Kina Grannis was at one time an unknown singer/songwriter who amazed viewers online with her lovely acoustic tracks and sultry vocals. Her many YouTube videos created one of the biggest online followings. After winning the Doritos Super Bowl Crush contest, Kina’s song was played for millions of viewers, landing her a contract with Interscope records.
Now, Kina has re-released her album “Stairwells” with multiple bonus tracks and is getting ready to wow New York City at the Highline Ballroom this Saturday night. The USC graduate sat down with GlobalGrind to talk about Valentine’s Day, snack foods and the importance of YouTube. Read on for more.
GG: You won the Super Bowl Doritos Crush contest a few years ago. Just tell us a little bit about that experience and by the same token, what is your favorite snack food?
K: Oh boy! (laughs) Ok, so the Doritos Superbowl contest was probably the coolest thing that could have happened to be at the time because all you need to enter was an original song and video and if you win you get played at the Superbowl and you get a record deal and all this stuff. So what happened to me when I decided to enter, it was like, ok, this is my excuse to put everything into music for the next 2 months. So that’s when I started doing YouTube and I started doing a video every day for 2 months to try to get people coming back to vote for me everyday.
So in the process of that, trying to win the contest, I actually did the most important thing which is find a following, a group of supporters around the world that were there for me and just really awesome. And then winning was just the most surreal thing to happen because I didn’t really tell if you’re winning until it played. So I kind of like cried for a couple minutes (laughs) and it was definitely the start of this online journey that I’ve been making.
GG: Your favorite snack food?
K: (laughs) Well, what do I eat as a snack? Now a days I like to snack on things like fruit, which is really boring.
GG: There are artists out there who were discovered on YoutTube and got a huge following from that. Do you think that was really your secret to success?
K: Oh yeah, I think YouTube is such an incredible tool and I tell everyone who wants to be a musician and wants to get their music out there that they need to use YouTube. At this point a lot of the world isn’t aware of going on and a lot of people feel weird about it, but why would you close that door? There are people on YouTube who are wanting to discover people and who are wanting to support them. I found it was just an amazing resource.
GG: Your song “Valentine” was that actually inspired by the holiday?
K: Kind of, kind of not. I did write it around Valentine’s Day. It was kind of from hearing all these people, these haters, saying, “It’s just a hallmark holiday and it’s so stupid and it’s just an average day.” And all those points made me think in my mind, well why not use this as an excuse to show people you care about, that you do. You know, an extra fun thing. In a way it was like, if this is just an average, ordinary day, why not treat any day like that? If Valentine’s Day is just an average day, why not make it special but why not treat any other day like that too?
GG: What do you say to people who hate Valentine’s or people who don’t have a Valentine? Is it just love for everyone?
K: Yeah, I like to look at it – I mean, it definitely helps if you have someone, like a boyfriend or girlfriend. But to me, there’s always someone in your life you really care about, whether that’s a sibling or a parents or a best friend just to show that you appreciate them.
GG: Tell us a little bit about your album, “Stairwell.” The deluxe edition has some very diverse covers. What inspired you to cover such interesting artists?
K: Well, you know, on YouTube over the years I’ve done a lot of covers and those were 3 that were just so much fun for me to do on YouTube and that I got good responses from and so when it came to picking, I really wanted to give people something new and fun that they couldn’t have before. So those are 3 ones that I just really loved making.
GG: How would you describe your musical aesthetic or some of the tracks that really stick out to you?
K: Well, I mean, there’s a lot of different stuff going on, there’s some new stuff on the album like “Without Me” and “Gone” which is bigger than previous productions of them which is kind of fun. But there’s also a lot of quieter, more introspective songs like “Heart Me Mind” or “Delicate” but a lot of what I end up writing about is kind of about love or relations or trying to become a better version of yourself and things like that.
GG: When you write music is really based on personal experiences?
K: I would say that most of it is and some of it is random. I find that when I write songs it’s not a very conscious thing, it’s something that kind of hits and then within an hour this song kind of pours out of me and then I reflect back on it later. The thing is when I’m writing about myself or a friend or a dream I had, I can’t really do it unless that resonates in me, something that I feel and understand and feels honest.
GG: Who are some of your musical inspirations and who do you find yourself listening to currently?
K: I would say over the past few years I’ve really been in to Imogen Heap and Sigur Ros and Bon Iver and those people but really different musical styles that I get from those albums, I just love them.
GG: If you had to bring just a few albums on a desert island, what would they be?
K: I would say, probably, Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago,” and probably Imogen Heap’s “Ellipse.”
GG: You’ve been on tour quite a bit. Do you have any crazy or funny stories from being on tour?
K: Let’s see…it kind of becomes one big, funny, happy bore by the end of it. But, I did have my ukulele stolen but that wasn’t a happy story. Actually, that turns into a happy story. That was my first big tour and it went through Atlanta. And I made the mistake of leaving all my stuff like my merch and my ukulele in the trunk and so the next day when I went out to go to the next city everything was completely gone and stolen. It was my grandfather’s ukulele so I was pretty distraught about that. But the crazy thing was I tweeted about it and there was this enormous amount of support online, sending flowers and cards and stuff like that but then on my next tour my street surprised me and presented me with a brand new ukulele with my name in it. So it was one of the worst things that ever happened but then turned into a great story.
GG: Since you’ve been in the music industry have their been any meetings with anyone famous or anyone you’ve been really star struck to have met?
K: Well, I think one thing that’s been really cool in doing this is getting to work with people that I admire. In the past year I got to work with Daniel Bedingfield and David Archuleta separately and together. So talented and it was just really inspiring for me.