Kina Grannis


► That takes us to early ’08. For the next four years you work very hard to grow your online presence – with some nice results. But after four years comes what I like to refer to as ‘the magic haircut’…

► Okay, I’m not saying it was because of the haircut, but in the summer/autumn of 2012 it coincides with a massive leap forward in the quality of your videos, the covers, simply everything. What changed? Or did it just look like a sudden change from the outside, while it really was more of a gradual change for you?
It was a sudden change. Like you said, there were four years of chugging along on YouTube, getting deep into touring, all in promotion of my album Stairwells. For those four years, I was spread a little thin. When that came to an end, there was a huge shift. A lot of things happened, actually. Within about one month, I finished my last Stairwells show, I got engaged, I moved into a new place and I turned 27. My whole world shifted. Oh, and I cut my hair. (laughs) All of this coincided with the idea that I was starting a new chapter and I wanted to make an album that was me now, because I had been playing songs that were six years old at that point. I knew I had to reconnect with myself and my music, assess what that was, go travel a bit and just write the songs that were really real to me right then.

► The result was Elements – an album that I’d call one of the best of the year, in its genre. And that in a year where the singer-songwriter category is pretty strong anyway…
Thank you!! That is very kind. That means a lot to me.

Kina Grannis
photo credit: Yoni Goldberg

► But being ready to write something new and then actually doing it – particularly something that is on the level of this album – are two different things. In terms of writing Elements, what did you draw from?
Well, my whole life I’ve been shifting from a place of being very shy. I grew up as someone who was very bad at expressing herself and also very bad at confrontations. Anything that bothered me, I bottled up. Anything that excited me, I bottle up. I didn’t want to offend people. I didn’t want to hurt feelings. I didn’t want to be wrong. So I just kept it all inside. As I have gotten older, however, I’ve realised the best you ever feel in life is when you’re vulnerable and you’re just putting yourself out there. And maybe some people won’t like it. But maybe some people really connect with it. So what I was striving to do with Elements was really dig deep and do not what I thought would be the biggest hit or what I thought people would want from me, but what I was really feeling – what the biggest things in my life were and what the most honest thing was that I could translate into music. And it’s scary doing that, because you’re exposing yourself and you’re thinking about things that are hard to think about at times. But that is the difference between Stairwells and Elements: Stairwells was pretty safe, I just brushed on the surface of what was going on in my life – with Elements, I knew I had to go much deeper. Ultimately, that was also much more rewarding to me.

► But it is not just the album. It’s everything. Your entire online presence feels right. In terms of independent singer-songwriters, you’re setting the bar pretty high. There are few who do things at the level you’re doing it now. You said, before all this happened, you were spread thin. How did you bolster Team Kina to get to this new level?
Well, as far as the social media goes, it’s still just me. What has helped me is putting people in different areas, like having a distribution company that helped with releasing the album, or just having more people on the team to help bounce ideas off of and help execute them. That frees up my brain to think about the social stuff and the creative side. As I get busier though, I can’t respond to every message or to every tweet. And I also don’t want to just shove information at people. I want to make it interactive. So I have to think of new ways to do that, which is an ongoing thing – to keep things fun for me and for the people watching.

► That makes it sound like a lot of what we get to see is spontaneous. The combination of quantity and quality of your videos suggest that there has to be more of a plan, to even get things done. Which one is true?
Hah, I wish we would think a little more in advance. (laughs) The plan usually goes as follows: pick a song, learn it, shoot it, release it in two days. The turnaround is pretty quick for most of the videos. Since I started doing weekly videos, I stock up a little more, because when I go on tour, it’s almost impossible for me to do them. So some weeks I’m just shooting almost every day.

► How do you pick the songs you want to cover? The obvious thing would be to look at the Billboard charts and pick whatever is in the top spots. It’s just as obvious that that’s not what you’re doing.
It’s kind of a combination. On the one hand, there are the songs I do because they are amazing songs I am really moved by them and that I want to share and pay respect to. Then there is a bit of trying to see what’s going on in the charts, because I don’t listen to radio and usually have no idea what’s popular at the moment. So I’ll take a look at iTunes and I’ll listen trough, but I just can’t get myself to do a song that I don’t agree with it, which makes it kind of difficult. I’ll go through the top 20, and with almost every song I just go, “Nope, that’s not gonna happen.” (laughs) It really becomes all about finding that song the world seems to listen to and where I can either get behind the message or I think it would be fun to flip it and make it my own.

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