We Interview Rising Star Kina Grannis

The other night I went to the Beat Kitchen here in Chicago to see an up and coming artist perform. Her name is Kina Grannis and if you haven’t heard of her before, you will soon! I can honestly say that her performance, while simple, just a girl and her guitar, blew me away with her amazing vocal skills and catchy hooks. The sold out show was full of fans both young and old, which only shows that Kina’s music definitely bridges the age gap.

She started the show with many tracks from her album Stairwells that was released this past February, such as Strong Enough and Cambridge. Mid-show, you could feel the energy of the crowd emanate significantly
as Kina performed her latest single ‘Valentine’. Next followed an amazing cover of Jason Mraz’s ‘I’m Yours’ as well as the song Make Me, which can both be found on her very popular YouTube channel. The next song that Kina performed was unexpected by me but I was in awe of her rendition of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. Who would’ve thought that this girl with her guitar and sweet indie pop sounds could pull of such a song?! She more than pulled it off as the whole crowd was cheering her on and singing along; it really was the high point of the entire set! Lastly was the song that shot her to fame, ‘Message From Your Heart’ and even though I was sad that her set was over, it was definitely an enjoyable and memorable show!

Set List:

Strong Enough
World in Front of Me
In Your Arms
The Goldfish Song
Heart and Mind
I’m Yours – Jason Mraz cover
Give Me Back
Make Me
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio cover
Message from Your Heart

I highly recommend checking her out live and to pick up her album ‘Stairwells’, you will not be disappointed! Also, I was given the opportunity to interview Kina about her rise to fame, songwriting etc., so here it is for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

1. Introduce yourself to our readers! Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kina Grannis. I’m a singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, raised in Orange County, and currently floating around touring the US.

2. How would you describe your musical style?
I’ve never been great at defining music genre-wise… but if I had to, I’d put my music a happy medium somewhere between folk, pop, and indie. What I do know is that I try to write honest music that makes people feel, think, and find hope.

3. What influences your music the most?

There’s no one thing. Everything influences my music in one way or another… my life, my friends, family, strangers, dreams, nature, art…

4. When it comes down to writing new tracks, what is the process like for you?

Songs usually find me when I least expect it. I’ll be messing around on the guitar singing gibberish when all of a sudden I’ll be moved by a melody, and in the next 1-3 hours out pours a song. It’s not a very conscious process… I try to let them write themselves for the most part, and then after the fact I may go back and shape them a little and make sure they make sense. I’ve found that letting songs happen rather than forcing songs out creates songs that mean a lot more to me and are usually a more honest depiction of things.

5. You have quite an impressive following on YouTube amongst many other outlets like Facebook. How do you feel that social networking has helped jump-start your career?

I have social networking to thank for everything. It’s thanks to social networks like myspace and youtube and digg.com for allowing me to start growing my following and eventually lead to my winning a record deal and getting my music video played during the Super Bowl through Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl. Since then, youtube has continued to let more people around the world find my music, and along with twitter and facebook, has allowed me to develop a relationship with my supporters. Nowadays with the music industry scrambling to figure out what to do next, I think, thanks to the internet, the power of real people supporting artists they like and artists giving back to them is going to be extremely important.

6. I love the covers that you do on your YouTube channel, especially your new rendition of Justin Beiber’s ‘Baby’. What makes you decide to do a particular cover?

It varies. Some songs I cover because they’re amazing songs that move me. Others I cover because I think they’ll be a fun challenge for me to take on and try to make my own.

7. When you won the Crash the Super Bowl contest in 2008, you also won a recording contract with Interscope records. What made you decide to stay independent and how do you think this affected your music and career, if at all?

I couldn’t bear the risk of losing any of my creative freedom. At the time I was signed I had nearly an album’s worth of songs that really meant a lot to me and I was ready to get in the studio and make it happen. The labels plans involved spending some months developing and writing with songwriters in the industry. While I’m sure that would have been a good experience, it would not have been me. It was a hard decision to make, but one that I have never doubted or regretted. The thing that really made me feel secure in my decision is that I knew I had amazing supporters all around the world who believed in what I did and would back me no matter what.

8. How much control do you have over your music being used in television and film, such as when your music was featured on General Hospital and on MTV?

I have very little control of film and TV placements. Unless we’re talking about the ability to decline these opportunities, in which case I suppose I have all the control in the world (don’t know why I’d ever do that though!), but you really can’t make placements happen. It’s all about knowing the right people and having the right song at the right time.

9. If you could work and collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?

Among many other amazingly talented artists, I would love to work with either Imogen Heap or Jonsi of Sigur Ros. I consider them both to be complete musical geniuses and am in awe of the music they create.

10. What can your fans expect going forward in 2010?

More music, more videos, more touring 🙂

11. Last question! What other artists/albums are you obsessed with at the moment?

A few that I’ve been hooked on for quite a while now:

Ellipse – Imogen Heap
For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
Sparrow and the Crow – William Fitzsimmons
a lot of random Sigur Ros/Jonsi stuff

For fans of: Ingrid Michaelson, Colbie Caillat, Michelle Branch