[Interview] Singer/Songwriter Kina Grannis Talks Social Media And Being A Woman In The Industry

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Being the music editor for a horror website is quite challenging. If I post something that isn’t rock and/or metal related, people ask, “What does this have to do with horror?” But at the same time, what does rock and metal have to do with horror? Just because they’re “extreme” genres doesn’t mean that there is necessarily a connection. Rather, I like to think that just as horror is a part of our daily lives, so is music. And just like some people prefer one type of horror over another, so to do they enjoy different genres of music. I’m a huge fan of metal but sometimes I like to relax to mellower tunes.

And so it was that last week I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with singer/songwriter YouTube sensation Kina Grannis at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI. Kina is touring in support of her latest album Stairwells. We sat down to discuss what her future plans are, how she utilizes and views social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote and communicate her music, and, lastly, we discussed gender dynamics in the industry. You can read this exclusive interview below.

Make sure to get Kina‘s music on iTunes.

Bloody-Disgusting: How are you doing?

Kina Grannis: I’m doing really good!

BD: Tell me a bit about the tour and how it’s going so far.

KG: The tour has been really great. It’s been very nonstop and it’s been the longest I’ve ever kept going, so it’s kinda like my brain is becoming a big jumble. But each night is special and fun, so I’ve definitely been having a good time.

BD: It’s been a while since you released Stairwells. What are the plans for a new studio album?

KG: Definitely! I was probably planning on doing it before [the tour] but Stairwells kept having these new legs so it was just kinda like okay! Let’s humor it and keep going! It’s been fun to entertain these new lives of Stairwells but I’m definitely itching to get back to the creating again and getting back into the studio. So probably this summer I’ll really dive into the new album.

BD: And have you already got some song ideas kicking about?

KG: Yeah, I’ve got several that I feel good about and then a ton of pieces and I also just want to try and write new stuff. I’m excited [laughs].

BD: I wanted to ask you about your use of social media in terms of promotion. You have over half a million subscribers on YouTube with nearly 100 million video views. Your Facebook has nearly 220,000 “Likes” and your Twitter is nearly at 110,000 followers. Do you feel that these numbers change your approach towards music? Do you find that you write, perform, or create music for the fans rather than writing music on your own terms?

KG: I think if anything there is this pressure to deliver as far as knowing that people are listening and waiting. Somewhat on the album front but more so as content goes online that I know that there are people waiting and I don’t want them to get bored. I need to keep connecting with things like Twitter and making sure I’m active on that and YouTube, making sure there are videos every now and then.
But as far as the actual creating music? I do feel that I want to give them stuff but I don’t think it changes the way that happens or the music that I create. There’s just slightly more pressure because they’re waiting [laughs].

BD: Nowadays it’s impossible for a musician to really maintain any sort of privacy. They have to put so much of themselves out via Twitter, YouTube, and other social media networks. What do you make of that?

KG: It is weird, right? It used to be so distant and such a mystery. Now an artist almost HAS to put themselves completely out there because people are so used to getting to know everything and getting to talk to them. It’s definitely helped people like myself because, I think in part of it, people who have found me through YouTube and have found my songs through there, they stumble upon it, they stay for the music, and then they get to know me as a person. They’re doubly invested. It’s not just that song you heard. They know what I look like and they know what I’m doing because I catch them up at the end and they know my personality. When they come to a show, they feel like they know me. So it’s a lot more of an involvement from their perspective, because it’s not just a song, it’s a personality.

BD: It also allows for a far more direct means of communication, with the comments and top comments of YouTube and Twitter and such.

KG: Yeah! It’s very different, which is cool. Every time I put up a new video it feels like Christmas morning because I know that immediately there’s gonna be a ton of tweets and a ton of comments and that 99% if them are going to be good but I’ll always read until I get to a bad one. And that’s the downside because it’s really excited and you get all this speed back and you feel connected but then you get to that one negative comment and it’s just like, “UGH!” And then you stop reading and you’re like, “My day is ruined!”
So it’s definitely got both sides but for people like myself it’s definitely better than not.

