Tori Kelly Talks 'Idol,' Ed Sheeran and Being 'Vanilla'

Lorne Thomson/Redferns
Tori Kelly performs at KOKO on Oct. 16, 2015 in London, England.

Tori Kelly is living the dream, but it hasn’t all come easy. 

In her coverstory for the latest edition of SeventeenKelly opened up about her relationship with reality TV, and with Ed Sheeran, and being branded “boring” by her own teammates.

The singer-songwriter’s career is on the rise. And thus far, she’s managed to navigate the many hurdles on the way to showbiz glory. How many folks could bounce back after hearing Simon Cowell’s acerbic remark that her voice was "almost annoying” (she was a teen at the time)? 

Tori Kelly: The Billboard Shoot

On being eliminated from season nine of American Idol, Kelly explained: "Deep down, I knew I was good, and I knew I could do it. I needed to get knocked down and to build up a thick skin. Who knows what I would have been singing about otherwise? You have to go through things in order to inspire others with your story."

And she shared a tough-love story, care of her manager. "He told me, 'People are saying you are vanilla and that you have nothing to say,'" she told the title. "I was like, Whoa. I remembered record-label guys telling me I was really reserved when I was younger. Like, 'Wake up, you should be bubbly and happy!' And I was thinking, But this is my personality; I'm just chilling. So I went right back to being that little girl who was just so freaked out. I acted as if I didn't care, but I went home that night and just poured all the feelings that I was holding back into my music. That's how Unbreakable Smile came to be."

Kelly also chatted about her collab with Sheeran, which yielded the song “I Was Made For Loving You”. Though she’s poured cold water on talk of a blossoming romance. 

Tori Kelly to Perform, Receive 'Breakthrough' Award at Billboard's Women in Music 2015

"I knew that was coming, but no," she said. "Working with him was a really cool experience because I was a fan and I didn't know how it would go, but right away he made it super-chill. Ever since then, he's been someone I consider a friend and even a mentor."

Kelly's full-length debut Unbreakable Smile peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 last July. Her career-year was recognized with the "breakthrough" award at Billboard's Women in Music 2015 event. 

Kelly performed album track "Funny" on Jimmy Kimmel Live overnight.