Seventeen-year-old pop singer-songwriter Sophie Beem comes with a few famous seals of approval. Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, and the other X Factor judges gave her the first big break of her career when they welcomed her to the show in 2012. (She would make it to the Top 40.) And then there was Beyoncé, who announced that she signed Beem to her newly formed label Parkwood Entertainment last year.
Since then, Beem has collaborated with Fetty Wap, opened for Charlie Puth on his North American tour and dropped her self-titled, debut EP. And while Queen B is blasting Beem’s single “Skyline” to her audience before every Formation Tour stop this summer, Mr. Beyoncé has booked the up and comer for his annual Made In America festival this September — which is all to say, Beem is poised to have a very big 2016.
EW recently caught up with New York native to talk musical dreams, the lasting impact of Hannah Montana, and what it means to have the first couple of entertainment on her side.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your first break came in 2012 when you made it into the Top 40 on X Factor. When did you know you wanted to pursue music?
SOPHIE BEEM: Before the show, I was at this sleep-away camp, [performing arts summer camp] French Woods Festival, and my mom was like, “If you really want to do this, I’m going to put you to the test.” So she’s the one who signed me up for X Factor — which was amazing. I got to perform in front of Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, and the 1,000 people in the audience. When I walked on stage, I could feel that the stage was home to me. I was more nervous talking to the judges than actually performing! But I realized that [the show] was really reality television, and that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an actual artist that wrote her own songs.
How did you link up with Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment?
I was performing at local gigs downtown [in New York City] after X Factor ended and the old general manager of Parkwood came to my show at the [Greenwich Village venue] Bitter End and loved it. She asked me if I would put together a package for Beyoncé, with a personal letter saying why I wanted to be an artist. I was like, “Yes! Okay!” And then she flew to Amsterdam while Beyoncé was on tour and delivered it to her. Within a week I got a call saying that she wanted to sign me as one of her first artists — I was freaking out, just, like, in my bedroom, crying. [Laughs] Then I met her for the first time when the On the Run tour came to New York [in 2014]. I got to go back to her dressing room and she got up and gave me a hug and was, like, the nicest person ever.
You opened for Charlie Puth this spring. How was your first tour?
It was so amazing to have fans reacting to my music — just seeing that, I thought, I would want to do it every day of my life.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Growing up, I was in that Disney Channel phase where Hannah Montana was just starting, so I watched the whole thing. I loved that she was a little girl by day and a rockstar by night. And then the whole Camp Rock, High School Musical stuff — I was in love with all that. [Laughs] Then songwriting really happened because of the Beatles. I loved their storytelling. But Beyoncé is my biggest influence today because I have her as a mentor.
How much do you get to interact with her?
It depends what’s going on in her life, kind of. [Laughs] Right now she’s on tour so it’s more sending her stuff and then getting notes back but before we would sit down and go through my music together — and she came to my LA show of the Charlie Puth tour, at the Fonda theater, with Jay Z and sent me notes right after.
Your debut EP came out in March. Are you working on a full length?
I am definitely working on my full album — I have no idea when it’s going to be released. But today I’m going to write in the studio, and next week I’m going to LA to write with another producer and top-liner.
What is your favorite part of songwriting?
Having people get to know me through my music. Like, I want people to understand what I’m going through, but then relate it to themselves in some sort of way. [And] I love that sometimes it can be really girly — like when I went into the studio and literally just said, “I want to write a song about putting on nail polish,” for my EP – and sometimes it can be really serious about things that are happening in my life.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Definitely Made in America. I’ve never done a huge festival and I remember seeing all these videos from when [Beyoncé] performed — I’m excited to experience that.