Mamaroneck’s Carly Rose Sonenclar will be on tonight’s Boot Camp episode of “The X Factor.” I’ll be updating this post after her performance tonight and speaking with her first thing tomorrow moring, so check back here.
Meanwhile, here’s my story about the 13-year-old phenom.
Welcome to Boot Camp, Pvt. Carly!
At 13, Carly Rose Sonenclar is a bit young for boot camp, but tonight, that’s where she’ll be: a girl from Mamaroneck back on national TV, singing her heart out on Fox’s “The X Factor.”
The Rye Neck eighth-grader — already a Broadway veteran and a regular on “The Electric Company” — wowed “X Factor” judges during her June audition in Providence, R.I., which aired last month. She watched the episode, not at home in Westchester, but in Los Angeles, though she couldn’t reveal at the time why she was there.
“You’ll have to tune in to find out,” she said then, already mastering the art of the TV tease.
Boot camp week pits 120 contestants — from auditions in Providence; Kansas City, Mo.; Austin; San Francisco; and Greensboro, N.C. — in a showdown in Miami. Tonight are solos of the artists’ choice; tomorrow, they perform duets. The 24 acts who’ll move on in the competition will be announced Oct. 10 in a two-hour episode.
Carly enters boot camp with a following well beyond Westchester: Two versions of her “X Factor” audition, a bluesy spin on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube.
“Before this, the highest a video I was in ever got was 20,000 views, for an ‘Electric Company’ video, so that had a lot of ‘Electric Company’ followers, it wasn’t just for me,” she says. “And now the ‘X Factor’ video has millions and my other videos have gone up.”
Her Twitter profile is higher, too — she has Twitter fans from around the globe, including ESPN’s Buster Olney — although people posing as her have co-opted some of that.
“Before it aired, I had 96 followers and now I have more than 4,000,” she says. (That number is now nearing 10,000.) “But there are people impersonating me on Twitter and they have 80,000 followers and I have 4,000. My Twitter account, the official one, is CarlyRoseMusic.”
The whole experience — auditioning, keeping it secret, having it air and now becoming a celebrity in the halls of Rye Neck Middle School — is a bit surreal, she says.
“It was very weird to watch myself on TV, and to see my parents on TV,” she says.
What was strange to see was how she astonished the judges — L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and Simon Cowell.
Cowell said he was certain that the sound he heard had come from someone singing offstage, that it wasn’t possible it had come from tiny Carly.
“I promise, I promise,” she said, trying to convince Cowell she was legit.
Spears said: “Wow! Miss Thang! You are a little diva! You were unbelievable. You were amazing. I was not expecting that. You can see, all of us completely are in love with you.”
Said Reid: “Honey, you may be 13, but your soul is old.”
Cowell, after being convinced it was, in fact, Carly singing, said: “A star has just walked out on that stage.”
If she’s not quite a star yet, she certainly has starry influences, from The Black Keys and The Beatles to Bruno Mars.
“Bruno Mars is kind of the male version of what I want to do as an artist,” she says. “He’s on the charts, but he also brings that soulful aspect to it. That’s what I want to do. He’s a big inspiration.”
As is Kelly Clarkson, the first “American Idol” winner.
“She can really sing, it’s not AutoTuned, and she comes from the ‘American Idol’ background, with Simon Cowell, so she’s a great person to look up to.”
Not that Carly’s a newcomer to showbiz. She was a second-grader at F.E. Bellows Elementary School in Mamaroneck when she first played Broadway, as Young Cosette/Young Eponine in the revival of “Les Miserables.” She became a go-to kid for readings and backers’ auditions — including the musical “Wallenberg,” which came to White Plains PAC years later. In 2011, she was the best thing about “Wonderland” on Broadway, Frank Wildhorn’s ill-fated Alice in Wonderland musical.
Carly’s “X Factor” song choice set her apart from other young singers.
“I didn’t want to be predictable,” she said. “I think they would predict that a 13-year-old would be singing something that’s on the charts. I wanted to do something different, to bring that old-school soulful aspect, but I wanted to do one that people know. And I think people know ‘Feeling Good’ when they hear it.”
She’s not sure how much control she’ll have over her song choices going forward in the competition, but “hopefully I’ll have some control over what I sing.”
The Broadway veteran says “X Factor” editors made her seem more nervous than she really was in her first appearance on the show.
“I was nervous, but they made it look like I was a nervous wreck,” she says with a laugh. “Hopefully, people understand that that wasn’t completely true.”
She says the situation was pressure packed, though, since she was standing in the wings, able to see the judges, while the contestant before her auditioned. “You’re actually on the stage, so I thought it would make me nervous. But I was ready.”
Once she started to sing, Carly says, she was in “my own little world, which is how I usually am when I’m singing. I’m trying to connect to people and do that whole thing, but I think what helps me is not thinking too much about what people are thinking. I guess that’s why I didn’t remember what the judges did. But when I saw it later, I was like ‘They did that?’”
“I could tell that they liked it, though,” she said.
Particularly when they all stood up and applauded.
After the judges voted and moved her on to this week’s boot camp, Carly says she floated off the stage, which seemed somehow familiar.
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “It was a great weird feeling. I’ve watched the show and I’ve seen it happen to people. They go on, they get good feedback or bad feedback, their parents are there watching the screen and they come off and they hug. I’ve seen it done. But to have it be me doing it is still kind of a weird thing.
“But walking off, I felt like I did everything I came to do and more. And seeing my parents crying and going crazy was also fun.”
She’s enjoying the ride, she says, even on a tight schedule of interviews that has included “Extra” and “Access Hollywood Live.”