For years, you might have seen the KidzBop commercials on children’s television networks. KidzBop is up to album No. 31, which features songs such as “Same Old Love,” originally sung by Selena Gomez; “Sorry,” made famous by Justin Bieber; “Wildest Dreams,” a hit for Taylor Swift; and “Hello,” Adele’s mega hit. The difference from the originals is that the songs are sung by kids and any objectionable lyrics are cleaned up for an elementary school-age audience.
The albums and the accompanying music videos are all made by four kids, ages 12-15. They will kick off their tour in Austin April 23 at ACL Live.
Two of the KidzBop kids are from Texas. Sela Hack, 15, is from San Antonio, and Grant Knoche, 13, is from Dallas. We talked to Grant about how he became a KidzBop kid and what it’s like being one.
Grant has been singing since he was 7 and playing the piano since he was 9. Grant was 10 when he answered the KidzBop casting call by making a YouTube video. Then producers asked semifinalists to sing and dance on a Skype call. That lead to a two-day boot camp and audition, which happened to be in Dallas. He was chosen and signed a three-year contract.
Grant is both home-schooled, a student at the online K12 and KidzBop has a teacher as well. Currently, the kids are in rehearsal for the tour, which means they have have 90 minutes of school, followed by rehearsal and lunch, more rehearsal, then another 90 minutes of school, and then the rest of their schooling they do individually at night.
They’re also recording album No. 32 and making music videos for that.
There’s no drama between the kids, Grant says. “On the tour, we can’t get enough of each other,” he says. “At night, it’s ‘who’s room do we want to go to?'”
Once the tour kicks off, Grant will be home a few days in the middle of the week and then at shows on the weekends. Typically, his father, who was a project manager before KidzBop came calling, travels with him on tour. They travel both by airplane and this year by KidzBop bus, inside which each kid has a bunk. Sometimes his mom comes with him, but she’s a vice president of a mortgage processing company.
Grant’s favorite song to sing so far has been “Uptown Funk,” originally by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, but he really also like the dances they do, including the dance to “Break Free,” originally sung by Ariana Grande. It involved strobe lights and different formations.
What he really loves is watching the young fans in the audience singing with him. “They’re jumping up and down, and we sing to them. Sometimes we bring them up on stage,” he says.
KidzBop isn’t all about singing cover songs. The group has its own songs as well, which the kids all know because of the music videos KidzBop makes. This year the new, original song is “Life of the Party,” after which the tour is named.
Grant won’t talk about the money that comes with this gig. “We’re not allowed to talk about it,” he says. “I love to be really humble about it.”
When his contract ends at the end of this year, Grant plans to concentrate on building a solo singing career. KidzBop already has helped him with that, he says, because he’s gotten to meet venue managers and other artists while on tour.
Grant isn’t the only Knoche to chase stardom.His brother Hunter, 18, who is a drummer in the band Fly Away Hero, was on “The Barney Show” and a Smucker’s commercial.
KidzBop “Life of the Party” tour
When: 6 p.m. April 23
Where: Austin City Limits, 301 W. Second St.