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Now, when Greyson Chance wakes up most mornings, the clouds are thick over the Santa Monica Pier near the two-bedroom apartment he shares with either Scott or Lisa Chance, who take turns living in California with their son for three weeks at a time. After about four hours of Internet-based school, Greyson is off to the recording studio, where he records tracks for his upcoming debut album and learns the ins and outs of mixing a hit record.
"I'll start, like, 'No, let's put that drum in there,' or 'that bass line needs to be a little bit cooler,'" Greyson said during a rare return visit to Edmond. "I love the creative process. It's been really cool, and I actually have somewhat of a home studio in my apartment. I have just a simple little thing that I can record with, so I'm starting to record my own tracks. I mean, not full tracks — just piano and vocal."
Greyson, now 13, opens his Apple laptop and powers up iTunes to play some finished tracks, including a fully mixed recording of his version of Augustana's "Fire." He cannot reveal any other song titles yet, but anyone expecting a Justin Bieber-style torrent of AutoTune-powered dance-pop will be either pleasantly surprised or deeply disappointed. It wasn't Greyson's style before, and it hasn't been imposed upon him, either.
His new songs showcase the piano chops he picked up during three years of lessons, a skill made obvious when he sits down at the baby grand piano he received as a gift this summer from Yamaha. Walt Myrick of Larsen Music said he got a call from Yamaha Artist Affairs in Nashville, Tenn., saying the company was giving Greyson the piano.
"So they called and told us it was on the way," Myrick said. "They shipped it to us, we uncrated it, got it prepped, tuned, delivered it. And he sat down and played it."
And while Greyson has only played the piano a few times on return trips to Edmond, he gets all he can out of it when his fingers hit the keys. It is a playing and singing style suited for big, mature-sounding pop music that, unlike most of the hits charted by teenage acts, does not have an obvious expiration date.
"It's more rock, like Coldplay kind of thing," he said, shortly before launching into the familiar opening chords of Coldplay's "The Scientist." "I think music comes from passion, and music is an art, so it's really moody — some songs are depressing and yet others are happy and uplifting, because they're coming from me."
In the old version of music industry success, record companies sent "artist and repertoire" executives to clubs, night after night, where they waited to hear the next great pop singer, the next paradigm-shifting band.
What led up to Greyson's new life is the stuff of "Fame 2.0."
On April 28, his brother Tanner, then 18, posted video on YouTube of Greyson singing a piano-ballad version of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." On May 11, the video suddenly went viral with high-profile embeds on RyanSeacrest.com, TVGuide.com and The Huffington Post.
The next day, Greyson taped a segment of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
Two weeks later, Greyson returned to DeGeneres' talk show to announce that he had signed a contract to record for eleveneleven, DeGeneres' new boutique label distributed by Geffen/Interscope.
One month after "Paparazzi," Greyson Chance was one of the most famous 12-year-olds on the planet. Two months after "Paparazzi," the Chances were in California.
"We moved out there on June 23, and we were there for the summer," Lisa Chance said. "My oldest son (Tanner) came out there and spent most of the summer with us, so it was more like a vacation at first.
"Then school started," she said. "My daughter (Alexa) came out a couple of times, and then she came home and started school. My son left and started school, and Greyson had to start Internet school, and it became more of a job."
Now, in addition to being loving and caring parents, Scott and Lisa Chance are responsible for ensuring that Greyson gets to his recording sessions on time. The plan, according to Greyson, is to issue three or four singles leading up to the full-length album executive produced by Ron Fair, who is known for his mentorship of Christina Aguilera and the Black Eyed Peas. Greyson also is working with Danielle Brisebois, the former child star of "Archie Bunker's Place" who went on to write hits such as Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" and "Pocketful of Sunshine."
Beyond his newfound recording skills, Greyson said he has learned important lessons about writing great songs.
"Always have a good bridge," he said.
In some ways, the Chances are in the middle of their own bridge, and they will reach the chorus sometime in 2011. Once the album hits stores and online retailers, Greyson's action-packed May 2010 might feel like a vacation in retrospect. Lisa Chance said they are ready to span the globe on Greyson's behalf.
"We got everyone in the family passports," she said. "We'll just see. Every day is a change."
As for Greyson, his main concern is pleasing the millions of people who discovered him in the past six months. If he can do that, he'll be ready for those flashing lights.
"It's a lot of pressure, because I worry about what my fans are going to think about my music. I love my fans, and I don't want to let them down," he said. "It's been crazy, it's been hectic, but it's something I'm always going to remember."
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