The summer’s most buzzed about artist on music, called the next big thing.
By Tiffany White
Nearly three years ago, while most teenagers were busy studying for Geometry, Karina Pasian, then thirteen years old, was being courted by Quincy Jones, singing for Alicia Keys, and was the subject of a major record label tug-of-war for who would sign her first. But Pasian insists she’s just your average New York girl who loves playing the piano and singing. Her debut CD, First Love has contributions from Ne-Yo, Tricky Stewart, John Legend and Lil’ Mama. As the buzz around her becoming the next big thing swells to a crescendo upon the release of First Love, we sat down with Pasian to discuss her image, the pitfalls of growing up too fast and and how being a teenager is more important than rushing into the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
TW: OK, let’s begin! Can you briefly describe your upbringing?
Karina Pasian: Well, I’ve been playing the piano since I was about two years old and I’ve been taking music lessons and dance lessons. Later on I went to a schoolclassically trained [music students] and studied piano. I took a lot of different styles like jazz, pop, r&b and everything. I took vocal lessons when I was about 8 or 9. At around 11 or 12, I got really interested in getting signed. So my dad and I started going to different labels and having meetings where I performed. I was about 10 actually when I met Alicia Keys and I performed for her after a concert backstage. So that was cool. And she was also interested in signing me, but I was too young and stuff. And I was about 11 when I met Quincy Jones and he took me to some important events that also helped influence my career. I went to Rome for We Are The Future, which was an event he put together. And I also sang at his tribute in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theatre. And after that I went to Def Jam for a meeting. I actually went to other labels as well, but I went with Def Jam because they did a really good job at keeping me interested and made a good effort to sign me. They’re also based in New York and I’m from New York and I wanted to be closer to my family.
TW: How did you meet Alicia Keys?
KP: My lawyer knew I was a big fan of hers because I’ve been playing the piano and singing since I was six or seven, so when she came out I was like: “Oh my gosh, she looks like me! That’s exactly what I do!” So, in New York on February 2002 she had a concert; he took me to meet her backstage and I sang for her.
TW: What was it like working with all these famous musicians and producers on your debut?
KP: It was great. It was just an honor to be in the studio with those people that were talented; people that I’ve admired since growing up listening to them. Ne-Yo, he did a song for me, and he’s really talented and he’s on my label as well. And Tricky Stewart and The Dreams, they were amazing to work with. They made it really comfortable in the studio and I loved watching the process. I also worked with Gordon Chambers who was the first person I worked with. It’s been like three years recording this CD; it’s been a long process. We had, like, 70 songs and it was really hard to choose 11 songs out of 70, but it was a great process and I learned a lot from it.
TW: What was your contribution?
KP: Well, me and my dad and my manager, we discussed that all my music had to be positive and have a message. So, once we told them that, they did a good job at bringing us the right team of writers and producers who make good music with melodies. They know I play the piano and stuff and I’m a real musician, so I have to have a lot of good music around me. Every song is really what I feel. I sat down with them later and told them exactly how I wanted it expressed.
TW: You’re often compared to Alicia Keys. Are you happy about the comparison? Is that something you aspire to be?
KP: I mean yeah, I think that’s a great comparison because she’s someone I really admire and she’s really talented. Someone like her who has really impacted the world in a really positive way and she has done so much to help in a lot of ways. For me to be compared to her, I love the comparison. I don’t mind it at all.
TW: Is there a particular song on the CD that reflects you the most?
KP: I’d say the song “First Love,” which is actually the title. It actually reflects me as a person as well. The style fits me; it’s really soulful. And the lyrics — they’re talking about, well, at first it seems like I’m talking about a boy, but at the end you realize I’m really talking about music is my first love and how music is always going be there for me and I’m always going to turn toward it when I’m [feeling] down. So I think that song is my favorite because it expresses me the most.
TW: Are there any different genres you think you might pursue in the future?
KP: I definitely want to do a jazz album. I love jazz so much; it’s my favorite genre. I really love to sing it and I have a lot of interest in it.
TW: Everyone seems to be predicting that you’re going to blow up soon. Is all the buzz nerve-racking for you?
KP: I would say I kind of am in a way. I mean, I’ve been wanting this my entire life and I’ve been waiting for it. But at the same time, it is kind of nerve racking because I’m still with my family at home and I don’t know how everything is gonna change. I know that it’s gonna change for the better, but I do get a little bit scared thinking about it sometimes. [laughs] Not gonna lie.
TW: You know, one thing I really like about this CD is you don’t try to pretend you’re older than you are. This is very much a teenager’s CD. Did you and the producers sit down and talk about that?
KP: Yeah, exactly. I’ve been recording since I was 14, and there have been some songs [presented] that were a bit more mature. [We wanted] all the songs to still be age appropriate, but not too young and not too old. So we definitely told them that.
TW: Do you think that’s a problem with a lot of teen stars today?
KP: I would say it kinda is because I’m trying to enjoy my childhood. I’m not trying to rush and be older than I am because I know later on I’m going be regretting the fact that I went too far ahead. So, I’m just enjoying myself and taking advantage of it. I’m not trying to be older than I am.
TW: What are your future plans from here?
KP: From here I plan on touring, definitely. I just got off a tour, but I plan on going on tour [after the release of my] album or opening for someone really big or something. I’m also working on my second CD and writing as well and producing a little bit. I want to go to Europe. [laughs] I want to do all of it.
TW: What’s one thing you want your fans to take from your CD?
KP: I hope that they take a message of hope and a really positive message that tells them that you don’t have to live life being worried about what other people are thinking of you and trying to fit in and be cool and doing things you don’t feel are right. So, I hope that this CD inspires people to be themselves and always reach for the stars. My saying is, “The sky is the limit,” and I know everybody says that, but I enjoy doing it, you know? You don’t have to let anyone intimidate you.
For more information, check out Karina Pasian at meetkarina.net and her Myspace.