Karina Pasian: War Stories

At 17, Karina Pasian is a trained pianist with a soulful voice to match. Crediting jazz as her favorite genre of music, she frequently listens to Billie Holiday, Natalie Cole, and Sarah Vaughn. She is not your average teenager. After all, how many kids do you know have been invited to the White House to perform before even releasing a single on a major record label? At only 13, Karina was the subject of a bidding war between Interscope, Def Jam, and Bad Boy Records before deciding on Def Jam in 2006.With a long list of accomplishments under her belt, including being dubbed Quincy Jones’ godchild of music, Pasian isn’t jaded in the least. Soft spoken and seemingly well mannered, she apologized for being a couple minutes late for the scheduled interview and giggles nervously when congratulated on the release of her debut album First Love. Karina Pasian speaks modestly about her success, comparisons to Alicia Keys and opens up about her true first love: music. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’ve been singing and performing since you were an infant. You have a hot single on the Billboard Charts and your album dropped last month. How are you feeling?Karina Pasian: I just feel really excited that everything I’ve been working for my entire life is finally coming out. I’ve been recording for three years and recorded over 70 songs, so finally having my album out and being able to perform feels really, really good. Even though I’m only 17, it feels amazing.AHHA: So the title of the album is First Love, which is also the title of a song on the album. I’m assuming that your first love is music or are we talking about a special someone?Karina Pasian: Well the song “First Love” starts off sounding like I’m talking about a boy, but in the middle of the song you realize that I’m talking about music. So, yeah my First Love is music. It’s my favorite song on the album.AHHA: How did you get involved in music? Karina Pasian: Well I was seven years old and I really liked the movie Titanic and the theme song would come on. One day I sat down by myself at the piano and just played it and sang at the same time. My dad noticed and was like, “Wow we should really get serious about this.” So he got karaoke machines and I began to do a lot of performances. I met my lawyer when I was like nine. After that, I met Quincy Jones and he named me his godchild of music. After that we were just really interested in getting a deal.AHHA: And that wasn’t too hard right? I heard there was a bidding war for you between Def Jam, Interscope and Bad Boy.Karina Pasian: Yeah when I was thirteen there was a bidding war for me between the three labels. I chose Def Jam because of the way they treated me. Well, all the labels were cool, but Def Jam was in New York and I would be close to my family.AHHA: That’s a lot going on for a thirteen year old. How did you handle that?Karina Pasian: I just remember having to go and play for all these different people at different labels. It was right before my thirteenth birthday, so I was young. I just let my dad handle all of that. I was like, “I just wanna play the piano and sing and do what I do.” That’s it.AHHA: Who has influenced you musically?Karina Pasian: First of all my parents have been a great influence in my musical life, because they guided me in the right direction. They played for me a variety of music at a very early age. My mother can also sing, and my father has been smart enough to handle my career. But also, Stevie Wonder, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, and Quincy Jones are some of the artists that have influenced me musically.AHHA: You’ve been compared to Alicia Keys. Have you ever met her?Karina Pasian: Yes when I was like eleven, my family and I went to her concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Somehow through my lawyer we were able to go backstage and I got the chance to sing to her. She was really nice.AHHA: Do you ever feel that you are being marketed to fit that comparison?Karina Pasian: Because we both sing and play the piano, it’s natural to get those comparisons. I remember seeing [Alicia Keys] for the first time and thinking, “Wow, she’s like me! She plays the piano and sings and even looks like me.” So to be compared to her is so amazing because she’s seen so much success. But the label allows me to be me and understands that we are different. I think everyone sees that I’m my own artist.AHHA: So you were invited to perform for President Bush during Black Music Month. How did that come about?Karina Pasian: Well, I did that last year in June. I was only seventeen and didn’t have a single or anything out so that was a major accomplishment to me. So for me to be invited was like wow! But a family friend recommended me to someone during Black Music Month and then I was invited. AHHA: And you are the first person of Dominican descent to ever perform.Karina Pasian: Yeah and that’s really an honor. AHHA: Do you think your Latino culture has influenced you music?Karina Pasian: Of course. I’m Dominican. Both of my parents are from D.R. and I grew up in a Dominican neighborhood in New York. So that definitely influences me as a person and musically.AHHA: Besides speaking and singing in Spanish and English, you also sing in many other languages. Karina Pasian: Well my first language is Russian. I have an open ear for other languages and am just able to adapt to them.AHHA: What are some of the other languages?Karina Pasian: Armenian, Italian, French, and Arabic.AHHA: That’s impressive.Karina Pasian: Thank you.AHHA: So now back to the album. The first single, “16 @ War” is a song about young independence. What was the inspiration for the song?Karina Pasian: Well the song has a message and a story behind it. I wanted to acknowledge a lot of the things I’ve seen and what young people go through in urban areas. It’s basically me speaking out for all of my young people. Instead of coming out with a fun song to dance to first, I wanted to come out with this song because it has such a positive impact and shows who I am. AHHA: Did you write this song or any songs on the album?Karina Pasian: No, I didn’t. I didn’t completely write any songs on the album, but I had a lot of input and creative control. So I am singing about my views and opinions.AHHA: That’s really good that you have some creative control. A lot of artists who have been out for a while complain of not being able to have a lot of creative control over their projects. Do you find it hard to be taken as serious because of your age in such a demanding industry?Karina Pasian: Well I have my father who handles all of my business, and he’s really good at it. But people do seem to be a little more protective of me because I am so young. So yeah I think I’m treated a little different because of my age, but that’s just what comes with it.AHHA: Do you feel that your album is more for teenagers or something everyone can relate to?Karina Pasian: It’s definitely an album where everyone can relate. I really just wanted to make a classic album, where five years from now people will remember my songs and my music.AHHA: Are you still in school?Karina Pasian: Yeah, I am in a Performing Arts High School, so it works with my schedule. They are really lenient, like when I travel I have a tutor. So it works. AHHA: Do you still have time to do things that the average 17 year-old does?Karina Pasian: Well yeah, I make time. I sometimes have friends over and we hang out. Also, my dancers who travel with me are really cool, so we have a lot of fun when I’m on the road. Plus my family travels with me, so it’s cool. I don’t feel like I’m being deprived of my childhood or anything.AHHA: But I’m sure there are many sacrifices that you’ve had to make to get to where you are, including not spending as much time hanging out.Karina Pasian: Well yeah, I’ve had to miss school a lot, travel a lot. There have been times when I wanted to go out and hang out but I would have to be home practicing. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. I feel like this is what I’m meant to do.AHHA: What would you like to see happening in your career five years from now?Karina Pasian: Wow! In five years I’ll be like 21 or 22. I don’t wanna get old. [laughs] But I would like to just be doing well in my music. I want to be doing a lot of touring overseas and going to award shows. I’m a performer, so I would like to do some acting and singing as well. AHHA: With all of your success, what keeps you grounded and focused?Karina Pasian: Just praying and having faith in God. Plus my family really keeps me going. They are just really supportiveAHHA: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?Karina Pasian:  I would just say to always stay positive and keep reaching for your dreams. And if you have a goal make sure you have supportive people around you.16 @ War – Karina Pasian

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