The overnight sensation
Until quite recently, Greyson Chance was probably best known as that boy who went on Ellen and sang a Lady Gaga song. After all, his sweet YouTube rendition of ‘Paparazzi’ was what caught the eye of the 53-year-old talk show host almost 2 years back. A record deal (he’s the first act signed to eleveneleven, Ellen DeGeneres’ record label) and an album later, the piano-playing wunderkind shows he’s no one-hit wonder.
The ambitious artiste
His sincerity and maturity shines through in his first release “Hold On ‘til the Night”, a collection of sophisticated piano-driven pop songs that project his wonderful emotional range. It makes you thankful that this is a far cry from the bubblegum pop album – vapid tween anthems included – you’d expect from a pop singer his age.
Explains the 14-year-old, “I just feel like we’re lacking real music sometimes in pop music, and so I wanted to make an album that was relatable to my age,” he adds, “something relatable and fun, but still serious and real.”
With his unique tonal quality taking centrestage in his debut effort, it’s hard to believe he’s never had any former vocal training to speak of. “He literally just listens to a song and instantly knows what he wants to do with it,” says Greyson’s 19-year-old brother, Tanner, in an exclusive interview with Hollywood Dame.
It’s clear that talent is something Greyson possesses by the truckload – not only did he have a hand in writing more than half of the songs in the album, his own original compositions can also be found floating around the web. ‘Stars’, a moving song that tells the heart-wrenching tale of a woman who dies of cancer and who later reunites with her husband in heaven, is particularly note-worthy. Songwriting seems to come easily to the young singer, with multiple influences keeping the proverbial writer’s block at bay.
“I draw inspiration from everything,” says the freckle-faced musician, “I draw a lot from love, from hate, from anger, from happiness.”
Besides writing, the dedicated artist also insists on being involved in the entire creative process of making the album. It probably comes as no surprise then that he’s a major perfectionist in the studio.
The self-proclaimed “song doctor” always makes sure each song is to his satisfaction before it gets sent to the various production stages. His input doesn’t just end there though. “Most of the time when I get mixes, I go ‘No, I hate this! I hate that! I hate this, send it back!’ There’s so much artistry in music that people don’t realise; so many hidden [aspects] like production and mixing.”
The hardworking student
If ever there was an excuse to drop out of school, the workload that comes after landing a record deal sure sounds like one. But Greyson made the admirable decision to stick it out and enrolled in classes online. As if it was a matter he’s given a lot of thought to, he firmly expressed his desire to get an education as his musical career progresses. “What I would really like is to do 2 years of regular college with normal subjects, and then go to a theatre school [to] learn more about acting, theatre, Broadway and music.”
The first-time actor
Greyson got the chance to add to his already-impressive resume when he made his TV debut on the comedy, Raising Hope, in which he plays the 13-year-old version of the male protagonist. “It was my first TV thing and it was really fun,” he says excitedly. Fans will be pleased to note that he’ll be back for the spring season as he hints at the possibility of appearing in “a lot of episodes”. And if the Glee rumours are to be trusted, we’ll be seeing much more of this baby-faced boy on our screens.
Singing, writing, playing the piano and now, acting. Is there anything the ambitious youngster can’t do?
Well… there is one thing.
“I don’t dance,” he says firmly, shaking his head.
The media-savvy nice guy
As 2 popular teens that appeal to the same demographics, and similarly found fame from YouTube, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable comparison with a certain floppy-haired popstar came up. And just as expected, Greyson’s quick to refute any rumours of any rivalry between Justin Bieber and him, reflecting his adept ability at handling tough questions.
“It’s quite flattering, to be honest with you,” he says, of being compared to the Canadian popstar. “We sing 2 completely different styles of music so it’s not like we’re competing against each other. We might share some of the same fans but we’re 2 different people.”
And as if to emphasise his point, the 1.62m singer adds diplomatically, “I love Justin’s new album too – the Christmas one,” before singing a few notes of ‘Mistletoe’.
