Q&A: On 'Inspired by True Events,' Tori Kelly gets personal

NEW YORK — When Tori Kelly's family entered a season of turmoil, the songstress coped by doing what comes natural to her: writing.

"So many things happened in the last couple of years in my personal life that it just felt like a rollercoaster. My parents actually separated. My grandfather passed away. And then on a happier note, I got married," she said. "All of these emotions, good and bad, just were bottled up inside of me."

The 26-year-old used those experiences to craft her latest project, "Inspired by True Events," released last month. The album marks her return to the pop music world after the release of her 2018 gospel album "Hiding Place," which won two Grammy Awards earlier this year.

"Some of (the new songs are) so personal that it's hard to sing sometimes, but it just felt so good to get it out," she said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Kelly talked about getting opening up through writing, making music for both Christian and secular fans, and her controversial mega-manager and recent object of Taylor Swift's criticism, Scooter Braun. Some answers may have been edited for brevity.

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AP: When authors write their autobiographies, they may ask their family for permission to include certain stories. Did you talk with your family before releasing this album?

Kelly: No matter how hard I try, there's always going to be stuff that is just for my marriage or that is just my family. Even if you give (listeners) little bits or if you tell your story, there's always things that are still going to be safe and just for you. My family has been a part of, obviously, my whole life. And even with my music, they've always been there and they've been my biggest supporters. So for me to play them these songs and be like, "Hey, I know we all went through a hard time but you guys know me and this is how I express myself through my music" — they said that they loved the music and they loved the album, so that was a cool feeling.

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AP: Do you worry that some of gospel fans won't listen to this album?

Kelly: I've always said I want to make life music, so whether that's just the last couple of years what I've gone through and then writing about that, or if it's, "Hey, I've gone through all these things and my faith is how I've gotten through a lot of these things," to me, any genre that I do, I'm just telling you about my life. And if you only listen to gospel music or Christian music, maybe you'll hear these songs and God is all up in those songs as well in this new album.

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AP: It seems like actually getting your Grammy Awards was a journey — almost like a metaphor for your music career.

Kelly: I missed the package delivery and there's a notice on my door and it's like, "Hey, you have to sign for these, so we're gonna leave them at the nearest Walgreens." They almost didn't even give them to me. There was some confusion with the name on there and the tracking number and stuff. And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, why is it so hard to get these Grammys?'"

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AP: Your manager, Scooter Braun, has been tangled in controversy in the news lately. Are you ever affected by things he goes through?

Kelly: I definitely try to stay out of stuff and at the same time, I really don't know a lot either. I don't know a lot of the situation at times. I try to focus on that and our relationship and who's been in my life. I just know from my experience that he's just a great guy and really believes in me as an artist and believes in his artists. He's just super supportive and has always been there.

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AP: Would you ever collaborate with any of his artists?

Kelly: I would love that. He has so many incredible artists that I think are just so dope and I would love to collab with any of the artists on his roster. Ariana (Grande) and I have sung together live before. We talked about doing something, maybe (smiles). Justin (Bieber) and I as well. So yeah, we'll see. It'd be really fun, though.

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AP: What do you want your fans to take away from "Inspired by True Events"?

Kelly: I'm just stoked for people to hear these songs and hopefully connect with these songs. While I'm writing these songs, I feel so isolated in a way, like, "Oh, no one is going to understand. This is so personal, so specific." So to then put these songs out and then have people connect with them in that way is really special. The greatest gift as a songwriter is once it gets away from you and it's not about you anymore, and then you get to share it, and hopefully help people — that's the best thing ever."

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Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary G. Hamilton at twitter.com/garyghamilton

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