Concert Spotlight: Interview with Grace VanderWaal

13-Year-Old Sensation Launches First Tour

If you don’t know the name or the face of Grace VanderWaal, you are not one of the viewers who checked out her America’s Got Talent “Grace” audition video that has amassed over 71 million views. The Season 11 winner of the show stunned Simon Cowell, Mel B, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and all of America so much that the judging panel hit the coveted golden buzzer, advancing Grace directly to the live shows o an original song. She went on to win the season at age 12 last year.

Grace VanderWaal is already a media darling. She’s performed on the Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Z100’s Jingle Ball Tour 2016, halftime at a New York Knicks game, opening and closing performances at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, and Cyndi Lauper’s annual holiday fundraiser at the Beacon Theatre (duetting with Lauper on “True Colors”), and she releases her debut album Just The Beginning this month, November 3.

VanderWaal is relatable, spunky, honest, charming, all with a slightly raspy vocal tone and wonderful ability to connect with the audience while playing ukulele. The Suffern, NY-based singer who was called “the next Taylor Swift” by Simon Cowell and praised by Stevie Nicks launches her first solo tour with a stop November 13 at Irving Plaza. VanderWaal’s full artistry is illustrated well on bouncy debut single “Moonlight,” and one of the standout tracks on the album is the delicate “Beautiful Thing.” Grace spoke with New York City Monthly about her favorite act to watch on her season of America’s Got Talent, her favorite Broadway shows, and her experience shooting her music video in Brooklyn…

At 13 years old, what’s it like embarking on your first tour – which is sold out – Do you feel more pressure for touring or for things like performing on Ellen and Live with Kelly and Ryan?

No, I do not. On TV it’s people who may not know me, but on tour it’s people who know who I am and usually fans.

You mesmerized millions of TV viewers with your singing and ukulele playing on Season 11 of America’s Got Talent. What is one behind-the-scenes moment of the show that stands out or perhaps one other act that you became friends with or really enjoyed watching perform?

I loved watching The Clairvoyants; I have no idea how they do it. It was crazy because all of the other magic acts you could see the trick during rehearsals, but not the Clairvoyants. They were always different and I just couldn’t figure it out, and I tried!

Just The Beginning is your debut album being released on November 3. “Moonlight,” “Sick of Being Told” and “So Much More Than This” are three big songs right now. Do you have a song you are most looking forward to playing?

There is a song called “City Song,” and it seems like it will be really fun to perform. I don’t know, it’s just like I can picture it and I feel like it’s very fun dancing for this performance.

It looks like you shot the “Moonlight” music video in New York. What was this like and where in New York were you?

It was really fun to shoot there, and we shot it in Brooklyn at this cool construction site. It was really fun dancing on the roof and being by all the buildings. The highlight for me was creating the storyline and having the vision come to life.

You come from New York, just north of New York City. What’s it been like visiting the city over the years. Do you have a favorite memory of checking out a show or walking around the busy streets?

I love going to shows in New York for special occasions and watching plays. It’s the experience that matters. I love musicals and there are tons that I really enjoy. I love Kinky Boots, Something Rotten, The Lion King.

What will be most special to you about playing your hometown at Irving Plaza 11/13 for family, friends, and local fans?

It’ll be really special l because a lot of people that I know will be seeing me, and it will be a fun show.