Hundreds of Wild 94.1 listeners – and a few tables' worth of lucky diners – were treated to an up-close-and-personal performance by rising singer-songwriter Tori Kelly on Tuesday at the Hard Rock Café inside Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Kelly, who found fame on YouTube and American Idol, was there as part of Wild 94.1's Tampa Bay Talent Search, a singer-songwriters' contest in which local artists can compete for cash, prizes and potential label recognition.
Kelly performed four songs, including hits Nobody Love and Should've Been Us, alone with an acoustic guitar, a satisfyingly stripped-down presentation from her usual R&B-tinged pop style.
The coffeehouse/Storytellers format showcased her sensitive songwriting skills, and her onstage Q&A with Wild 94.1's Orlando Davis gave fans insight into her inspirations (a combination of gospel music, classic rock, R&B and 'N Sync) creative process and refusal to be pigeonholed as a blank pop slate.
"The temptation is always there -- or it was always there as I was figuring out what my sound was going to be," she said.
"There was a point where – and it wasn't like an instant immediate thing – where I was like, 'This is my sound, I'm gonna do this.' It's definitely a process you have to allow yourself to go through, and sometimes it sucks, because you're like, 'Why are you telling me to do this type of song? I want to do that type of song.' And it probably won't get that big, but it's just for you.
"There's a point where you just have to really try everything, but also know what you're saying. It's good to experiment, but you know what you're comfortable on stage doing."
Click the headline of this post for a slideshow of photos from Tuesday night.
-- Jay Cridlin