YouTube Star Kim Viera

Out of the thousands of aspiring singers with their own YouTube channel not many are actually able to say that their video was viewed over 3 million times. Well, New York native Kim Viera is one of the select few that can make that claim. Her soulful rendition of Rihanna’s “Diamonds”  became a viral hit, and now the 24-year-old is ready to take the music industry by storm.

But don’t take Kim’s new found Internet celebrity as a result of overnight success. The pop vocalist has been putting in work for her music career since she was a pre-teen. By the age of 14, Kim was already singing for the celebrated Radio City Christmas Spectacular and her voice could be heard on television and radio jingles. She went on to attend Boston’s Berklee College School of Music- the prestigious musical institution where Quincy Jones, Melissa Etheridge, John Mayer, Esperanza Spalding, PSY, and Amy Heidemann of Karmin (to name a few) were once students.

Kim recently released her latest cover (Bruno Mars’s “Moonshine”), and she is already working on her next visuals. But before she releases her upcoming smash DZI: The Voice got the opportunity to ask her about her journey as an artist, her advice to other YouTube performers, and more. Here’s Kim Viera.

Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?

Kim Viera: I discovered my voice as an artist around the time I was doing a set at my brother’s wedding. At this point in my life becoming an artist hadn’t entered my mind since high school. Going into college I wasn’t singing as much (ironic considering I went to college FOR music). There I studied music therapy but during the Summer post-graduation my brother asked me to perform. I thought it was a cute gesture but seeing as I hadn’t sung in a while I was a bit nervous to do a full out performance. During rehearsals I found a voice that I had never heard both literally and figuratively, one because during those years of not doing much my voice had matured since and I was able to take the time to listen and study artists I loved and respected in addition to newer ones.

Secondly, I found that those years gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and grow as a person so that enabled me to connect to songs in a deeper way. The day I performed at his wedding was the day everything became much clearer for me and I realized that this was always what I supposed to be doing, this was how my voice as an artist would touch peoples’ lives, because it made them feel something deeper than just hearing a pretty voice. I was giving my perspective on those songs.

“No” isn’t the end. It’s only the end if you decide to give up. “No” can be a new beginning, a new chapter to say “yes I can”.

YK: How has being a professional performer since such a young age prepared you for your career today?

KV: I think starting young has given me a leg up in many ways. Growing up I would go to auditions with my mom so excited to show what I could do and be the ham that I was lol, but on a lot of these occasions I heard a lot of “no’s” too. As a kid this would obviously not be easy to take it because you think “what did I do wrong, and why don’t they like me?” Nonetheless, it was something I got to understand early which would prepare me for the real world. I would cry about it and then I’d be back at it again. I never liked that feeling, and on some level you never fully get used to it but it’s something that comes with it.  Regardless I will still get to do what I love. The challenges and the doors closed in your face make you better because you learn to be a better you and uplift yourself. “No” isn’t the end. It’s only the end if you decide to give up. “No” can be a new beginning, a new chapter to say “yes I can”.

Also, starting young helped me to have a more professional outlook on singing, performing, and recording. My mom would show me how to be focused in sessions and auditions. There were times I would be in recording sessions that were solely in Spanish and since I didn’t speak it fluently my mom would go over the lyrics with me until the pronunciation was perfect and I would have to go in and do it quickly and sing it as if it were my first language. That was definitely a challenge for me and I would always get nervous, but it made me better and prepared me for who I am now on a professional and comfort level.

YK: The list of Berklee College School of Music alumni reads like a Grammy nomination ceremony. How did attending such a prestigious musical institution influence you as an artist and does that add any sense of pressure to succeed?

KV: Going to Berklee was definitely an honor.  So many legends went there and everyday I was surrounded by incredibly talented people. At some points it was super intimidating and other times it was exciting because I felt like I could take in so much knowledge and inspiration from all of them. Whether it was going to shows or sitting in clinics I was just happy to be there and take in whatever they had to give. It was intimidating in the sense that I sometimes would feel like I wasn’t “there” like they were yet but that feeling eventually pushed me to just take what I could from them and use it to be the best that I could be.

Appreciating talent around you is sometimes the best inspiration a person could ask for, not to mention it’s extremely humbling. In terms of it adding pressure to succeed, it doesn’t really do that for me. I didn’t go to Berklee to become a star, I went there to take what I needed from it and that’s exactly what I did; I merely grew as a person and a musician. Succeeding is all in perspective and as long as I’m happy and doing what I love for a living and getting to share that with the world then I will succeed no matter what.

Kim Shinning Bright

YK:  In just about a year you’ve gone from doing self-made cover videos on YouTube to receiving serious interest from major labels. How were you able to attract the attention from industry insiders and how do you feel when you reflect on that journey?

KV: Everyday I’m amazed more and more at how far I’ve come in such a short time and how much favor God has given me. I’m so blessed and thankful for every opportunity to share my voice with the world. When I started doing those videos I wasn’t thinking so much about attracting industry insiders to get signed as much as I wanted to share my musical and emotional perspective on songs I loved and have people come on a journey with me. Of course there’s always that chance that someone from the industry could come across a video of you and that’s super exciting, but it wasn’t the absolute main goal at the moment.

