Sometimes called the “next Jack Johnson” because of her island origins, rising commercial success and breezy jams, Anuhea returns to Maui this summer for just two nights of music at Stella Blues in Kihei. Though Johnson is her preeminent musical inspiration, Anuhea doesn’t like being compared to anyone.
She takes pride in the uniqueness of her sound, which is a blend of acoustic soul, reggae, pop, jazz, R&B and rap. She writes the lyrics to all of her songs, taught herself how to play guitar and says her sassy, soulful voice is completely untrained.
Anuhea’s success is a product of her determination, passion and social media savvy. She was first discovered by a manager/record-label co-owner via a demo CD on her Myspace page. She continues to build her fan base on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, interacting with her fans on the web for hours every day.
Once she decided to pursue a career in music, Anuhea went after gigs in coffee shops and restaurants, which led her to local fame. In 2010, she won two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, one for Contemporary Album of the Year and the other for Most Promising Artist.
Truly an island girl at heart (her first job was at The Pet Shop at Maui Mall and she’s obsessed with spam musubi), Anuhea has been steadily gaining national attention. She’s performed with Al Green, Jack Johnson, Pepper, Bruno Mars and Ziggy Marley. In 2009 and 2010, she was invited to perform at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, and is currently on tour across the mainland co-headlining with Mishka, international Roots-Reggae star. On tour she’s promoting her second album, For Love, which she released this past Valentine’s Day.
Anuhea’s taking a quick break from touring on the mainland to play at Stella Blues two nights in a row, before heading for the Pacific Northwest. Come out and enjoy a four-course dinner while taking in a performance by Hawaii’s rising star. $30 for show, $60 for show+four-course dinner. June 1-2, shows at 6:15pm and 9:15pm. Stella Blues (1279 S. Kihei Rd.); 808-874-3779; stellablues.com.
We also asked Anuhea a few questions about her music and what she’s been up to lately:
MauiTime: Your style of music is influenced by a lot of different genres, from Reggae to pop. Is there a genre that you haven’t really tried but are interested in getting into?
Anuhea: I’d love to put out an album or even a mini album of Hawaiian music. I’d love to write some of my own then sing some of my favorite covers.
MT: Who’s your biggest musical inspiration?
Anuhea: Jack Johnson will remain my number one musical inspiration. His music inspired me to pick up a guitar back in high school.
MT: What’s your favorite concert that you’ve attended?
Anuhea: India Arie at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Legendary!
MT: You’ve played with some great artists and at some awesome venues. What’s your favorite performance memory?
Anuhea: Singing “Three Little Birds” with Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Taj Mahal, Jake Shimabukuro and Paula Fuga at Kokua Festival 2010.
MT: Do you prefer playing shows in the islands or on the Mainland?
Anuhea: Being in Hawaii and playing for locals is awesome. Being on the Mainland and realizing my music is spreading is a great feeling, too. I prefer playing anywhere and everywhere!
MT: Your second album, For Love, came out earlier this year. How would you say your sound has changed since your first album?
Anuhea: I feel I’ve embraced my Reggae inspirations more on this album. Chose to go for more acoustic guitar-oriented song-writing, less production and more rapping!
MT: You’ve been on the Love and Roots Tour on the mainland this summer. Have you started thinking about your next album, or are you focusing on performing for the time being?
Anuhea: I’m always thinking about what’s next, but I’m not in a rush to release a full album anytime soon. I’ll release another single or two before the year’s end, but I’m stoked on For Love and am going to perform and promote it as long as I can.
MT: What is the most played song on your iTunes right now?
Anuhea: Country Strong soundtrack for some reason! Love that movie…
MT: You’ve gained national attention as an artist and turned the spotlight on Hawaii.
What do you see for the future of the Hawaiian music scene?
Anuhea: I hope the Hawaiian music scene is recognized for its individuality, not just as World Music or Reggae. Even some awards locally and nationally don’t reflect the reality of the full Hawaii music scene. Hawaiian music and the sounds of the traditional Hawaiian language and the classic instrumentation needs to be recognized but also the island/reggae rhythms of the Hawaii bands. It’s really a unique thing we got going and people around the world love it.
MT: What advice do you have for Hawaiian musicians trying to make it big?
Anuhea: Keep on keeping on! Market yourself professionally and have a real slick presence online, like Facebook, websites etc. and keep practicing and writing. Be true to Hawaii and who you are. Don’t try to be anything but yourself! Lucky for us, the world loves Hawaii, so we already got a shoe-in!