Courtney Hadwin, the 13-year-old British girl who astonished judges and the viewing audience with her powerful voice on America’s Got Talent, says that Janis Joplin is one of her favorite singers.
In an interview with Heavy, the girl – who has been compared to Joplin by admirers of her powerful singing voice – said, “To be compared to Janis Joplin is really cool. I look up to Janis Joplin, and she’s one of my favorite singers.” She listed James Brown, Christina Aguilera, Mick Jagger, and Aretha Franklin as other influences. “I like Janis Joplin. I like that she’s not scared to be different, and she’s her own person,” Courtney said, adding that she also reads biographies of the singer.
Hadwin performed a stunning rendition of an Otis Redding classic on AGT. She is from Hartlepool, a town in County Durham, England. Judges praised her voice as a throwback to an earlier time. She’s been performing for years and has come close to winning other competitions.
“Singing means everything to me,” Courtney told Heavy. “I don’t know what I would do without singing to be honest.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Hadwin Says She Becomes ‘a Different Person’ When She Sings
In the interview with Heavy, Hadwin explained her love for singing. “I think it’s just when I sing I feel like I’m a different person,” she said, saying it feels like she’s “somewhere else” when she takes the stage.
In fact, the typically shy teen (who is anything but shy on stage and comes across as bubbly and humble in interviews), says, “I feel more confident singing than talkin’. I express myself when I sing more than talking, I feel.” She even sings in the shower (as do many of us, but we don’t sound anywhere near as good.)
“People say I’m shy,” Courtney admits, adding, “My dream is to be performing in arenas, and I really want to perform at Woodstock like Janis Joplin.” She added, “It wasn’t that long ago; I didn’t really listen to Janis Joplin at 9 or 10. I think it was more like 11 or 12.”
You can see video of Hadwin’s standout audition for AGT below. At first, when she took the stage, she admitted she was a “little bit nervous.” She told the judges she was only 13, and her favorite subject in school was music.
The judges told her she was sweet, and former Spice Girl Mel B implored her not to be nervous on the “big stage.” She was told to “go for it and good luck.” At that point, Courtney began belting out Otis Redding’s song Hard to Handle in dramatic fashion while dancing around the stage. The video brings to mind Susan Boyle’s shock performance that made her a household name.
The judges looked astonished. “When you sing you’re like a lion,” Simon Cowell said.
Courtney told Heavy that she was surprised and thrilled to get the golden buzzer on AGT. “I really didn’t expect to get the buzzer,” she told Heavy. “It just didn’t seem real. It seemed like a dream.”
She admits “I was really scared.” She describes her typical day as going to school “and then I come home, I do my singin’, and I do my homework.”
Courtney Almost Won Voice Kids UK & a Video of Her Singing at School Previously Went Viral
It’s not the first time the girl has wowed judges. She almost won The Voice Kids UK in 2017. “I have already booked time off from work in the hope she gets right through to the final. I’m so proud of her,” her grandfather, Tom Storey, a security guard, said then. See below:
He told the Inverness Courier, “Courtney is actually painfully shy, which I know people will find hard to believe after seeing her perform on stage like that. If you ever met her you would hardly believe she was the same girl singing and dancing on that stage. But as soon as she gets a microphone in her hand, well, it’s like two different people.” He also indicated, “I don’t know where she got her singing talent from as there’s no way it was from me.”
Courtney’s Instagram profile reads, “COURTNEY HADWIN 13 year old singer. Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.”
In the interview with Heavy, Courtney said that she “got to the finals” in the British competition and also performs at charity events in the UK.
Her first big break came when she started singing during an open mic organized at school by her music teacher. She sang Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s Say Something. The school uploaded the video to Facebook, and it went viral. That happened in 2017, according to Chronicle Live, which described her then as “the small girl with the huge voice.” You can watch video of that open mic here.
She told the newspaper at the time, “I haven’t been able to walk down the corridor at school without someone stopping me and saying ‘well done’; it’s been weird but good at the same time. I don’t really get nervous so even though I was singing in front of hundreds of people I just got on with it.” She had already been performing in public for two years at that time, though, at local festivals and the like.
Hadwin told Heavy of that video: “I kind of just went and sang, and I look back at it now and…it was really, really fun.”
Fast forward to June 2018 and America’s Got Talent.
“You are not from this era. You’re from a whole different era,” Judge Howie Mandel told Hadwin. “And I’m a huge Janis Joplin fan and there’s a story — if you’ve ever watched the documentary — Clive Davis, he goes to the Monterey Pop Festival and he sees this young girl that nobody’s ever seen before, that nobody knows. It was the first time that Janis Joplin got signed and that changed her life. I’m not Clive Davis, I’m Howie Mandel, and I can’t sign you to a record deal. The only thing I can do for you, young lady, is give you…” He then revealed he was giving the girl a golden buzzer. That sends her right to the live shows and the quarterfinals of the televised competition, where the winner takes home $1 million.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I auditioned for @AGT but the golden buzzer was more than I ever could have dreamed of. Thank you so much @howiemandel I am so happy and can’t thank you enough xx,” Courtney wrote on Twitter after the performance.