Kina Grannis
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Kina Grannis


Band Pop Acoustic


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"Grannis wows crowd at GZ"

One of USC's strongest musical acts comes from a slight junior by the name of Kina Grannis. Monday night, Grannis thrilled a crowd at Ground Zero by unleashing new sounds, new songs and a new version of herself.

Though Grannis made her debut on the USC campus as an acoustic singer/songwriter two years ago, the end of last year brought a myriad of changes to her music. When approached by Ashley Stagg, then a senior majoring in music industry, to work on an album in collaboration with the Thornton Protege Program, Grannis embarked on a project to broaden her musical horizons and bring her recording to a higher level of quality.

"The Thornton Protege Program," said Christopher Sampson, director of the program, "was designed as a career-launching program." But until Stagg approached Sampson with Grannis' music and the idea to make a popular music production, the focus of Protege had only been jazz and classical music. But with Kina, Sampson said, "(Stagg) actually had the pointed idea to develop a pop star."

After working on her EP for the last half-year, Grannis said her songs have "become stylistically different," especially with her most recent three. "At first (they) didn't look like my music," Grannis said, "and I was uncomfortable with them at first. But then I began to incorporate them into my music and they became my music."

Grannis had created buzz as a singer/songwriter on- and off-campus over a year before she began working with Stagg. Now, about a year after her big show at Ground Zero, Grannis plays shows regularly around USC, has a group dedicated to her music and has begun to play gigs at the Knitting Factory on Hollywood Boulevard. Her performance at Ground Zero Monday night demonstrated that she has matured remarkably not just as a singer/songwriter, but also as a well-rounded musician.

Instead of taking the stage with only a guitar, as she has so many times, Kina was accompanied by a full band including bass, guitar and drums, which brought a whole new sound and energy to her show. "I feel like I can really get into it with a band," said Grannis the night before her show. And she did just that.

Grannis kicked off her set with one of her more high-powered tunes, "Highlighted in Green" - a crowd favorite. Instantly showing command of her musical digs, Grannis had the crowd bobbing their heads and tapping their feet with the first few intense chords of the song.

She kept them going with three new tunes, the highlight of which was "Too Soon," an upbeat pop song with empowering lyrics that screams radio airplay. "Too Soon" embodies what a pop song should: a relevant and thought-provoking comment on life with an undeniably enchanting and catchy melody.

One of the most noticeable improvements in Grannis' act was her ability to maintain momentum throughout her set, even through the slower songs. Grannis traditionally plays informal shows, and the laid-back atmosphere of her acoustic act can be almost too informal sometimes.

But Monday night Grannis kept focus even between songs. While tuning, she delighted the audience with an anecdote about enjoying her own personal movie soundtrack while walking around and listening to her iPod - something we all secretly enjoy. The moment was a perfect segue into "People," a beautiful song that embodies just that sentiment, with the lyrics: "Swarms of people / they move in every direction / some minds they wander while others are glued just to their feet / and how I wonder what goes on behind those eyes/ their lives are growing older / and they're growing wise."

Not only is she a self-taught guitarist and composer, but Grannis also has an unprecedented command of song lyrics for such a young artist. Her lyrics soar above and beyond the trite and vapid lyrics of ever-popular indie rock songs. In "Never Never," one of her slower songs, Grannis perfectly encapsulates the pain and uncertainty of relationships: "We like to say / we would never come undone / Breathe it in, breathe out / Can you breathe? / I know I cannot now".

Grannis' ability to parallel the delicate nuances of her melodies with poignant - and sometimes painfully truthful observations - is superceded only by her transcendent voice that rivals (and shames) many popular musicians today. After Grannis's show Monday, Richard Ujadughele, a 23-year-old senior majoring in electrical engineering, said "Kina's voice is enchanting. She has quality music, and she is going to do well."

Though just a junior, Grannis already knows that she wants to keep going with her musical career after she graduates from USC. "I don't think I could really have another job," Grannis said. "There isn't anything I am as passionate or care about. I just want to, you know, make a living at it. I don't know what the means would be to get to that point, but that's the goal."

Her performance on Monday and her recent performances at the Knitting Factory show that her success is approaching more rapidly with every show. Grannis said that she has even been stopped on campus before for an autograph. "I don't have an autograph!" Grannis said.

