Interview: Karina Pasian – Singer and Classical Pianist

Posted: August 27, 2008 in interview, music
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Karina Pasian

Date of Interview: 08/27/2008

© 2008 Clayton Perry

When Quincy Jones goes out of his way to support a new, budding artist, the world would be wise to grant an audience to the apple of his eye: Karina Pasian.

On May 16, 2004, Jones invited Pasian to perform in Rome for his “We Are the Future” benefit concert, which was concerned about children in war-ravaged cities.  Shortly thereafter, Pasian earned a place in history, by becoming the first person of Dominican descent to perform at the White House, at the age of 15.

A classically trained pianist, Pasian also sings in seven different languages.  And while her Def Jam debut, First Love, only makes use of two, English and Spanish, Pasian’s music has transcended language barriers and inspired thousands of fans around the world.

Her first single, “16 @ War,” is a powerful introduction that resonates with female empowerment and expresses the day-to-day hardships that many young females face.  Upon review of First Love, Karina Pasian managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Ella Fitzgerald, her professional relationship with Quincy Jones, and society’s need for positive music.

Clayton Perry: The lead single from First Love was “16 @ War,” a powerful song about the struggles of teenage girls. As a new artist, was there any pressure to make your debut single a little bit more radio-friendly?

Karina Pasian: I would say there was pressure, because we worked hard to present a positive message to the public. In the beginning, we were going back and forth—wondering if it would be too much or too preachy. But we realized that the song would have a big impact and show people what I’m about.  All my songs have a positive message, so when we came across “16 @ War,” it was like, “Wow, this song needs to be perfect.” It makes a big impact to have it as a first single.

Clayton Perry: As you publicly tackled heavy social issues, like peer pressure and drug use, I am quite certain that you have had a lot fans express their appreciation for “16 @ War.” What’s been the most rewarding comment that you’ve received?

Karina Pasian: I got a lot of feedback and a lot of cool messages from parents. That really surprised me.  Many said that they could relate to the song, even though they were older, and that it was good that I was coming out and making a stand, by releasing a positive message that is really needed out there.  It was nice to hear that the album was something they definitely would want to buy for their kids.

Clayton Perry: Well, as sad as it may sound, positive messages are hard to find in the current musical landscape, especially for young women.  What responsibility do you feel artists should have to make responsible music?

Karina Pasian: I feel like other artists should be in this because it is what they love and they want to inspire other people through music. Music is really powerful. People listen to music and maybe follow what it says. I feel like my music inspires people and gives them positive messages, gives them songs that they can relate to and hopefully songs that can steer people in the right direction, change people’s lives. Not too long ago, there was this girl who was about to commit suicide and she went to MySpace to leave a message about saying goodbye. She heard “Can’t Bring Me Down” and she changed her mind. Stuff like that is really what I’m in this for – to inspire people through my music.

Clayton Perry: Wow, that’s really powerful. What do you think the biggest issue is for young teenage girls to combat and overcome?

Karina Pasian: I feel like many girls try too hard to fit in and do stuff that they think is right, trying to live up to the standards that guys – not all guys, I don’t want to be general – put out there. I feel like girls don’t need to pay attention to that. They need to follow what’s right for them, what they feel is right. I feel like that’s the problem there. They just need to stop trying to be cool.

Clayton Perry: You recently participated on the Russ Parr Bus Tour. Tell me about the experience. How did you enjoy it?

Karina Pasian: I enjoyed it a lot, but I had to wake up really early in the morning [laughing]. Every single day, we were on a bus just driving. I love long car rides, though, so it was cool to be able to have that experience and travel to a different city every day and see all the fans that came out.  Performance after performance, we would get right back on the bus and hit the road again, so it was definitely a cool experience.

Clayton Perry: While you were on tour, First Love had yet to be released, although parts of the album were available on your MySpace page. Is there a particular song that the crowd instantly connected with?

Karina Pasian: Yes, actually the song that I play on the piano – “Slow Motion.” That is the song that I feel like I got the most feedback on. Of course I got feedback on “16 @ War” – that was the song that was widely known. But with “Slow Motion” I feel like I made an impact.

Clayton Perry: What kind of joy did you get on the road that you couldn’t get in the studio?

Karina Pasian: I guess just being out and seeing everything. When I go to different places to record – like Atlanta – I don’t see much at all, because all of my time is spent inside of the studio. When I’m on the road, however, I get to explore the city and meet a lot of new people, in-between my performances.

Clayton Perry: Living in the spotlight can be difficult especially at a young age. Do you find if challenging to let loose and enjoy your childhood?

Karina Pasian: I wouldn’t say it’s challenging. I love being a teenager. I don’t want to grow up. I don’t see why everybody’s in such a fuss to grow up. I’m really enjoying it. When I’m home, I get to hang out with my family and friends and we go out to the mall and stuff. I just go out and enjoy my youth.

Clayton Perry: So, you don’t really feel any burden of being labeled as a role model?

Karina Pasian: I do feel that. I know that a lot of people are looking up to me, but I knew what I was getting into. It’s all a part of the process.  People that are older are looking up to me, and I’m just like, “Wow!” I don’t know how to describe it.

Clayton Perry: Your musical godfather is Quincy Jones. What’s the best professional advice that he’s ever given you?

Karina Pasian: He’s always told me to stay humble and to always keep developing my craft. There’s nothing that I can’t learn if I remember to be open to anything, any suggestions, and always keep working.

