Holine finds folk fame via YouTube

By Emily Ornberg

Kiersten Holine has become a rockstar without leaving her room.

After singing and playing guitar as a hobby, her family convinced her to put a few of her folk song covers on YouTube.

“That went a lot better than I thought it would,” Holine said.

Now, her channel has hundreds of thousands of views and developed a fan base large enough to catch the attention of Rolling Stone magazine.

Her videos showcase her warm, passionate voice and simple acoustic guitar, creating a true folk sound. She writes original songs and covers artists such as Bob Dylan, Ingrid Michaelson and Nat King Cole. Holine also collaborates with fans and other artists on duets via webcam.

Holine, 23, independently released two EPs, “ignoble” and “When the Fog Rests,” in 2009, and in April released her first full-length album, “Candescent.”

The Chronicle spoke with Holine about moving across the country, collaborating with artists around the world, and what it’s like to manage her own career.

The Chronicle: What made you start putting your music on YouTube?

Kiersten Holine: I started doing music in high school, at least taking it more seriously. I played alone in my room for a long time, and my family convinced me to put my stuff out there. So I tried YouTube, and I got a pretty great response right away. YouTube is still really young, so I sort of grew with YouTube.

What made you pursue music as a career?

When I was in college [at Seattle Pacific University] I got mentioned in “Rolling Stone” very briefly. They recommended one of my covers, and that was a huge turning point in my musical career. [It was] sort of a wake-up call. Throughout the years, I’ve been just writing and playing as much as I can. A long time ago, I got to open for [indie-rocker] David Bazan in Seattle, which was amazing.

What does it mean to you to gain such a large online following without relying on a record label to call the shots?

I love it. I love the control I have in [my work]. I never really wanted music to feel like a chore, and being able to just show people what I do through this medium is awesome. It’s just so nice to be able to do whatever I want and not really having a boss. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fans, and I’ve gotten to make a lot of really amazing connections. I never thought I could just lean on YouTube, but it’s been really great so far. I’m really honored to be able to keep doing it.

What is it like being able to collaborate with artists like Colin Caulfield and Jeff Pianki via webcam?

It’s such a bizarre form of creating music. But it’s so cool that people can do this from far away. I love the concept. It’s a really interesting way to come together and make music to show other people. And just to collaborate with so many different types of people—I never thought I’d be able to [work] with all the people I have. So it’s interesting and really, really fun. I’m hoping to do a lot more of it, actually.

You’ve lived in Minnesota, Chicago and Seattle. How has moving around affected your sound?

It’s actually been really helpful. Being in all these different kinds of cities and meeting all the people within them has been inspiring, really. Every city has its own energy, and I love exploring and getting inspired through the cities I’m in and the music that comes through them. I think where you are really affects how you write.

What’s next for you?

That’s a great question. I’m not totally sure yet (laughs). I’m still writing a lot, so I imagine I’ll have another album out at least in the next couple of years, if not sooner. I’m definitely going to keep doing YouTube. I really love sharing what I love to do through that medium. I’m just going to keep writing and playing and just hope for the best.

Visit her website KierstenHoline.com for music, videos and tour date info.