city, but I’d be disappointed because songs about New York always made it seem so magical and perfect, and when I was younger I just thought it was busy and dirty,” says Vanderwaal, a native of Suffern, New York. “Now I’ve realized that it’s not about the city itself, it’s about taking the life inside the city and making it your own magical dream.”
Variety‘s chat with Vanderwaal below.
What’s the story behind “City Song?”
When I wrote this song, I was in a studio overlooking Times Square and was so inspired seeing all the different people, sights, and sounds that make New York so beautiful.
You play a variety of instruments on “Just the Beginning,” including bass, ukulele, glockenspiel, percussion. How much creative input did you have in the recording process?
The whole album was a creative process. It was so fun to be able to take creative ideas that came up in the moment and make them a reality, whether it was with a new instrument or just a sound we made up in the studio. I worked with some amazing co-writers and producers on the album that helped put it all together into something I’m really proud of.
How has your life changed in the past year?
This past year was incredible for my career. I released my first album, went on tour for the first time, met so many of my amazing fans, and worked really, really hard. It was why I titled the album “Just the Beginning,” because it all felt like I was just getting started.
Did you watch the Grammy Awards? Were you inspired by Kesha’s performance or Alessia Cara’s speech of dreaming of a Grammy since she was 12? What do you think the challenges are for young girls breaking into the music industry?
I think it’s so important for women and girls to feel like they have a voice and to come together and support each other. It was incredible to see that at the Grammys, and I love Alessia Cara and her influence on my generation. I’m so happy for her. I think there’s a misconception about the industry, that you have to change who you are to look “cool” in order to succeed, and that’s just not true. I always want to stay true to who I am, and if people don’t like that, then that’s okay. I think fans appreciate when you’re genuine and honest, and that’s how I try to be through all of this.
How do you balance being 14 with school and your career? What are the challenges of being so young and in the music business?
It’s really difficult to balance it sometimes, and I think this past year taught me a lot with balancing school and my social life with my career. I used to take school online, and I switched to regular school this past year which has been really great. It’s just about looking at each opportunity and making sure it’s what I really want to do, and to stay happy. It’s so important to do what makes you happy!