You may know her as a YouTube star, as the winner of Doritos Crash The Superbowl contest, or remember her covered in thousands of jelly beans in her famous video ‘In Your Arms’. You might seen her as main actress in romantic comedy series ‘Single By 30’ (YouTube Red) or watched her collabs with Kurt Hugo Schneider (Pitch Perfect’s ‘Cups’) or Boyce Avenue (‘Fast Car’). Kina Grannis is known for many creative things, but her first love is devoted to music.
Doritos & Jelly Beans
Kina, who is also a guitarist and producer of her own music, started off performing during her High School and College years, finding every opportunity to share her music with a crowd – in coffee shops, bars or open mic’s – but at first thought a singer could only make it in the music industry by signing on a major label (shared by Grannis on TED).
As Doritos was making their annual Crash the Super Bowl contest where contestants can create their own fan-made Doritos ad, they changed it up in 2008. That year, instead of being a commercial contest, an inspiring musician would get the chance of their song being played during a commercial break, plus signing a contract with major label Interscope when winning. Kina posted her first video on YouTube for the contest, performing her original song ‘Message From Your Heart’ – with a Michelle Branch-y look rocking her acoustic guitar – and eventually ‘crashed’ the Super Bowl XLII by winning the contest, viewed by 95 million people, and signing with Interscope.
Kina’s first video on YouTube, posted November 15, 2007
Even though a major deal was all that she wanted, Interscope’s vision, however, didn’t match Kina’s authentic approach in creating music, and therefore left the label, staying independent instead. With the help of her ‘Kinerds’ – as devoted fans of Kina Grannis are called – a YouTube community was created unintentionally. Her mentioned debut video caught the attention of many viewers, eventually having a fan base strong enough to become one of the early YouTube-Stars – with own released music (covers and originals), and collabs with fellow YouTubers. Her most famous video that bought up attention from the media is ‘In Your Arms’, a self-funded stop motion clip – animated with 288,000 real jelly beans. The video, that took 22 months to complete, got an unexpected buzz from Good Morning America and Time Magazine, and got her to perform at Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen Degeneres Show. The video was such a huge success that she was able to headline her first world tour, as it was sponsored by – you guessed it – jelly beans manufacturer Jelly Belly.
Stop motion animated ‘In Your Arms’ took almost 2 years to finalize.
100 Days in Jakarta
As Kina Grannis was finding a successful path on her own as an independent artist, a Southeast Asia Tour in support of her 2014 album ‘Elements’ made a short dead-end route. After performing in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2015, she and her entourage were investigated for immigration offences. The band’s promoters had not organized the right visas and, as Indonesia is extremely strict about foreigners working in the country, their passports were confiscated and were forced to go to court – fearing a 5 year enprisonment. As being told by lawyers not to go public or reach out to the press during court, fans did not get a clear answer of why all the other tour dates were cancelled one at a time. Kina and her band members (including her husband Jesse Epstein aka Imaginary Future) were unable to leave the country for more than three months – exactly 100 days – but luckily weren’t sentenced to go to prison. They were however convicted during their trial, sentenced to an eight months probation, but could leave Indonesia. Kina slowly but surely recovered from the experience and eventually told her story ‘100 days in Jakarta’ in a blog the next year, alongside releasing her ‘Jakarta EP’ with two new songs written during her stay in Indonesia. These tracks from the EP – ‘California’ and ‘For Now’ – were later reworked for her new album.
Dreamy and Philosophical
Her new album ‘In the Waiting’ has fine lines and clear directions. In Kina fashion, acoustic guitar, some levitating keyboard sounds, and, in the foreground, her unmistaken voice: Mellow, smooth, and calm. Kina’s songs in general carry a Norah Jones-y vibe, and a folk poppy style reminicent to Katie Melua, maybe even some hints of Corinne Bailey Rae. Just like Norah, Katie and Corinne, Kina’s destinctive and unique voice paints the picture as the most important instrument. Her new album follows the tradition: Voice is the foreground, supported by acoustic guitar (or piano, like in the song ‘Souvenirs’) and a clear production. Kina’s lyrical content is as dreamy as ever, philosophically about love, life, the world, the universe.
The opener, ‘When Will I Learn’, breaks own private experiences in figurative speech: “The ocean is breaking me apart/in darkness fighting just to swim/how can I hold my heart?” ‘History’, however, is more happy and nostalgic: “That song reminds me of summers, of family, of backyards, of you and me”. ‘California’ and ‘For Now’ – originally from her 2016 Jakarta EP – got a new polish for the album, made more studio-style in favor of the original acoustic scatch. These two songs go through her feelings during her 100 days stuck in Indonesia. The former literally is an ode to California, missing her home place and city and longing to return, while the latter is about gratefulness in life. The lyrical contents go hand in hand with ‘Lonesome’ – a song about loneliness – while the album ends with two-minute outro ‘All Along’ – a typical ‘saying less is more’ moment as Kina’s soothing voice floats through the track with less than a few words.
‘In the Waiting’ can best be described as a peaceful lullaby – calm, smooth, and dreamy, almost outer worldly. On the other side, funny and witty moments are somewhat less compared to her last studio album ‘Elements’, lead by playful singles ‘Dear River’ , ‘Oh Father’, and the dusky ‘The Fire’. This time around, the vibe goes in different directions as the new album sounds more gloomy than its predecessor. Though once again – From start to finish – Kina Grannis stays true to her music and herself. Authenticity on point.
In the Waiting
Full Track List:
1. When Will I Learn
3. In the Waiting
6. For Now
10. All Along
‘In the Waiting’ was released on June 29th, 2018 via new found label KG Records, funded on Patreon. To support Kina, go to patreon.com/kinagrannis
For upcoming tour dates (North America and Europe) please visit kinagrannis.com