Madison Beer sits in a lounge at Island Records' headquarters in midtown Manhattan playing Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" on the piano and quietly singing to herself.
Her folks, Robert and Tracie Beer, and her promotion team are talking about her busy week, including her national television debut at the U.S. Open's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in Queens on Saturday, where the 15-year-old from Jericho will perform her new single "Unbreakable."
There are rehearsals to be done. There are meetings to be had. But, for the moment, Madison is lost in the song.
"I just love music -- I was always singing and dancing," Madison says later, adding that there are videos of her at age 4 singing "God Bless America," along with the Nat King Cole standard "L-O-V-E," which she immediately starts in on with a smile. " 'L is for the way you look at me' -- I just love that." (Her mom agrees, saying, "She came out of me singing, so this is kind of like destiny.")
It was that love of music that led her in the spring of 2012 to Loft Sound Studio in Plainview, to record her singing. "I thought it was a fun thing to get to do to go to the studio and do some YouTube covers," she says, adding that she picked Etta James' "At Last" because her grandmother loved the song. "It was just something I did after school, you know?"
When she posted the video on YouTube, though, the after-school project turned into something else entirely. Justin Bieber liked it. Not only did the Biebs like it, but he tweeted out a link to Madison's version of "At Last" to all 25 million or so of his Beliebers, calling her "#futurestar," and soon she was trending on Twitter.
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"I didn't believe it," Madison says. "I thought it was a trick. I thought I was reading it wrong. It was crazy. ... To him, it was just a tweet, but to me, it changed my whole life."
Her mother was equally confused. "It was so surreal," Tracie says, recalling that the video's views quickly climbed into the thousands. "I was walking around like a zombie, thinking, 'What is going on?' My daughter's life is going to change at this point."
Well, all of their lives changed. Bieber signed Madison to the label he is on, Island Records, and with his manager, Scooter Braun. (He even made a cameo in her first video, "Melodies.") Robert Beer said that when they go to Roosevelt Field mall now they have to try not to attract attention. "All it takes is one person to post something to Instagram" (where Madison has 2 million followers), he said. "The mall has asked us to leave twice now."
Now, Madison is ready to stand on her own. She has been shuttling between Jericho and Los Angeles for months as she works on her debut album, set to arrive early next year. "Being in the studio is my absolute favorite thing," she said, adding that her debut will feature more of an R&B influence than her first singles. "I've been trying to figure out a lot of different things. I'm still trying to figure out my exact sound."
Singing at the U.S. Open
More pressing, though, is the work she's doing to get ready for her performance at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, which is even more special because of her love of tennis and her memories of attending the event with her father over the years.
"I'm really nervous," she said, about the performance. "The biggest audience I've ever had is about 100 people. The only time I've been on a big stage like that was my birthday, when Justin brought me onstage in front of 18,000 people in London. All I did was stand there and be scared."
Madison laughs at the memory. "I'm a lot different now," she said. "I'm ready for this. It's going to be great."
Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
WHAT Featuring Madison Beer, Hunter Hayes and Shawn Mendes
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. Saturday, USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing (broadcast noon Sunday on CBS/2)
INFO $10-$50; 800-745-3000,ticketmaster.com
IF YOU GO
Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the U.S. Open is about more than just the music, though the event has hosted everyone from Rihanna (2005) to Justin Bieber (2009) to Ariana Grande and The Wanted last year. Between concerts from Hunter Hayes, ShawnMendes and Madison Beer, here's what else you can check out:
PLAY LIKE A PRO You can test your skills on the same courts the pros will play on during the U.S. Open tournament. The little kids even get a chance with youth tennis where the courts and the rackets are scaled to their size.
OBSTACLE COURSE Run through a variety of tennis-related challenges that test balance and agility in the unique race.
GET CLOSE TO YOUR TENNIS IDOLS Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be on hand to meet fans. And because the tournament starts Monday, players will be all over the grounds at practices open to the public.