YouTube has produced many successful artists — Justin Bieber comes to mind — but singer-songwriter Kina Grannis has taken a different tack — using the social media site to help her win a Doritos Crash The Super Bowl contest and propelling her self-released album Stairwells into the mainstream and snagging her songwriting work with the likes of Daniel Beddingfield and David Archuleta.
Although 24-year-old Kina says winning the Doritos contest in 2008 made her “100% focused on music and getting it out in the world,” it also won her a contract with Interscope, which she ended up walking away from, choosing to pursue her own vision instead. “Once I got down to it, I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t the right place for me,” Kina told Crushable. “I already had my songs written and I was so ready to go.” After getting out of the contract with Interscope, Kina paired up with producer Rich Jacques to create what would eventually become Stairwells — a year and a half later. “He just really understood my sound and let me be really involved in the process, which was great,” Kina said.
Even without the backing of a label, Stairwells debuted on the Billboard 200 when it came out in February, and her single “Valentine” has racked up more than 2 million views. And Kina’s currently touring to promote the album, stopping in New York to play a sold out show at the Highline Ballroom tonight, and ending at the Lilith Fair in St. Louis. It’s her first time on a real tour, but she’d like to do more eventually, maybe pairing with other singer-songwriters like Jason Mraz. “It’s definitely a lifestyle that I’ve had to adapt to,” Kina said of touring. “It’s nonstop and a new hotel room every night, a new city, a lot of driving. But it’s so worth it, getting to see these different parts of the country and meeting all these amazing people who have been supporting me. It’s just been super fun.”
As for working with Daniel and David, Kina — whose name is a “made-up name” comprised of the first Japanese characters from her mother and grandmother’s names — says she just sort of fell into it. “Daniel Beddingfield and I kind of became friends this past year. I’m really a fan of his music and he’s a fan of mine,” she told Crushable, describing her music as a happy medium between pop, folk and indie. “We started writing together and…we ended up doing a few songwriting sessions with David Archuleta.”
Ultimately, we might end up seeing a song written by all three on David’s upcoming album. “David is the sweetest, sweetest guy ever. He’s so fun to work with and easy and polite. It was just lovely. And then of course he’s ridiculously talented,” she said of the American Idol runner-up.
But even working with two music superstars can’t help Kina conquer her most basic fear — the self-confessed shy girl admits to still getting nervous before going on stage. “I try to find a little place that’s quiet and focus on how amazing it is that I’m doing this and that these people are here to support me and how lucky it is,” Kina said of her pre-show ritual. “There’s still this little part of me that remembers how shy I really am so it will try to freak me out. I’ve luckily been able to quite that voice, but it’s still there.”
Learn more about Kina on her website kinagrannis.com.