Grace VanderWaal has traded in her trademark ukulele -- temporarily, don't worry -- for punctuating drums in her new song titled "City Song," released today (Oct. 26), just a week ahead of her debut album, Just the Beginning (out Nov. 3). Exclusively provided to Billboard, "City Song" showcases every shade of VanderWaal's dynamic voice. She sings, "Let's take the city and make it our song" with delivery way beyond her years.
“Growing up in New York, I always loved going to the city but was always disappointed because the city is busy and dirty," VanderWaal tells Billboard. "But songs out there made it seem very perfect and magical. Now at age 13, I learned that it’s not about the city itself, it’s about taking something and making it your own magical dream. That was the inspiration behind this song.”
Grace VanderWaal - So Much More Than This (Lyric Video)
@gracevanderwaal 💜💜💜 at her sold-out show in LA tonight!
Join us for a special performance + CD signing with Grace VanderWaal! Head up to Best Buy at MOA to get your copy of the album + wristband. Just last year, the young breakout star was crowned the champion of America’s Got Talent using all original music and her signature ukulele sound. Grace released her debut EP Perfectly Imperfect in December 2016, claiming stake as the best-selling EP of 2016, featuring the viral hit “I Don’t Know My Name”, her original audition song. This year, she released her infectious song “Moonlight”, amassing 20M video views & 25M global streams as the first song from her first album. The debut album Just the Beginning features music entirely written by Grace with multiple award-winning producers and writers. With the purchase of Grace’s new album, fans will get to meet Grace and receive a signed copy of the album.
Grace VanderWaal really has talent when it comes to taking her own life experiences and spinning them into songs that are relatable to others.
The season 11 America’s Got Talent winner sat down with PEOPLE Now to chat about the inspiration behind her new album when she revealed “most of my songs never happened to me.”
“I’ve never been in love, I’ve never, you know, sneaked out and did crazy, rebellious things,” she opens up about just some of the topics she touches on in her new album Just the Beginning, which drops Friday.
She adds, “I take experiences that I’ve had and make up a story to them that translates the exact same emotion. I did that all throughout the album.”
Two hours before Grace VanderWaal’s first big headline show in New York City, her fans are lined up around the block outside the Irving Plaza theater, huddled up against the mid-November chill. The age range is wide: kids in braces and sneakers mingle with older adults, mostly there as chaperones.
Inside, VanderWaal — all of 13 years old, and just one year into her career as a folk-pop superstar — is warming up onstage for her soundcheck. This is a venue that’s hosted legendary stars like Paul McCartney and the Ramones; popular acts like SZA and Cam’ron are on this year’s winter roster. But none of that seems to faze VanderWaal, who’s jumping around onstage in Keds and a flowy dress, belting her heart out to her recent hit single “Moonlight.” Looking on from above are her mom Tina and pug Frankie, who’s outfitted in canine-friendly headphones.
“I did it!” she says triumphantly at the end of the song. “Oh, I’m so out of breath, though.”
VanderWaal first captured the attention of audiences — and judges Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell — on America’s Got Talent last year, where her ukulele strumming, distinctively raspy warble and precocious songwriting won her a national fandom and the season’s title, by a landslide. Since then, she’s signed to Columbia Records; released the acoustic-forward EP Perfectly Imperfect and a full studio album Just the Beginning; struck a deal with Fender guitars; and has been named to Billboard‘s “21 Under 21” and called out as a “Rising Star.”
In the fall of 2016, Grace VanderWaal was crowned the winner of America’s Got Talent -- and “the next Taylor Swift” by judge Simon Cowell -- thanks to her original folk-pop tunes and uncanny poise. But as VanderWaal has proved, she’s much more than a ukulele-strumming singer-songwriter. In a landscape of ultra-polished female pop stars (like Swift herself), VanderWaal’s unvarnished authenticity -- from her husky vocals to her emotionally raw writing -- is refreshing.
“The artist I would love to be is inspiring and strong,” says VanderWaal. “Show that I can be vulnerable, but still independent.” Her Perfectly Imperfect EP shot to the top 10 of the Billboard 200, and she recently released her debut full-length album, Just the Beginning. “I just feel like a break in the clouds and sun shining through,” says VanderWaal, who had a hand in writing every song. “I finished the really hard part.”