Kina Grannis is a well established YouTube sensation with over 1 million subscribers and 170 million views. But how does one become “YouTube Famous” and have “Kiners” from all around the world? Well, what piqued her interest was her dad’s taste. “Growing up my dad was really into James Taylor so I think that really made me appreciate the guitar and great vocals,” she explains. “As I went through school I listened to a lot of singer-songwriters like Alanis Morisette and Sarah McLaughlin – they really made me fall in love with music. There was some Hanson Brothers in there somewhere!”
Kina joined YouTube in 2007, when it was just starting to peak, because she needed help from the public to win a contest. “When I joined YouTube I had no idea what it was. I was in this contest calledand I needed to get people to vote for me every day for two months. So I was aware that I was about to become annoying to people so I was like ‘how can I make it fun?’ so I decided that while I was participating in this contest, I would post a video every day” she says. “So for two months I did a video a day that was either to say thank you or a reminder to vote.”
“Two weeks in I started to realize that this is something big. A community was starting to grow and they named themselves the ‘Kiners’ in ‘Kination.’ Because of all of these newfound followers from YouTube, I won the contest and got a major deal with a record label” she shares. However, when Kina was with the record label she experienced some issues creative differences. She explains, “I went with the label and I was excited but they basically said that I would only get to co-write my album and make the album that they want. But I already had an album written and people were already supporting me.”
So what’s a girl to do? She finally won the contest of her dreams but it wasn’t everything she thought it would be. Luckily she had her group of dedicated fans to support her. “Because of my supporters I left the label and decided to be independent,” she says. “There isn’t a need for that (the label) because I could go directly to people.”
Since then Kina’s videos have changed for the better. “They’ve certainly evolved. For many years it was just opening a laptop in my bedroom and singing straight into it. I still love those videos, but as YouTube grew, producing changed, people got DSLR cameras and external microphones” she enlightens. “Eventually I started making official music videos and partnering with music directors to make a few cool music videos. I think we’re just trying to grow with the industry and try to keep everything interesting.”
After the release of her album Elements, Kina is fully indulged in her song writing process. “It’s a subconscious thing,” she says “I had to really not try to write a song, if I try to write a song it’ll never happen. I’ll just be holding my guitar and messing around and it’ll just happen. When it happens it just flows through me but if I start thinking it stops. It’s more about feeling.”
Kina’s story goes to show that if you put your all into it, treat your fans as loyal supporters and work hard to perfect your craft, you too can become YouTube Famous and live your dreams.
Here are some more great photos of Kina at YouTube FanFest Toronto