Between showering praise on the Biebster and complimenting me on my choice in footwear (“I think that’s the first time I wanted to have pink on my shoes!”), Greyson is just as nice as you’d expect him to be – nicer, in fact – just don’t barge in on him when he’s in the bathroom.
Recalling his time during the Malaysian stop on his Southeast Asia promotional tour in November, he gets worked up as he describes how a crazed male fan came up to him when he was in the restroom and started hounding him for an autograph. “I got so angry. I literally did. I love my fans, don’t get me wrong, but not in the bathroom!”
Like any other boy his age, he also loves pranks. He admits to enjoying prank calling his work mates and even often got up to mischief with his tour buddy, Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson. In an interview with Seventeen, Greyson mentioned how the 2 of them played a practical joke on Cody’s sister by pretending to be publicists looking to sign her to a record label. “She ended up being a little mad, but it was all fun,” he says.
With fame coming at him so hard and so fast, you’d think Greyson would be forced to grow up quickly. In fact, when questioned on how show business has impacted his maturity, he answers playfully, “I’m actually secretly 45.” Somewhere into our 15-minute interview, it becomes apparent that underneath the soulful beyond-his-years vocals and impeccable work ethic, lies… well, a kid.
When he’s not busy juggling his many artistic projects with school, the rising star says modestly, “I’m somewhat a good photographer…”
The tourist in Singapore
Even though his tourist opportunities at each stop are mostly limited to the hotel rooms due to the sheer lack of time, the cherubic singer assures us that he did pick up a thing or two during his time here. And what better way to express that than by using our “national language” Singlish? “I’m learning a lot of things about Singapore… lah,” he says. “It’s been a very shiok (great) time here.”
Gesturing wildly, he also animatedly recounts his memorable experience at a fish spa, “I was screaming like a girl, it was really bad… but it was lots of fun. Now my feet are very soft.”
The insecure teen
Jokes aside, Greyson also struggles with insecurities of his own, just like any other teenager. “I get very anxious,” he admits, punctuating his words with a few quick snaps of his fingers. “I have a signing right now… and I’m like, ‘What if nobody shows up?’ I’m very scared about stupid stuff like that.”
A bigger worry than the fans though, is the critics, since his young age often becomes a matter of debate in music reviews and interviews. “‘Oh you’re 14, you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ I can’t tell you how many times I get that,” he says, confessing that he gets offended and hurt sometimes.
In a refreshingly candid interview with AOLMusic, he was quoted saying, “I just want to be like, ‘Girl, you want to look at the album credits right there? You see my name? I wrote those songs.’ … But I think in the long run my fans are [the same age as me] and that’s a really amazing thing to me that I can relate to them, being the same age.
Besides the self-doubt brought on by fame, he also surprised fans when he told Ellen how he used to be bullied back in middle school. He mentioned that it was mainly name-calling but that “[bullying] still hurts no matter what it is”.
Luckily, the successful artiste found solace in the one thing that made him happiest: Music. Along with songwriter Danielle Brisebois (‘Pocketful of Sunshine’, ‘Unwritten’), he wrote ‘Purple Sky’ (which is available as an Amazon MP3 bonus track on “Hold On ‘til the Night”), a stirring song that addresses bullying as well as the recent string of teen suicides.
He told J-14, “When kids are crying at midnight because they have to go to school tomorrow, I want them to be able to listen to this and feel a movement.”
Photo credits to Joel Lee from Klix Photography and Noel Teo
Since his much talked-about debut in 2010, Greyson has been nothing short of a welcome relief in the overcrowded pop scene of today. Whether the impassioned singer-songwriter is standing up for what he believes in through his many different undertakings or delivering his wisecracks with a twinkle in his eye, one thing you can be sure of is that he isn’t going to let show biz change him.
“Even if I was back home, I’d still be like this, no changes,” states the down-to earth artiste matter-of-factly.