Grace VanderWaal stopped by the Billboard office to chat about how her latest single “Clearly” – which is a reimagining of Johnny Nash‘s 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now” – came about as part of the “How It Went Down” video series.
The song was first brought to VanderWaal’s attention by Ido Zmishlany, who co-produced her debut album Just the Beginning. “He told me that him and a few buddies were rewriting and adding on to this really famous chorus,” she explains, adding that as soon as she heard the chorus, she ran out to tell her mother about it, who instantly recognized the original song.
“So I ran back in, I was like OK I know that song,” the 14-year-old singer continues. “I’ll try singing it. I’ll test it out but I can’t promise that I wanna keep it. So I started singing it, I’m like these words are amazing, oh my gosh they are touching my soul so much.”
“And we took some takes of it and it was actually super cool,” VanderWaal adds, “and by the end I’m like, ‘Of course I’m keeping this. This is a masterpiece – [Zmishlany], you’re such a genius.’”
She also explains that while she loves the sound of choirs on songs, it requires a great deal of work to do so. To accomplish that sound, Zmishlany recorded nearly a dozen different takes of himself singing the part to sound like various different people, while VanderWaal did “like a million” takes, as well. Some were recorded from across the room, and one was intentionally recorded with a “really weird voice” because, as she jokes “there’s always that one kind of bad person in the choir, like you gotta mix that in.”
You can watch the video above to hear the full story of how Grace VanderWaal’s “Clearly” went down, and to hear an adorably funny story about the filming of the music video.