(This post was updated with a link to the winning video on Nov. 20, 2017.)
Riley Biederer learned how to exude confidence from Pharrell Williams, gleaned style tips from Gwen Stefani and caught the attention of Elton John as a teenager.
But the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter might soon have the opportunity to learn from her musical soul sister, Katy Perry.
Biederer is a finalist in the new YouTube series “Best. Cover. Ever.” The video competition, hosted by Ludacris and co-produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions, debuts at 4 p.m. Monday on YouTube. Biederer will vie for the chance to go to a “music lab” with her paired artist — Perry — and perform a live cover video with the star. Biederer’s competition is Australian band LYNK.
The 21-year-old musician decided to audition for Perry’s segment because, “I’m such a huge fan of hers. I grew up listening to her music … I think we relate musically and stylistically. She has a big, powerful voice and I feel I sort of do, as well.”
While many of the entries covering Perry’s “Firework” look as if they were produced in a movie studio or feature radical reimaginings of the song, Biederer, who has garnered a sizable following on social media and YouTube with some of her acoustic covers, kept hers straightforward.
“I wanted to do a stripped version because it’s a really big pop song,” she said, calling Thursday from Los Angeles, where she’s spent the past month working with writers and producers on her own material, a few hours before hopping a red-eye back to Atlanta. “I decided to film my video in the living room. My dad filmed me with a camera and put an audio recorder next to me so the audio would be clearer. I just decided to do it live.”
That authenticity caught Perry’s attention. The “Chained to the Rhythm” superstar told Biederer that she appreciated the inclusion of an acoustic guitar.
“She said that I reminded her a little bit of herself (when she was my age),” Biederer said.
Thousands of entries poured in from around the world from upstart musicians covering songs from all of the performers involved in the series — Perry, Keith Urban, Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, Charlie Puth, the Backstreet Boys and Flo Rida, among them.
On Dec. 21, Atlanta band HisStory will compete against Nashville singer Emma Lynn White to work with Urban after auditioning with his hit “Somewhere in My Car.”
Biederer, who maintains her own YouTube channel, as well as an Instagram account boasting 35,000 followers, received a high-profile boost when she competed on “The Voice” in 2015 and worked with Williams and Stefani.
For several years, she’s been an unabashed proponent of YouTube.
“I just think YouTube in general is such a great opportunity for emerging musicians, or for whatever you want to do,” Biederer said. “It’s kind of a new era of TV and entertainment. My advice is always to put yourself out there and do open mics and YouTube and anything that gives you exposure.”
While Biederer already knows the outcome of her competition, she is required to remain mum until the results are unveiled on Monday.
But regardless of whether she will get to trade “Firework” verses with Perry or not, Biederer is solidifying her future with a tweaked sound.
“Being in Atlanta, there are so many varieties of music out there, and it’s very hip-hop and R&B driven. I think being out there so long, I got swept into that genre,” she said. “I took a trip to Nashville and started writing just for fun, and it made me miss genuine songwriting and pop music. I’ve drifted out of the R&B scene and more into my pop roots.”
Perhaps the YouTube viewing population will soon get to hear Biederer “Roar.”