Yes, you read that correctly. This talented gal took the coveted Gaviota de Plata (Silver Seagull) award in the singing competition at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile earlier this year. No, this event was not put on by a handful of tourists who found themselves on a drug binge because the price point was too good to be true. This festival is legit. This year, there were performances by Elton John, The Jonas Brothers and Daddy Yankee. The Quinta Vergara Amphitheater has a capacity of 20,000, and the performances were seen by millions of people on television stations such as Chilevisión.
Let me introduce you to Kelly King.
She was born in Atlanta, but at a young age her family relocated to Nashville. This is where she would start singing at the tender age of 2. Yes, you also read that correctly. She memorized the lyrics and melody to “Silent Night” and sang with her mother in church at just 2 years old. Although she appeared to be a musical prodigy, she will tell you that it was not her first focus.
“My very first love was actually dance,” Kelly says. “I wasn’t good at it. I had kind of a strange rhythm. For dance, it was a challenge because I couldn’t hear the rhythms the way a dance teacher would want you to hear them and perform them. I heard different things. They weren’t necessarily off, but I was off from the group dancing.” Tap ended up becoming her favorite style of dance and by age 12 she was a Showstopper American Dance national champion.
When it came to booking professional work as a child performer, however, many of the auditions required her to sing. Luckily for Kelly, the singing came easy. “I would book the job immediately after the singing part,” says Kelly. “I also realized that if I’m auditioning as the singer and not the dancer, I get paid more. So, I very quickly shifted to a singer-dancer instead of a dancer-singer.” And she never looked back.
Kelly would become the driving force in her career. She was the one who would scour the local paper for opportunities. She would beg her mother to take her to these auditions. Her parents always knew she was good, but they didn’t realize how good. Eventually, her future agent Randy would discover her and whisk her away to New York City. When she sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the famous Birdland jazz club, it was then that her father understood just how special his daughter was.
One of her greatest achievements happened when, by a stroke of luck, she was asked to open for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in New Jersey. The woman that was supposed to open the concert with “All By Myself” (the version with the Celine Dion key change) suddenly came down with laryngitis the day of. Frantically, the producers of the show called up Kelly’s agent to find a replacement. With “Jersey Boys” just weeks away from opening on Broadway, they demanded to bring in a big star such as Jennifer Holliday. No such name was available last minute. Kelly recalls Randy telling them, “Well, I got a girl for ya. She can do it. Her name is Kelly King. She’s 25 years old. Trust me.” Although they were unconvinced, they had no other choice but to go with this unknown girl from Nashville. “Next thing I know, I’m on a train out to New Jersey with a gown in tow. I didn’t really understand what I was getting into. Randy knew how to prep me and that was not prepping me at all.” She arrived to find a 75-piece orchestra and Frankie Valli standing in the wings. She rehearsed once and then it was showtime. “For the first time ever, I understood the statement ‘weak in the knees.’ I literally felt weak in the knees.” She did her solo — all by herself — and received a huge standing ovation from the crowd. Frankie came on stage, hugged her and invited her to dinner. It was this night that would lead to Kelly’s very first recording deal with Warner Bros.
When she’s not singing, Kelly is a writer and life coach. Her song “Dear Mr. Cringle” was the first Christmas song since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” to land on Billboard’s Top 25. Some of her other work appeared on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious.” As a life coach, her client list has included Paramore lead vocalist Hayley Williams and pop superstar Ariana Grande.
With all of this on her resume, one might wonder why she isn’t a household name by now. These days, many big names get their break through reality television. “I recently did ‘The X Factor’ for this season and I really thought this was it. I got yeses from all the judges. I got a standing ovation. Not one bad comment whatsoever and so I was on my way to LA for the bootcamp round. They changed it this year and I’m really bummed about it. This was the first year that they didn’t let the acts compete for the next place. They just walked in after we spent a day all sitting in a room and they said, ‘We’re cutting from 250 to 40 right now.’” Kelly got cut and that was that. Simon never saw her sing. It’s one hell of a business.
So, where do you find Kelly King? Her work is actually most famous in China, where being light-skinned and blond can really come in handy. But if you’re from the other hemisphere, you will most likely find her at NYC gay bars. Gay men make up her biggest fan base in the city, and she gets paid to perform at these venues. You can find out more about Ms. King by looking her up on her Facebook page or her personal website.
Still not convinced? How about you check out this video where the woman described as “Celine Dion meets ’90s Mariah” shows off her FIVE AND A HALF OCTAVE RANGE.