Christina Grimmie, one of YouTube’s most popular musicians, almost never joined the site at all.

“My friend convinced me to put a video up, when originally I did not want to,” the quirky 17 year-old tells EW. “I did on July 17th, 2009.” That was the day that Grimmie posted a video of herself playing piano and singing “Don’t Wanna Be Torn” by Hannah Montana.

As she frequently posted new cover videos to her channel, zeldaxlove64, Grimmie developed a small online fanbase, and what started as a frivolous hobby quickly became a much bigger project. “More and more, I made it a routine to post videos, and now I’m doing pretty well for myself, I would say.”

Well, that’s an understatement. Grimmie is now the veritable queen of YouTube musicians, with 974,000 subscribers, an EP of original songs (called Find Me) available on iTunes, a single (“Advice”) getting airplay on Radio Disney, and a plum opening spot on Selena Gomez’s upcoming summer tour.

That’s a pretty impressive slate for any artist, much less a teenager without a record deal. How did Grimmie achieve so much success in just two short years?

She started by solidifying her status on YouTube. Grimmie continued to post videos of herself singing pop songs in her Sonic the Hedgehog-adorned bedroom, and as her pageviews went up, opportunities gradually presented themselves.

Fellow YouTube superstars like Kurt Schneider, Alex Goot, and Tiffany Alvord asked Grimmie to collaborate with them, and some of her most popular videos, like a Kurt Schneider-produced Miley Cyrus medley and a cover of “Just a Dream,” (below) resulted. “Those definitely boosted me because [Kurt] did have more subscribers than me at the time,” she remembers. “He still does!”

It just so happens that some of Christina’s videos ended up on the computer screen of Mandy Teefey, Selena Gomez’s mother. “Selena’s mom, she saw me singing ‘My Heart Will Go On‘ by Celine Dion, and then she saw the Miley Cyrus medley, and that led her to ask Brian [her husband] to go out and find me.”

After getting in touch with Christina through her brother’s YouTube channel, Brian Teefey met with Grimmie in May 2010 and became her manager.

Grimmie flew out to California for a month of vocal lessons in mid 2010 and began to record a demo shortly thereafter. That demo never actually happened, and many of the produced tracks she recorded (a few with her YouTube buddy Schneider) simply became tracks on her EP, which she continued to work on through early 2011.

Grimmie got to have a big say in the songwriting process: “I love writing,” she says. “I got to write on six or seven of the eight tracks, with help obviously… however, I did write ‘Find Me’ and ‘Unforgivable’ on my own.” She adds, “I didn’t want any songs about dancing and partying, because to be honest, there are way too many about that. I’m a 17 year old girl, and I want to sing about things that I care about, not just dancing and getting drunk and blah blah blah. I wanted to write with feeling and emotion.”

Part of what allows her that kind of freedom is her independent status, and she’s not looking to abandon her YouTube roots anytime soon. “To be very honest with you, I never, ever want to leave my channel. I don’t even want ChristinaGrimmieVEVO. Not to be a control freak, but I want to be able to be myself and be fun and be goofy and sing on my channel.”

Christina’s next step is to prepare to hit the road with Gomez, where she will be promoting Find Me, which debuted at number 35 on the Billboard 200; she says she’s planning on playing some originals and covers, and she has “a really cool medley up [her] sleeve” as well. Check out one of her originals, “Liar Liar,” below:

Music Mixers, have you heard about the YouTube star? Do you think she can parlay her internet success into a legitimate recording career?

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