Molly Kate Kestner is on her first-ever tour. And it’s about time. The 21-year-old Minnesota-born singer first came to prominence in 2014, when she posted a YouTube clip that went viral.
Filmed on a cracked iPhone and played on an out-of-tune piano, Kestner’s performance of original song “His Daughter” has now been viewed over 15 million times.
It also landed her a spot on ABC’s World News, as well as a record deal with Atlantic. Not bad for a then-high school senior who had only taken up piano a year prior.
Finally old enough to perform at venues across the country, Kestner is hitting the road armed with a cache of songs that may - or may not - be going on her debut album.
Ahead of Kestner’s show at the House of Blues’ Voodoo Room on Sunday, PACIFIC spoke with the rising star by phone before her second-ever tour stop in Seattle.
PACIFIC: How’s the tour going?
MOLLY KATE KESTNER: I’ve never done a tour, ever (laughs). I’m a super-newbie. But I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience. It’s not really a full-length tour, so I get a taste of what it’s like without getting too overwhelmed. And Wrabel, who I open for each night, is such an incredible artist and songwriter. I feel like I got really lucky with this one.
You live in L.A. now?
I do. I officially moved last February. So it’s been a little over a year now. But I’d been flying back and forth since I graduated because that’s when my music started taking off. And then I signed a record deal.
Molly Kate Kestner
When: 7 p.m. March 19
Where: House of Blues’ Voodoo Room, 1055 Fifth Ave., downtown
True that you wrote your first official song while working as a janitor?
(laughs) Yes. I was. I had the idea as I was cleaning my dad’s shop as a janitor. It still cracks me up. I don’t remember if I was just singing or what I was doing, but I was cleaning the bathroom and when it came to me, I quickly grabbed some of the secretary’s paper and wrote it down. But when I put the song out a year later, my younger brother had taken the job from me and I was making sandwiches at Jimmy John’s. (laughs) I had moved up a step in the world. Oh, man. But that really is where it all started.
I think that story will be even better 10 years from now.
The way that everything happened, with my song taking off so quickly, with really no reason or me even knowing why, was very humbling. And it’s even more so now, with me living in a city that’s so densely populated with talent, and knowing that I was able to reach people, that they would want to hear my voice and what I had to say in all of that, is really humbling. I’m so glad that I had a solid foundation when all of that happened to keep me grounded.
What were your initial aspirations as a Minnesota-bred artist? To get to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre? First Avenue? Or was it bigger?
Until my song took off, there was no part of me that thought I’d actually be a performing artist. I thought maybe I’d be leading music at a church or I’d be a music teacher. Part of me wanted to be a motivational speaker in schools. After I graduated, I worked with a nonprofit group in Minnesota called Youth Frontiers. And I wanted to use music with them somehow. But I never thought that I would actually get to perform songs that I wrote.
You’ve officially released two songs so far. What’s next?
I still have another song that I’m planning on releasing. And I have a list of songs that I’m pretty sure will be the first record that I put out. Obviously, things can shift. And that’s why we haven’t put any solid dates on it yet. But I definitely have the content. And since I’m doing all these shows now, we’re figuring out which songs people are responding to, but all the songs in the set will likely be on the first record.
Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
Yes. Since I was a little kid I’ve been singing, writing, and appearing in musicals. Before I could even write, I was scribbling on pieces of paper and telling my mom that I had written a song. But I grew up in a town where pretty much everyone I knew had a “normal” job and a standard way of life, and it made me kind of assume that being an artist or a songwriter, and wanting to travel the world, was out of the question. And it’s been so cool to see my stuff blow up because it’s a reminder that I can actually do this and it doesn’t have to be just a dream. It’s something tangible and realistic. It’s going to take hard work and an army of people to help me figure out how to do this whole thing, but I’m just so glad that I was able to figure it out sooner rather than later in life.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to