Grannis better start having pen in hand, because when her EP, titled "Sincerely, Me," is released before the end of this semester, before she knows it, there will be Kina fans swarming the campus.
- Daily Trojan

"GroundZero for student talent"

More than seventy people attended Ground Zero Tuesday night to see Kina Grannis' show. Paired with Gene Russell, an undeclared sophomore like Kina, the two captivated an audience with only their voices and guitars.

"There was a good crowd, which was exciting, because I told people about the show, but I really didn't know how many people to expect," said Grannis.

By the third song, there were so many people that there was standing room only.

Grannis has only been playing the guitar for about three years, and has only been writing songs for two and a half. Aside from two lessons, she is completely self-taught.

Kina's style is extremely individualistic; her high voice flows seamlessly over the sounds of her guitar. She commented on her difficulty of singing low during her set, but what she may see as a problem is truly a characteristic of her performance that sets her apart from most up-and-coming artists, who have difficulty with intonation on high notes.

Kina cites James Taylor, Sarah McLachlan, Jason Mraz and Jump Little Children as just a few of her influences. When writing songs, she will usually write the guitar portion first, and then add the vocals. "Then I will inch my way like that," she said, "pretty simultaneously."

With only her guitar, two picks and a mic, Kina had the crowd at Ground Zero in awe throughout the entire show. Michelle Lopez, a freshman majoring in cinema-television, was lucky enough for Kina to be her first experience at Ground Zero. "I enjoyed it," she stated. "She had real originality to her voice, and I liked her acoustic style. Her voice is incredible, I can't believe it."

Old fans and friends can't seem to get enough of Kina either. Casey Kundert, a junior majoring in music industry, helped start the Song Writers Club on campus, which is how he first met Kina. "This show was awesome. She sang some new songs that she wrote over summer. You can tell she's getting better," said Kundert.

With new songs, the accrual of a steady fan base and the sales of her first self-produced CD, all of which were sold, Kina is certainly moving forward fast. One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching Kina perform is how simple she makes it all seem. She sat on stage with her legs crossed, flip-flops dangling and brought a controlled, yet relaxed presence to her show.

"She's funny, comfortable on stage" said Kundert. "She's really getting into her own groove in terms of putting on a show."

Encouraged by friends to take a step in a different direction with this show, Grannis decided to entertain the audience with anecdotes between songs while she tuned her guitar.

"I was a little more relaxed than usual," said Grannis after the show, "which was fun for me, because I usually don't talk because I am shy and afraid of the audience."

With each show Kina becomes a little more comfortable with the stage, and it shows in her performance. Enthralled by her thought-provoking lyrics and charismatic voice, the audience at Ground Zero could not get enough of her music.
- Daily Trojan

"USC senior Kina Grannis brings her mellow tunes and easy stage presence to this year's Relay for Life."

Kina Grannis hasn't named her guitars yet. She gingerly

lifts one from its place on the stage beside her, adjusts the strap on her shoulder and begins to finger the first chords of "Memory." It's clear that it doesn't even matter. She and the guitar are one and the same - together an instrument that resonates within the dimly lit walls of Ground Zero.

A spot of pink light hits the varnish as Grannis shifts her guitar to match the mellow sway of her lyrics; it bounces back out onto the faces of the students lounging among sofas and tables, and they are struck silent by Grannis' arresting vocals. They're hooked.

There's personality and edge to the strum of her guitar, and Grannis, though diminutive on stage in deep brown knee-high boots and a miniskirt, has powerful vocals and stage presence.

With three albums under her belt, Grannis is no stranger to the music production business, though she does note that she's still had to work hard to define herself as more than a "girl with a guitar."

"Genre-wise, it's hard to label my own music since I'm coming from the inside," said Grannis, a senior majoring in social science with an emphasis in psychology. "I think the most I can say to describe it is that it's really mellow. I like to think of my music as real expressions of something, and it falls somewhere between pop, rock and folk."

Grannis said her influences comprise artists such as James Taylor, Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Jason Mraz, and Iron and Wine.

"Basically, artists with strong vocals," she said.

It was exactly this unique blend of musicality and mentality that drew the attention of several students involved with the USC Thornton Music Protege Program. With their grant, they sought and selected Grannis to be their project, producing what would be her first EP, Sincerely, Me.

