Born and raised in Mission Viejo, CA, Kina Grannis started playing shows at the age of 4 in front of stuffed animals. Now she plays in front of people. For those who knew Kina as the shy and self-proclaimed-awkward songstress who escaped into her collegiate stairwells to practice and play in privacy, the idea of playing in front of inanimate objects might actually seem fitting. But between those who travel across state and country lines to her sold out live shows and those navigating through her extensive library of YouTube videos, it’s quite clear that Kina is hardly playing for no one.
In 2007, after four years at USC (where she recorded and self-released three EPs) and a brief move to Austin, TX, Kina joined YouTube, made a music video and entered herself into Doritos’ Crash The Super Bowl contest. In the months that followed, Kina began to accrue followers, lots of them, making herself right at home in front of her computer. Her Two Weeks For Kina site traded daily videos in exchange for votes, and while her votes piled up her following grew exponentially. A few months later, her video for “Message From Your Heart” aired during the Super Bowl and its 97-million viewers and Kina had a YouTube following, a Twitter following, a #1 video on Digg.com, a street team and, for a short time, a record deal.
“One of the most amazing things that came out of the whole experience was the relationship that formed between me and my supporters online. They were right there on the journey with me, and every bit of success I had was thanks to them.”
Exchanging creative control for independence, Kina forfeited her record label, determined to record and release the songs she’d been writing for years. In true DIY form, Kina self-funded and independently-released Stairwells in early 2010. The album debuted on Billboard’s Top 200 and #5 on iTunes Pop Chart, and The New York Times and WNYC Soundcheck recognized Kina as one of the top Asian-Americans making an impact in the pop music world (she’s half-Japanese). She released a music video for her single “Valentine,” which has been featured on Yahoo! Music and has accrued more than 7-million views on YouTube. The track would later propel Kina to win Sirius Radio’s Coffee House Singer/Songwriter Discovery of 2010.
Since the original release of Stairwells, Kina has continued super-serving her ever-loyal following. She spent much of 2010 on the road, headlining venues across North America, performing sold out shows at Los Angeles’ Troubadour and El Rey Theater and New York City’s Highline Ballroom, spending hours after each and every show signing autographs for, taking pictures with and talking to anyone in attendance. Kina also had a slot on 2010’s Lillith Fair where she played alongside Sarah McLachlan, Metric, Mary J Blige and Ingrid Michaelson and later appeared on a panel with founder McLachlan, as well as Emmylou Harris.
“Touring is just the best thing ever. I love everything I’ve built online. I love that I can connect with supporters from all over the world from the comfort of my own home. But to travel to places I’ve never been before and play in front of real-life human beings, to see their faces and hear their stories and thank them in person for everything they’ve done for me and my dream... it really is such a powerful and exciting thing for me.”
Between shows Kina maintains her famously direct relationship with her supporters – The Kinerds and Kination – from her social networks to her YouTube channel, which is frequently updated with both original and cover songs. Her YouTube channel has more than 300,000 subscribers and her videos have been viewed 60-million times.
“I feel so fortunate to have been born at a time when there are so many different tools available to artists. It’s not that they allow you to make it on your own, it’s that they allow you to find the people who believe in you and support you, and together, really do something special.”