(Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX)
USA TODAY - Britney Spears referred to Carly Rose Sonenclar as "the little girl with the big voice." Simon Cowell, impressed by the teen's preternatural vocal performances of songs such as Rolling in the Deep and Hallelujah on The X Factor, called her "the best alien I've ever heard sing in my life." Now, after finishing as runner-up to country singer Tate Stevens on the second season of the show, the young singer from New Jersey is preparing to make her debut album.
"I've been writing a lot," says Sonenclar, 14. "Simon Cowell's company picked up my recording option. That's something that has been very exciting for me."
A shocking non-elimination. Tate and Sonenclar pretty much ran the table on The X Factor, but Sonenclar says she convinced herself every week that she was going to be eliminated -- especially the week before the finale. "During a commercial break, I went to the bathroom and practiced what I was going to say when I got kicked off," she says. "I thought I was going home -- completely. Then I got on stage, and I was all ready, and I heard my name, that I was going through. It was insane. I was shocked."
The write stuff. With Cowell's Syco Entertainment exercising its option for Sonenclar's recording contract, she has begun working with producer Toby Gad and Autumn Rowe, her X Factor vocal coach. "I'm writing all the time, just by myself," she says. "It doesn't necessarily have to be me with somebody else in the room. I have a piano in my house. I can always go down to the piano and play, and write by myself. So when I do have a session set up with somebody, I can come in with stuff."
The kids in the hall. After The X Factor, Sonenclar returned to seventh grade at her school in New Jersey. But she's probably not the person you'd want to draw as a partner for your science project. "Like this week, I had a lot of projects, and I could barely work on them with the people in my group because I had to keep going to the city every day after school," she says. While she already was a familiar face to her seventh-grade classmates, it's different with "the people in sixth grade, the younger kids," she says. "I always hear my name once or twice as I walk by -- 'That's Carly Rose Sonenclar!' It's something I have to get used to, people staring at me as I walk through the halls. Stuff like that is a little weird, but it's nice. I guess."
An all-around player. When Sonenclar talks about wanting to go into acting, perhaps even landing a feature film, she sounds like every other singing-competition singer whose vision of their own career path exceeds what's actually before them -- until one takes into account her existing resumé. Sonenclar got her start in an off-Broadway production of The Night of the Hunter, which led directly to a year and a half playing young Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway. "The casting director for Les Mis happened to know somebody from Night of the Hunter," Sonenclar says. "They were in the audience one night and said, 'Oh, I want her to go out for Cosette.' So I did. And I got it." She also has appeared on Broadway in Wonderland and toured in a production of Little House on the Prairie, the Musical with Melissa Gilbert. Her on-screen work includes roles in The Nanny Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and PBS' Electric Company re-launch.
A hint of things to come. Perhaps Sonenclar was always meant for a singing competition: When she was three years old, she entertained her family by singing along to the debut season of American Idol, particularly when Kelly Clarkson and Nikki McKibbin came onscreen. "My family would be watching the TV, and I would be facing them or facing the TV, depending on whether I wanted to actually give them a concert or not," she says. "I'd be singing along -- not words, but what I thought sounded like what the person was singing. So it would be completely made up on the spot. But I never admitted that. I had to make it seem like I knew exactly what I was doing and I was very professional."
Where she fits in. Sonenclar, who performed at the Gannett_Upfront presentation to advertisers in New York in March, hasn't begun recording her album, so she can't yet get specific about how it might sound. "When I get asked this question, I usually say the five artists I look up to the most, and that's Bruno Mars, Adele, Maroon 5, Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran," she says. "If I could put all of them together, that would be the album."
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)