When 13-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 on eleveneleven, Maverick and Geffen Records.
“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.”