Molly Kestner: Her songPublished 11:01am Saturday, May 3, 2014
Molly Kate Kestner sat down on her family’s piano Easter Sunday, just like she normally did on any other day, and recorded a song using a busted-up iPhone. It’s one way for the 18-year-old Austin High School senior to share her musical talents with family and friends, and that song on Easter Sunday was no different.
Except when it caught peoples’ attention and spread like fire throughout the Internet.
Kestner’s original composition, ”His Daughter,” has been seen more than 850,000 times as of last Wednesday since it was uploaded just two weeks ago. The song, and Kestner’s voice, has been featured everywhere from HLN to the Huffington Post. Even Internet darling George Takei has shared Kestner’s song with his Facebook followers, which prompted thousands more views for Kestner’s video. Kestner has thousands of fans worldwide who have reached out to her, all because of one song.
“I don’t even know when I noticed it,” Kestner said Monday.
Growing into her music
Kestner has always had a musical background. Growing up in a family of seven siblings, she was raised to appreciate music just like her brothers and sister.
She had been used to sharing her talents with her friends and family online for several years, but didn’t actually write her own songs until about a year ago.
Of course, Kestner got her start creating her own music like many artists: after she experienced heartache.
“My first song I wrote, I think it was actually after a breakup,” she said sheepishly. “Which is embarrasing!”
“His Daughter,” the song that has garnered so much attention, was written a few months after that, when Kestner heard from a musician who told her she didn’t need to write songs based on her own experiences.
That opened Kestner’s mind up to other possibilities. She had always wanted to become a motivational speaker after college, and her dream job would be to use her music to inspire others at the same time. Yet she had always felt motivational speakers had stories of overcoming adversity and struggling through hard circumstances. Kestner, admittedly, has grown up in relative comfort in a loving family and has succeeded in school.
Yet she felt called to write “His Daughter,” a song about a woman’s struggles with substance abuse, unplanned pregnancy and other hardships, as well as her relationship with God. Kestner is clearly affected by her faith, and she said her strong family, friends and morals have helped guide her thus far.
“This one I never shared,” she said. “It was kind of my special song that only close friends and family knew about.”
That changed once she played “His Daughter” for AHS choir teacher Brian Johnson.
“He said ‘You need to save this song for a year and then perform it at the Austinaires show. It’ll bring the house down,’” Kestner said.
And that’s just what she did. After this year’s show, she decided to post it online. She found it special, and she hoped it would get viewed a little more than her other videos.
“I thought it would do better than my other videos,” she said.
Needless to say, “His Daughter” did much better than her other videos.
Within a few days, Kestner had tens of thousands of views on her Youtube channel, something she hadn’t expected.
“Social media connects the world,” she said. “Something like this couldn’t have happened 10 years ago.”
Just a few days after she posted the video, she got a message from a soldier in Afghanistan, who told her his commanding officer had seen “His Daughter” and had shared it throughout the base. He told Kestner she was famous over there because her song had cheered so many soldiers up.
“That was cool to know a video I posted had an affect on a few people in Austin and then it could impact people I’ve never even met, across the world,” she said.
She has received similar messages from around the world.
Then the attention from other media outlets and record companies followed. She has spoken with several outlets about her music, and will meet with several record companies over the next few weeks to hopefully record “His Daughter” and put it up on iTunes.
“It’s crazy,” she said.
Nowadays, Kestner is looking forward to what the future brings. Her brother, Caleb, has helped her set up social media accounts for her music as well as clean up her existing accounts. As Molly puts it, she hadn’t ever signed in to her Youtube account before “His Daughter.” She had always just posted videos online.
“I wasn’t overly surprised,” at her attention, Caleb said. “For a while I had encouraged her to post stuff on Youtube and other things.”
For Caleb, it wasn’t an issue of whether Molly had talent, rather when people would take finally take notice.
“It’s really cool that the rest of the world’s finally starting to catch on to what we’ve been seeing for a while,” he said.
Molly’s mother agrees.
“You always know it’s possible because of media,” Mary Jane Kestner said. “She’s got a good heart. She really wanted to tell the story of people who had suffering.”
Molly doesn’t know where “His Daughter” will take her. She hopes to be able to continue her efforts as the 2014 Young Distinguished Woman of Minnesota and bring awareness to that high school program through all the media attention she has received. She also wants to attend North Central University, and she still wants to become a motivational speaker. Yet she’s not adverse to starting a music career or putting together an album.
“Some people want to make music to be famous, and that’s totally OK,” she said. “I just want to help people with my music. I want to lift them up and make them feel better about things.”
That could start with “His Daughter,” a song already near to Molly’s heart.
“I knew when I wrote this song that I wanted to impact people, but I just didn’t realize how big an impact it would have on people,” she said. “That was something I couldn’t ever imagine.”