Interview: A Minute with Ellen’s Bright-Eyed, Freckle-Faced Greyson Chance.
by Daniel Haim
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.
Daniel: It’s a pleasure to get to speak with you Greyson, you’re a true talent! Tell us the story about you, where how and when did all of this begin for you?
Greyson: My brother sent the link of my youtube to the Ellen show. I was on the Ellen show on May 13th. I signed shortly after with Interscope, and I am currently working on my album.
Daniel: Has music always been a big part of your life?
Greyson: Yes, I have been singing for as long as I can remember and writing music for a very long time.
Daniel: Who are your major influences in the music industry?
Greyson: Lady Gaga, Augustana, John Lennon, John Legend, Christina Aguilera.
Daniel: You’ve got more then 30 million people who have seen your performances on YouTube – what does that feel like?
Greyson: It feels great — this has been a blessing from God.
Daniel: You told Ellen that you don’t take voice lessons, did you start taking voice lessons, or are you still training alone?
Greyson: No, I still have not taken any voice lessons.
Daniel: Lots of people are saying how you are ‘the next Justin Bieber’ – what do you think of that? How do you compare your music style to Justin’s?
Greyson: Justin is an amazing artist. He is a great performer. He has sold many records. But, our music is very different.
Daniel: Has Lady Gaga reached out to you? Did you get a feedback from her?
Greyson: Yes, I have met her twice. She is an amazing kind person.
Daniel: This is your first time recording music in a studio, what’s been the hardest part about that?
Greyson: And the best part? Ron Fair is an amazing producer. He lets me pour out my emotion into my records.
Daniel: Did your family move out to LA with you? What do they think of this whole life-changing event?
Greyson: No, we still have our house in Edmond, Oklahoma. I think they are loving it as well.
Daniel: Do you like using sites like Twitter to communicate directly with your fans?
Greyson: I love Twitter. It is a great resource for me to connect and to stay in touch with my fans.
Daniel: Besides playing music, what do you do for fun?
Greyson: I love playing soccer, but my main enjoyment is playing the piano, singing, and just making music.
Daniel: Are you planning to return to school in the fall? Will you be homeschooling or traveling with a tutor? How do you feel about that?
Greyson: I am going to be doing online school. I am very exciting to be starting something new.
Daniel: What’s on the horizon for Greyson Chance?
Greyson: A new record and hopefully a long career in music.