However, Capitol Records convinced the reluctant songstress to go major on Sept. 6, after Braun introduced her to president Dan McCarroll and CEO Steve Barnett. "I was very skeptical walking into a label," Kelly says. "I'd been burned before. But when I met those guys, I had never felt that way: They were fans and really got me."
"Hearing her sing sealed the deal for me," Barnett says.
In between shows-now at 1,000-seaters like Chicago's House of Blues-Kelly's been working on her full-length debut, with an early 2014 release planned. "My whole winter is going to be blocked off for that," she says. She's been in the studio with Pharrell Williams, both for her album and his own forthcoming solo effort for Columbia. "He was fun to work with and I learned a lot," she says.
On Nov. 1, she'll perform for her biggest crowd yet, as opening act for Ed Sheeran at New York's Madison Square Garden. She's nervous, but it's "excited nervous," Kelly says. She's enjoying the moment she's in--weeks away from her 21st birthday, steps away from stardom--but can't help but daydream about her own headlining gig at the city's most storied venue. "That would be incredible," Kelly says. "Maybe this is the warm-up."
This story originally appeared in Billboard, released November 1, 2013.