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Teenaged Grace VanderWaal sings beyond her years

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Grace VanderWaal plays a sold-out show at Slim’s Feb. 20. (Courtesy photo)

Suffern, New York singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal has never had a past-life regression — in fact, she’s not even sure what one is. But chances are, this prescient, ukulele-strumming 14-year-old — who started writing songs at age three, won season 11 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” at 12 and composed or co-wrote every song on her soulful 2017 debut, “Just the Beginning” — has been through the world before. Her raspy, seasoned style on intricate tracks like “Moonlight” and the anti-authoritarian “Sick of Being Told” has the self-assurance of some vintage vaudevillian vet. “I’ve never had a regression, but I can truthfully say that I don’t bond very well with other 14 year olds,” she says.

Were you sufferin,’ growing up in tiny Suffern?
Ha! I think everyone there is, a little bit. But no, actually it’s nice. I really like our house there, and of course I still live with my mom. I’m only 14.

If you don’t get along with kids your own age, who do you pal around with?
I just hang out with my sister. She’s 17 and she’s a really good artist. She works in different mediums, but she generally likes to paint.

Why were you drawn to music from such an early age?
I don’t know. I seriously can’t answer that. It just kind of was there all my life. But I guess it was stuff like “High School Musical” that made me want to do it. And in class, I was viewed as being completely normal. But you know what? People don’t really care enough in school to actually get to know their classmates or know their hobbies. And I was home-schooled during “America’s Got Talent,” anyway.

How does school work now that you’re on the road?
I always do home schooling when I’m touring, and then I go to actual school when I’m back home.

You won “America’s Got Talent.” But instead of going to Disneyland, you commission the construction of a tree house by expert Pete Nelson?
When I was in an “AGT” Q&A session, they asked all of the contestants, ‘”What would you do if you won?” And I kept thinking, “What would I do? I really don’t know!” But as I was thinking about it, poof! The idea of a tree house just popped into my head.

And you even have a doghouse up there?
Yes. I have a pug named Frankenstein, but he’s sleeping here next to me right now — he’s on the road with me.

Do you write up there?
No. I really want there to be a disconnect.

What are you wishing for next?
A successful single. I haven’t had one yet, believe it or not!


Grace VanderWaal
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20
Tickets: $22.50, Sold Out
Contact: (415) 255-0333, www.eventbrite.com

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