Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii
Alive song sample
Video Blog and Igor Dance!
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On October 10th, 2008 Kawehi was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World.
Many Americans have a deep sense of pride and identity with the state or region they grew up in. Can you tell us how important Hawaii has been to your view of yourself and your family?
Being born and raised in Hawaii is definitely something I am very proud of. It is something you will never forget--a part of you always. With one forth of Hawaiian blood in me, my family sent me to an immersion school where from grade K-6 we learned to do everything in Hawaiian--read, write, math, science...you name it. Until this day--I can read, write and speak fluently in Hawaiian. That is something I am very proud of till this day. I actually do a Hawaiian song with my ukulele in every set. It is a big part of my life, being Hawaiian.
What is your family background like? Were they musicians?
My family was born and raised in Hawaii--both parents and grandparents too. My mother always sang to us--she played guitar as well. She has a great voice. Her father was a great musician--he played great guitar by ear. My dad...well, he's a great listener ;)
One thing Hawaii is known for is the ukulele. Has it always played a big part in your musical background?
Definitely! Ukulele was the first instrument I played. I got really into it in elementary--a friend of mine got me playing and I couldn't stop. We used to play after school, he and I. I was hooked. And the ukulele wasn't enough--I was dying to learn the piano, so my folks sent me to lessons. I still play ukulele in every set I play.
When was the first time you performed one of your own songs?
My senior year in high school--there was a state wide competition...I placed 2nd. Just me and the piano...I played "How Could I." It was a pretty fantastic feeling...I was the only one in the competition who played an original song. I got really serious into songwriting after that.
In 2000 you recorded a duet that played on Hawaiian radio stations. What was that experience like?
It was pretty surreal--I went from a nobody to hearing my song on the radio everywhere. Hawaii is a small place--but it was an incredible feat--being only a junior in high school. It was then that I wanted to become a musician--more than just a singer.
At 19 you traveled to Los Angeles to be part of a group. How did that come about?
My old piano teacher introduced me to a guy putting the band together--I auditioned and got in. At 19, living in LA and recording a demo at an incredible studio was sublime. It was my first time in a real record studio--and I remember thinking, "Yup, this is what I want to do with my life--make music."
You wrote several of the group's songs. Tell us about the music and what it meant to you to hear your own songs being recorded.
Well, the music was very elementary--I cringe a little when I hear it now :) But at 19, I was so stoked! Only I sang my songs, so to hear it in full production being done by you and your band members was such a gift. It was my first time--and it opened my eyes and ears to more than just writing a love song--but hearing things, you know? Structure, instrumentation, production--all things I never thought about until this experience. It was life changing.
How would you describe your style of music?
Pop/Rock, with a little bit of edge. I like to use crazy instruments--I'm really into the sound of things. Optigan, Chamberlain...those are all key sounds that I dig.
Let's talk about your song Alive. When and where did you write and record it?
I wrote it at home--I was trying to finish another idea and was incredibly frustrated. I started thinking about how long I've been at this music thing--and how amazed I was that I was still here, in front of my piano, guitar in hand. Music has always been a huge part of my life...it keeps me going. I was convincing myself that someday (with very, very hard work) I will get there. It's been awhile, but all worth it.
Who's doing the rap on Scarlet Rain?
Chris Wight--he's pretty fantastic, huh?
This year you've been performing throughout California. Do you have any type of rituals you do before or after a show?
Nope. I usually just space out and freak out on the inside. I'm pretty quiet right before a show--I still get incredibly nervous.
You also did your first three shows in New York this year. What was that like?
Amazing! New York is fantastic. The energy there is phenomenal--everyone is out there, doing their thing. And there are true music fans there--people who go out every night just to hear good music (not to see someone in particular). Being from Hawaii, everyone is pretty laid back there--but New York was very different. No one messes around out there--if they want to do something, chances are they are half way into it already. Very inspiring.
What are some places you hope to tour in the future?
I really, really would love to make it out to Japan--I've been dying to play there for awhile now. I'm part Japanese and am incredibly interested in seeing the great place with my whole being. I am a traveler at heart and always love to be in touch with a part of who I am.
You're the proud owner of a Pug named Igor. Rumor has it the dog is quite a dancer. Care to comment?
Oh, he's a magnificent dancer. And extremely beautiful. Don't you think???
So who's the better dance, you or Igor?
Him for sure. Have you seen his moves? Could you ever doubt a Pug who dances?
Let's learn a little more about you. What kind of kid were you?
I was a "balls deep" kinda kid, you know? Never thought about anything before I did it--just went for it. Now, it's a little different. I still have to reach every goal--but not without a little trepidation. In the end I always jump--I just take a little peek now before I do.
Did you always think writing and performing music would be a major part of your life?
No, not really--I mean, I always enjoyed singing, playing music--I used to play along to songs on the radio in elementary. But never had I thought I'd come this far--I thought I'd still be in Hawaii, doing something else with my life. I'm pretty happy with everything I've achieved so far.
What was one of the most difficult things you've had to endure in your life?
Moving out to LA, for sure. At 19--deciding that you're doing to wing it out in another city with no family--that was tough. I have never known living anywhere else, and didn't do much traveling. So uprooting myself from comfortable Hawaii was a huge leap for me. But I had to do it. I miss my family and friends (don't see them as often as I want) but in the end I know that if I didn't move, I would regret it for the rest of my life. And adjusting to life on your own and in an extremely different setting was hard for me at first.
Do you have a "Best Day Ever" that stands out in your mind?
Everyday alive is good. As long as my family and loved ones are safe and happy, I am happy.
Other than music, what are you into?
Eating, traveling, playing with my Pug, normal stuff.
What are your plans for 2009?
Hope big--of course! Maybe in Japan doing a few gigs?
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
Kudos to you--you endure music from a crazy little Hawaiian. No, seriously--thank you all for all of the support. You keep me going.
For more info checkout Kawehi's official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments