Kina Grannis burst into the world of YouTube in 2007, when her video for debut single Message From Your Heart won the Doritos Crash Superbowl contest and aired to nearly 100 Million viewers during Superbowl XLII. Shortly after, Grannis released her first full-length album Stairwells and on the strength of the record, played sold-out across the globe. In the fall of 2011, Grannis was catapulted into the limelight again when she released a stop-motion music video for In Your Arms off of Stairwells. Made with more than a quarter of a million Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, the video went viral and has since amassed more than 11 million views. This May, Kina returned with her sophomore full-length effort Elements. Elements landed in the Top 50 on the Billboard 200, #4 Folk Albums (Billboard), and #2 Singer-Songwriter Album (iTunes). Recently, Kina broke the 1 million subscriber mark on YouTube and boasts an incredible 150,000,000+ views.
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Kina, you’ve just wrapped up the first leg of your Elements tour. You’ve been all over Europe meeting fans and giving intimate performances. You’re now back in the states and gearing up for more shows. Tell us what shows you have lined up for this last month of 2014 and what you loved about your tour time in Europe?
December should be a great month! I’ve got a short run of shows down the west coast of North America that I’m really looking forward to. After that, it’s basically straight into Christmas time! I’m very much looking forward to having some down time at the end of the year with my family.
The Europe tour was one of my favourites yet. We had just enough time to wander and explore in all the cities, which was amazing, and the crowds were just the best I’ve ever had. So much fun!
Our most favourite thing we’ve read about you is that you first debuted your performance skills in front of stuffed animals at the adorable age of 4. Now you’re touring the world and practically becoming your own brand. When did what you love doing turn into a career?
Haha, yes, that was certainly a favourite pastime. Music didn’t become my career, however, until about a year after I graduated from college when I started sharing my music on YouTube for the first time. From there, things really took off.
Your YouTube channel has some crazy numbers going on. Right now you’re at almost 159 million video views and over 1 million subscribers. How long has it taken for these numbers to get to where they are today?
It’s definitely been a slow and steady. I started my YouTube channel just over 7 years ago. For my first 2 months on YouTube I did a video a day, and then switched to a video a week for a long time.
How many original songs have you made since you were first capable of creating, writing and recording your own material?
There must be a few hundred at this point. (Most of which no one will ever hear.)
Out of all of these songs, which is your favourite at this point?
Can never pick a favourite. They’re all just parts of me.
It’s interesting that your new album is available on vinyl. Why did you decide to have this option available to fans, and do you plan on releasing more material on vinyl in the future?
People had been requesting vinyls for some time, and I personally had always wanted to release something on vinyl as well – it just seemed like the right time. The problem is that pressing to vinyl is a lot more expensive. I hope I get to offer more music on vinyl in the future.
Can you tell us a bit about the triangles featured in the artwork of your new album Elements, how the album title came about, and how it all relates?
The triangles are the symbols for the 4 elements – earth, air, water, fire. The album logo is actually a combination of all 4 (and just so happens has a K in the middle of it as well). The name Elements came to me very naturally when I was driving one day. I was thinking about the song titles – winter, dear river, the fire, write it in the sky, and I realized that there were a lot of natural and elemental themes in the songs. On top of that, these songs are really about what’s most important – love, loss, future, past, growth, beginnings, endings – all the many elements of life.
How would you sum up your new album in just three words?
Honest, emotional, hopeful.
Speaking of your music videos, the emotion filled vid to your song My Dear shows beautiful clips of your wedding day. We are assuming the song was written about your husband, Jesse Epstein. When you wrote the song, had you already planned out how it would be filmed? Or was it the other way around? Also, how did Jesse react to it all?
The idea for the music video for My Dear actually didn’t come to be until long after the wedding. We’d had all that footage taken for ourselves to look back on, and at some point it just seemed like it would be a really special thing to get to share it with everyone. Jesse and I made the decision together, he’s always been very supportive of me, whether it’s wanting to keep things private or share things.
It’s pretty cool that Jesse is also very musically talented and you two have collaborations together. Is this how you met?
We actually met in high school at a community service event. I later taught him how to play guitar (and he quickly became better at it than me).
Speaking of collabs, you’ve done many which can be seen on YouTube with different artists. Do you have anyone on your wish list that you haven’t paired up with yet?
The #1 collab of my dreams would be with Imogen Heap. I admire and respect her so much as a musician and I would just about die to be able to collaborate with her in some way or another.
Your song Little Worrier off of your new album is very nurturing. What inspired the lyrics to this song?
To make a long story short, I went on a writing retreat by myself in the woods, the sun went down, I realized I am by no means brave enough to be alone in the woods at night, I heard footsteps downstairs, I was paralyzed and thought I was about to be murdered, and then… it was a mouse. The next day, I realized I’ve always been a worrier – whether about the past, future, friends, what other people are thinking, etc–so this song is a reminder to myself and other worriers out there to just let it go. Worrying doesn’t change anything, it just makes now more sad/stressful/scary.
Going back to your younger years, what were your earliest musical influences, and do you remember when you first discovered Indie music?
My biggest early influence was a Belgian band called K’s Choice. None of my friends knew them, but they felt like my little secret. They taught me how important music could be to people (namely, me).
Your style seen on tour and in music videos is so trendy and wacky, yet entirely unique and simplistic. Where do you get your clothes and accessories?
My current favourites are Topshop, Urban Outfitters and Madewell.
You have your own clothes/Kina merchandise available in your online store. Would it be a dream of yours to have your own clothing line some day?
I think that would be incredibly fun.
2014 has kept you pretty busy with a new album release, loads of YouTube videos and touring. What is in store for Kina in 2015?
That is something I am very interested in finding out, myself 🙂 I guess we’ll just see how it unfolds.
Kina Grannis chose our Sunday Sessions this week. Click here for the playlist.
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