Kina Grannis is determined to be in command and do things her way

Kina Grannis is determined to be in command and do things her way

YouTube sensation says that sometimes you have to start over to get things just the way you want

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Kina Grannis' YouTube success has led to studio albums and world tours.
Kina Grannis' YouTube success has led to studio albums and world tours.
Photo: Yoni Goldberg

In the seven years since creating her YouTube channel, Kina Grannis has released two albums, toured the world many times over, and been featured at last year's Grammy Awards - all without the backing of a major record label. While the American singer did sign to Interscope, she soon left for greater creative control.

If you've spent time on YouTube, you've probably heard her songs. They've been featured in both ads and in short films. Despite it being her biggest fear, she's also acted in Wong Fu's short movies, including romantic short The Last, which has garnered over 8 million views on YouTube.

"The response I got for The Last was crazy, it doesn't feel like a video I've been in," says Grannis. "People discovered my music after seeing my character on The Last. They looked me up and started listening. It's amazing how it can translate like that."

When it comes to music, she's much more comfortable, and is well known for both her original tracks and covers.

"The ratio of covers to originals is about 50-50 at this point," says Grannis. "I like to keep it a mix. The most important thing to me is making original music and sharing my life in that way."

But she admits that finding a balance can be tricky. "As an artist, you don't want to be known as a cover artist when you don't feel that is your identity, but at the same time … I want to make as many videos for [my fans] as possible," she says. "If I only did original videos, I would have to be writing music non-stop, and the quality wouldn't be as good as I would be forcing stuff."

The 29-year-old keeps a consistent uploading schedule, but says one of the hardest parts of working on her second album, Elements, was getting back into the flow of writing.

"There were definitely some struggles," she says. "There were days where I felt like I would never write a good song ever again. Maybe that was it ... but songs always pop up when you don't expect them to."

The song she struggled most with was Oh Father.

"It was a song that I really cared about, but it wasn't right, it wasn't going to make the album, and right at the last second, I had to rip it apart and start over with different things."

But she managed to find a way to fit it in with the theme of the album.

"I was driving one day, and thinking about the songs, The Fire, Dear River, and Winter, and I realised a lot had this elemental theme, in a very literal sense," she says.

"The word Elements came to mind, I started thinking about it more, and how these songs, the meaning of them was the most important things in life. Love, loss, beginnings, endings, the past and the future. It felt very fitting to me."

It's been nearly three years since we last spoke to her in Hong Kong, during her Stairwells tour.

"I remember being really jetlagged during that show," she says. "I think I was supposed to go back with David [Choi, fellow YouTube musician], but things fell through. It's sad, but I would really like to get back," she says.

And it seems like she may be planning to head back to the region, and hopefully Hong Kong, soon.

"OK, Southeast Asia, let's talk for real," she posted to her Instagram on Thursday. "I made a survey so you can vote where you want me to tour. Spread the word and we just might make it a reality."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
She's in her element

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