Grannis explained that naming her first album was tricky, because she wanted to find a title that would not only well represent her music, but also reflect where she was in her musical career at the time.

"In the beginning, I was thinking of having a self-titled album, just call it Kina Grannis," she said. "But I wanted to save that for an album that I'm super super proud of, because this was just my first attempt, and not everything turned out quite how I wanted."

She said she considered naming it after one of the songs from the CD as well, but also decided against it.

"I couldn't pick just one because then I'd feel bad for all the others," she said. "And then I had written out three pages worth of names, and they all just seemed really contrived or silly or whatever. I sign a lot of my letters to friends 'Sincerely, Me' instead of 'Kina,' and someone jokingly mentioned that. And I thought yeah, this is kind of like a letter, a journal, and I'm letting other people have it. So I thought that was kind of appropriate."

Between songs, Grannis remains down-to-earth, smiling familiarly at the audience as she chats between pieces, even though, she says, she becomes self-conscious when the music stops.

"When I'm playing the music, I'm back to this completely different frame of mind," Grannis said, accenting the statement with an easy smile. "But what I'm most scared of when I perform is the time in between, because it's so awkward! I'm getting better at it though, the small talk with the audience."

According to the bubbly singer, establishing rapport with a roomful of strangers never came naturally to her the way it does for many other singer-songwriters. Grannis, who picked up the guitar during her junior year of high school as an excuse to sing, said she was "disgustingly shy" back then. Her first official performance at a local coffee shop surprised a lot of her classmates.

"They were like, 'What are you doing? You don't sing. You don't even talk!'" she said. "Everyone was really shocked."

But for her, getting to that point was never the be-all and end-all of her musical career. She had always known she wanted to be a singer, even if it took a push in the right direction for her to pursue the path seriously.

"I remember back in second grade, when the teachers asked us, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and everyone was answering doctor or lawyer or teacher, and in my head I was like, 'I want to be a singer.' I thought I wasn't supposed to say that, because doesn't everyone want to be a singer?"

Grannis now works with a member of the music faculty and is required to spend at least one hour a day doing something having to do with her music. The commitment has become more stress relief than duty, though, and Grannis relishes the time spent with pick and pencil.

With the strong support of family and friends, Grannis is hopeful about making a name for herself once she's out in the brutal musical "real world."

"The plan right now is to stay local, get a job so I can pay the bills," she said. "I do want to put everything into music, because that's what I'm passionate about.

"I know the chances of making it big are slim; but if music could be what I do, why shouldn't I try? I'm young, so why not?"
- Daily Trojan


"Sincerely, Me." 2005

"One More in the Attic" 2006

"In Memory of the Singing Bridge" 2006

All cds available on iTunes and Kina's website:

Song previews at:



As a young girl Kina put on shows for her stuffed animals in front of the staircase. Her favorite game was writing impromptu songs to titles invented by her little sister. She grew up singing three-part harmonies with her sisters while doing the dishes. Music, and singing in particular, has always been in the picture.

It wasn't until 15 that she discovered her aunt's old classical guitar under the piano. Something finally clicked, and she realized that this could be the outlet she was looking for. No more hiding in the bedroom recording sing-alongs to karaoke tracks--now she had a real excuse to sing. For her 16th birthday, she got her very own Kina-sized guitar and after a month spent locked away in her room, completely engrossed in her newfound passion, she finally wrote her first song.

Since then, Kina has proven her talent as a prolific writer, having written roughly 80 songs to date. She has played at various LA venues, including The Rainbow Bar & Grill, Room 5, Genghis Cohen, The Cat Club, the Knitting Factory, and several locations at the University of Southern California where she recently completed her undergraduate degree. Kina has also performed at several Relay For Life functions over the years.

In her sophomore year at USC she was selected by the Thornton School of Music to produce a CD, the result of which is the 6-song EP available for purchase from the media page. Then, in early 2007, she was chosen to record a song for songwriters Rachael Lawrence and Deborah Ellen, which was featured in General Hospital in September of 2007. Recently, one of Kina's songs has also been selected to be included in the independent film, "Glass City."

As of Summer 2007, Kina has temporarily relocated to Austin, TX, where she is singing for a band. She plans to record and tour with them through the fall, and come spring, jump back into her solo act back in Los Angeles with full force.