Reflecting back I’m just in awe of the progress and development of me as a person and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I surprise myself everyday with the person I’m becoming and the things I’m able to accomplish when I just believe in myself no matter what opposition comes my way. It’s in the little things, in the people I meet and in this journey overall the past few years that I’m finally finding who I truly am. I can’t stress how blessed and thankful I am.

Attracting the attention of people in the industry came through a few things, some from youtube, some from different people I knew connecting me with people I wanted to work with or meet, and some from just people hearing stuff I had done in general when I was starting from scratch with writing and recording my project.

YK: Your cover video for Rihanna’s “Diamonds” now has nearly 4 million views. With so many covers of that song online why do you think your version was so well received by the public?

KV: I think it was received well for a few reasons: the first obvious reason was that the person I collaborated with, Kurt Schneider, was already well received in the YouTube “cover” community. He’s an awesome and incredibly multi-talented human being who I had the honor of working with and he allowed me to share that platform with him. I also think that we shared a strong musical connection which allowed us to share a very raw and vulnerable version of the song that people needed to hear and truly enjoyed. When we chose that song to cover I wanted to make sure that it would make people feel something beyond it just being a pretty cover, and working with Kurt allowed me to do that.

I think our version definitely connected with a lot of people and I think people need music that connects in a deep way. In fact, I think people are hungry for music like that again and that’s what we tried to do with that song; that’s why I think it was so successful. It was also shot in a way that was more intimate and less focused on the video than it was the song. It wasn’t over done and I think sometimes less is more with certain songs so that people can feel a certain sense of personal relationship with the artist.

YK: Why did you choose Bruno Mars’s “Moonshine” for your latest cover?

KV: I chose “Moonshine” because honestly it’s just one of my favorite songs on his album. I think it grabbed my ear because it’s got that Michael Jackson feel to it, and I’ve been a huge Michael fan since I was a kid. The harmonies of the song were super musical and funky, and me being the harmony nerd that I am thought that I could really enjoy making it my own while finding cool new things to do with it.

YK: Can you just talk about the concept behind the video for “Moonshine”?

KV: The visual concept of “Moonshine” actually came from my “brotherger” lol, aka my brother, who is also my manager. He is an incredibly visual person who loves to create these worlds. When we were talking about what we wanted to do with this cover he already had in his head about creating an alternate world that the “Moonshine” drink took me too. I’m not gonna lie I was a little apprehensive about it at first because he’s more grand in his ideas than I am lol, but I thought “hey, why not. I think it could be cool”. So the “Moonshine” concept and focus of the video was definitely supposed to be more visually appealing with the cinematography and makeup than any of my other covers.

YK: Have you started considering what your next cover will be?

KV: I have a few that I haven’t released yet and should be uploaded soon, but overall once I’m done with one I’m onto thinking of the next one. So the answer to that is yes, but I like to keep that a surprise so it’s that much better when people see it for the first time.

What other artists are you listening to a lot right now?

Right now I’ve been listening to a few different artists. This new artist Miguel is someone I’m kind of obsessed with right now. The production and melodies are pretty nuts so that’s been on replay in my car for a while. I also have my go to artists that I’m always listening to which are two of my favorites: Coldplay and Imogen Heap. Their music just takes me to another place and I can never get sick of them. Also Bruno Mars’s new album has been on replay as well, that boy can saaaaang lol.

People wanna feel – as long as you’re connecting with the music and putting your whole heart into the song and performance – that’s what will always matter the most.

YK: What advice would you give to other aspiring performers on YouTube looking to break into the business?

KV: My advice would be to give nothing less but your everything, and when you’re doing these covers do it as if it were your own song. A lot of people can sing other peoples’ songs but to take it and make it as though you wrote those words is a whole other thing. People wanna feel – as long as you’re connecting with the music and putting your whole heart into the song and performance – that’s what will always matter the most. Consistency and emotion are the most important parts of putting yourself out there as an artist on any public forum because people want to see elements of who you are in your songs and videos. Of course the videos should sound good but it will always be missing something unless you yourself are “in it” completely.

YK: What’s next for Kim Viera?

KV: Well I believe 2013 is going to be a huge year for me. I’ve been working hard writing with a lot of amazing songwriters and producers for my project as well as other artists so I’m back and forth from New York City and Los Angeles almost every other month. So many doors have opened for me within the past few months as an artist and as a writer and this year I plan on having more live performances so that people can see me do what I do up close and personal. I’ve spent a lot more time in the studio recently than I have on stage but this year I plan on evening that out. I want to develop more of a relationship with my listeners this year and possibly start releasing some of my original music that people can take home. That’s just a little bit of what’s next but the best is yet to come. 🙂

All photos courtesy of Kim Viera

For more info about Kim Viera click it

To connect with Kim follow her @Kim_Viera

Check out the videos for “Diamonds” and “Moonshine”:

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