Clayton Perry: Keeping that advice in mind, who do you look up to in the music business?

Karina Pasian: Beyonce. She’s been so successful. To see all of her hard work, she definitely fights for everything. I see that she’s so strong and dedicated to everything that she does. I really look up to her for that, for being so talented and so focused in everything that she does. She really inspires me a lot.

Clayton Perry: As a student of voice and music at the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City, how does your classical training impact your contemporary work?

Karina Pasian: Well, I’m still in school, so it really helps because we tackle different styles of music. We sing opera, we sing in different languages, gospel, everything. Being in the choir definitely helps me be grounded because it’s not all about me. It’s all about being a part of a team and giving my all for the choir. I feel that definitely helps me. It really molds who I am and how I sing.

Clayton Perry: That’s quite a juggling act, being in school and being out on the road and promoting and everything. Is there a sense of awkwardness being a celebrity-in-the-making and still being the girl-next-door?

Karina Pasian: To be in school and be a “celebrity?” I guess it is, kind of. I have an album that I know the kids in school will know when I go back to school, so I hope it’s not too awkward for me. They’ve been very supportive though. They’re just fun.

Clayton Perry: In preparation of your debut, you recorded 70 songs for consideration on First Love. How did you go about selecting the final track list?

Karina Pasian: That was really hard – I’m not going to lie. There were so many songs that I loved and I had a connection with, We couldn’t have 70 songs on the album, so it was hard to choose. We just chose the whole sound. We put all the songs together to see how they would sound. If there was one song that we chose that didn’t sound right with the whole album, then of course we took it off and kept recording – even after we chose everything. It was a hard process but I feel really good about the choices. The songs we didn’t choose will probably end up on my second album.

Clayton Perry: You’ve gone on record to say that “Winner” is your favorite track. When you sing it, live or in the studio, what kind of emotions or memories pop up?

Karina Pasian: I would say memories of my family and how they always make me feel like a winner. They never let me give up – especially my dad. He’s always been supportive of me. He always makes me feel like a winner.

Clayton Perry: Although you have formal musical training, when did you really become aware of your talents? Was there a specific moment?

Karina Pasian: Well, when I was 7 years old, I was really obsessed with the movie Titanic. I really loved the theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” and I just sat on the piano and played it by ear and started singing it at the same time. My dad was like, “Whoa!” Same with my mother, everybody. That’s when I really thought, “Wow, I’m singing and playing the piano.” Since then, I always knew that music was in me and that this business was something I wanted to pursue.

Clayton Perry: Several media outlets have compared you to Alicia Keys. How do you feel about that? In what ways are you alike and in what ways are you not alike?

Karina Pasian: I love being compared to her. She’s somebody that’s way beyond my years and has been really successful and she’s somebody that I look up to. I feel like that’s just an honor for me, somebody who’s 17 years old and being compared to her. Even when she just came out and I was 9 and I saw her, I said, “Oh my goodness! She’s doing what I do. She’s doing the exact same thing that I do.” It was just funny to me. Being compared to her is just amazing to me. I would say that even though I’m compared to her, people still see who I am. I love the comparison, but I still want people to get to know me through my music.

Clayton Perry: In June 2007, you were one of a select group of people to perform for President Bush at the White House. What memories shine bright from that moment?

Karina Pasian: Just me pulling up to the White House was like “Whoa!” When I saw it, I was like, “Wow, I’m actually about to go inside of it and perform!” So, it was just amazing to me to be selected when I was 15 years old. I didn’t have a single out or any record or anything. It just felt like such a big accomplishment to be performing there.

Clayton Perry: For the performance, you decided to perform “Misty.” As a lover of jazz, what do you think younger artists can do to make it appealing to a generation that might think it’s a little bit too old school?

Karina Pasian: When I was growing up, my dad played jazz all the time, so jazz is my favorite genre. I feel like jazz is so beautiful – the stories, the singing, the music and everything. I don’t know how to really make people love jazz, but I feel people should just be more open to listening to different styles of music.  Jazz molded R&B, and without all those great legends, it wouldn’t be the same now.

Clayton Perry: If you can make a tribute album of jazz covers, which artist would you choose?

Karina Pasian: I would choose Ella Fitzgerald.

Clayton Perry: Cool!  One of my favorite singers is Christina Aguilera.  She is also a lover of vintage jazz music.

Karina Pasian: She’s one of my favorite singers, too.

Clayton Perry: Since you’re fluent in Spanish and sing in 7 different languages, have you ever considered following in Aguilera’s footsteps and recording a Spanish album?

Karina Pasian: Yes, of course. I really feel that coming. I have a Spanish version of “Can’t Find The Words” as a bonus track on First Love, so it’s definitely coming.

Clayton Perry: When all is said and done, what do you want the lasting impact of your career to be? What do you want people to look back and say about you?

Karina Pasian: I want people to remember me as a timeless artist, an artist that doesn’t have to be labeled as anything, even an R&B singer, just a name: Karina. Hopefully, people look up to me and see that I’ve left a long trail of positive messages and was able to present myself with a positive image.

For more information on Karina Pasian, visit her official website:

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Clayton Perry, Karina Pasian. Karina Pasian said: Wow that was a long time ago! RT @crperry84: Karina Pasian (@KarinaPasian): the DEFINITIVE interview! – […]

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