For such a shy person, Kina Grannis sure has a funny way of showing it.
She started her songwriting career at USC by isolating herself from everyone, penning tunes in stairwells where no one could hear her. Several years later, she sits in front of her computer blasting out her songs on YouTube to an audience that has reached into the multi-millions.
It seems funny that someone who fretted over attention would work so hard to be scrutinized by so many.
“Growing up I never had a lot of self confidence. I’ve never liked speaking in front of people or confronting people,” Grannis says. “It wasn’t that I was anti-social, but speaking my mind seemed impossible to me and speaking in front of people did too. But songwriting was something that was so important to me it was something I felt I had to do and I had to get over being shy. It was difficult and baby steps at first, but I did it.”
And with gusto. She broke the ice with a show for her friends at Dietrich’s Coffee, where she worked, in her hometown of Mission Viejo, Calif. Today she describes the gig as “pretty much the most awkward thing I could have imagined.” After that, the first time Grannis introduced herself to a mass audience: The Super Bowl.
The reward – 97 million viewers – was the result of a YouTube contest that launched her career at full throttle.
“That probably would have been the last video had I not made it to the next level of the contest. I felt I needed to commit to it 100% because I felt it might be my one break,” Grannis says. Seize it she did, not only using her silky voice and honey-sweet lyrics to attract voters, but utilizing all the social networking tools at her disposal. Even before she became a regular on YouTube, she and her sisters wrote a song about Digg.com. It was a rather, uh, direct approach, but it was effective. The site posted the song on their site and Grannis got her first big bump in fan followers. But that was nothing compared to the second bump.
“After the Super Bowl the spike was ridiculous,” Grannis says. “The numbers just could not register in my head. There were just too many zeros at the end.”
In the days since, she’s continued to use YouTube to her advantage in very smart ways. Not only do the videos flaunt her talent and gorgeous good looks, but they also reach into fan bases of some incredibly popular young artists. Recently she sat for a video with Tyler Hilton and Grannis has covered songs from Kings of Leon, Owl City and even, yes, Justin Bieber.
With her debut album, dubbed Stairwells in reference to her shy beginnings, released in February, Grannis continues to come out of her shell, to the delight of her growing fan base. And the trepidation at taking the stage? Well, it’s improving, but hasn’t disappeared entirely.
“There’s still that moment when I’m like, ‘do you realize what you’re about to do? You’re about to sing your diary to a whole bunch of strangers who might laugh and might judge you.’ But, oh well … ”
For more on Kina Grannis, visit www.kinagrannis.com.