BD: Do you feel that social media changed the musical landscape too quickly, leaving a lot of artists and labels struggling to catch up?

KG: Well, I think as we all saw, everyone resisted the Internet for a long time. And then slowly, people began to go, “Shoot! This is really happening!” And then they started trying to catch up. It’s weird because it is so open and individuals are grabbing hold and doing what they can, there’s no model right now for how to do it with the Internet. There are a lot of people doing it in different ways. We’re all just learning as we go. When I started YouTube, I had no idea how powerful it was. One day, it was like, “Oh shoot! This is crazy!”
So there’s not a clear way. No one’s figured it out. Everyone is on their own, scrambling and figuring it out. I think that labels are starting to embrace it and they will claim things like, “Our digital teams!” and “We like blogs!” but there’s still a lot of resistance.

BD: And then you see social networks that everyone thought was the biggest thing that then failed. Perfect example: MySpace.

KG: It was great for music and then they changed it and killed what was great about it. It used to be a place where you could stumble upon real people’s music. Then it became just a place to find Eminem and all the giants and you couldn’t browse anymore. As a place for independent people, it just kinda died.

BD: I wanted to ask about your being a female performer in the music industry. Do you feel that this changes how you are viewed or how you are appreciated?

KG: That’s interesting because I find the gender thing in music very strange because John Mayer or Blink-182 or any male act. Anyone is allowed to like a male artist. Girls can like them, guys can like them. The girl artist, of course girls can like girl artists. At my shows, it’s pretty much split between guys and girls but you can tell the guys aren’t sure if they’re supposed to be there. A lot of them are with girls but a lot of them are fans and it seems like they’re not sure if they’re allowed to be, which doesn’t make sense. Music is music. I’m writing about being a person and not about being a girl. I just think there is a lot of resistance for a guy to claim or proudly state that they like a girl artist, which is strange, since guys are allowed to like girls but it’s weird to like girl artists [laughs].
I always tell them that they’re very manly for being there [laughs].
I think another thing is that it’s easy to categorize girls as “girl musicians” whereas guys are in the genres. I think there is a little bit more of a generalization and guys are afraid.
But I haven’t experienced problems from it, just little things.

BD: That’s actually a perfect lead in to my next question. I’ve got some current YouTube top comments from some videos that I’d like to read to you:
Boyce Avenue – We Found Love (cover)
Top comments:
1) Beautiful
2) It’s not just a cover, it’s a Boyce Avenue cover

Imaginary Friend – Chasing Ghost
Top comments:
1) This is the kind of music that makes you want to smile and cry at the same time. I did both.
2) Awesome, awesome song. You should let a couple of us kinerds shoot a video for you.

Kina Grannis – Boots of Spanish Leather (cover)
Top comments:
1) You’re (response to another comment that states “Your hot <3”)
2) No one is such an amazing person, so charming, so beautiful…except Kina

Kina – US/Canada Tour Announcement
Top comments:
1) You’re beautiful
2) Kina, you seriously get more and more beautiful with age. I think I would faint if I ever got to meet you in person

I think you see where I’m going with this. Why do you think that the focus is more on your appearance than your music?

KG: I don’t know but it definitely happens and it’s frustrating. It’s obviously very nice and I’m flattered but some of the comments that come in are really meaningful, about how the song helped them. Of course, they’re not going to be a top comment. Things like “You are pretty” are the top comment.
I don’t know why that happens. I don’t know if it’s the girl thing again and people aren’t thinking about the music as much. But from a songwriter’s perspective, I want them to listen to the lyrics and I want them to be moved by the song and so, it is a little frustrating. It’s like, “I’m really glad you think that, but were you listening?” [laughs]

BD: What do you think it will take for this trend to change?

KG: I think it’s just gonna take more girls and more time. It’s not that I think girls should take over the music industry. I love male artists. Just good music should rise to the top. I think the Internet will partially help it get recognized and even things out but I think it’s just a matter of time and people recognizing that it’s good music too.

BD: Kina, thanks so much for everything. Best of luck tonight!

KG: Thank you so much!

Kina Grannis on-line:
Official Site
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonny B.? Shoot him a message on Twitter!