By Steven Graham
For a while now I have been following the music career of Kiersten Holine. When I first became aware of Kiersten she was already a bit of a YouTune sensation and had even been mentioned in Rolling Stone. Simply by posting videos of her covering some of her favorite songs, Kiersten’s YouTube channel has well over 7.5 million views.
Performing songs by artists from Bob Dylan to Modest Mouse to Roy Orbison it is clear that Kiersten’s taste in music as well as her ability to take something very familiar and make it her own are both very strong. That second part is completely built around the quality of her voice.
Last year Kiersten released an album of original tracks and I was excited to hear how it came together. The album is called Candescent and I very much recommend it. The last track on the album is called “The Shape Our Frames Made” and I have had it in heavy rotation for several months now.
Recently it was brought to my attention that Kiersten was back living in Seattle so I decided I would try to catch up with her to ask a few questions and find out when there will be a show. Check out the interview below and go listen to Candescent.
When and how did you decide to start posting your videos on YouTube?
I started posting when I first heard about Youtube. That makes me feel kind of old. Youtube started in 2005 and I put my first video up at the end of 2006. I guess I posted that video mainly out of curiosity. Youtube wasn’t huge yet, so it didn’t seem like a huge risk to put up a video and see what a few people thought. I had only sung in front of a handful of folks in my life and I genuinely wanted to know what other peoples’ opinions were…. I literally thought only a few people were going to like it or comment on it.
At what point did you realize you had a real following and could be successful doing music and using the internet this way?
I don’t know if there has been one defining moment. There have definitely been a couple of times where the earth has stopped moving around me and I have thought, “Okay. I guess I’m supposed to be doing this”.
One of the moments was seeing my name recommended in Rolling Stone (which was just a year after I started YouTube). I realized it was due to my following and (what was evolving into) a pretty devoted fan base that the mention was even possible. I’m also reminded when I see comments and views rush in right after I post a video. It surprises me every time.
Is there any method to how you chose the songs you cover and release?
I wish I had an elaborate and methodical routine for choosing covers, but I don’t at all. It typically depends on what music is hitting me hard that week, what I can’t stop playing or listening to. It’s always a song I connect with on a fairly intense level and it frequently relates to what I’m going through at that point in my life. I guess “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man” wouldn’t fit there… but it usually does 🙂
Have you ever gotten any word or feedback from an artist you have covered?
I have! Both Damien Jurado and The Raveonettes have told me that they’ve liked covers I have done of their songs. I appreciate when artists take the time to check out covers of their own songs and give some sort of feedback. I always try to keep up with who’s covering my stuff … because I know how much it meant to me when I heard from both of those artists. It was huge.
When you set out to write and release your album Candescent (which I love) was there any extra stress or excitement or both about how your fans would receive your original work?
Thanks! Yeah, there is an added element of uneasiness when I release original material just because of how my music career has come about. I know people have liked covers I’ve done, but it’s a totally different ballgame to show people my own work… my words and arrangements. It’s not like I’ve gained the following I have with my own music. The pressure is crazy, but it makes it that much more worth it when people like it. I think I held my breath the whole first week after Candescent came out.
Every song on Candescent is loaded with beautifully thoughtful lyrics. Was there a song on the album that gave you a hard time writing or recording more than others?
I think the most trouble I have writing is starting a song. Usually when I get a verse or even a couple of words for one, the rest just pours out within like 10 minutes 15 minutes. It’s intense!
Regardless of that, for some reason it took me a few months to write the end of “Queen of Hearts Blues”. That verse is so simple too, but nothing felt right before I came up with it. I was so close to trashing it because of not knowing how to end it. The only reason I hung onto it was something David Bazan said to me a couple of years ago. I was asking him about his songwriting process and he said “Hard to Be” didn’t have the “I swung my tassel” verse for a pretty long time. He even toured with the song before he added that. It is, hands down, my favorite part of the song… I think it’s essential. Him telling me that has made me hang onto songs and not call them done until I know they’re right. Even if it takes months.
You are back in Seattle now. Do you have any performances on the horizon or anything in the near future you want people to know about?
Back in this lovely city, indeed. I’ve been focusing on settling back in and trying to make some type of income to survive hah. But I will for sure start to play shows, I will post them on my Facebook and Twitter as soon as they are finalized. Cheers!