Lia Ledezma Bradley is one of Maui’s most vivacious entertainers. Performing as Lia Live, she’s brought her energy to audiences across the island. We chatted with her before her upcoming performance at Kihei’s Fourth Friday Town Party to find out how dancing with a mop got her started and why her heart lies on Maui.
MAUITIME: What made you want to be a performer?
LIA LIVE: Getting in the entertainment business is actually something I didn’t want to do, but something I fell into because it is in my blood. I have a very musical family. My father is the conductor of the Panama National Symphonic Orchestra, and as a child I performed in many of his productions. But I also grew up watching one of my older sisters try to “make it” in this business, and I saw how tough the industry can be to break into so I was very discouraged by it.
Ultimately, the reason I started was because I felt performing was something that brought me joy. Once I realized that I could sing or say anything and be who I wanted to be at the moment I was behind that mic, and someone else would relate to it and appreciate that, it made me see that it is a beautiful gift and I needed to do something with it. Also, being on stage is a great rush and I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie.
MT: How did you get your career off the ground?
LL: After graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I held a series of odd jobs, getting in trouble a lot for singing out loud and dancing around with the mop. My friends tolerated my loudness and annoying-ness and knew me for that.
Then one day my friend Tiare saw a flyer at MCC [Maui Community College] about a girl group audition she thought I would be perfect for. I called and I went through a series of auditions until I became a member of the singing group Shuga. Shortly after, my friend Annjulie Vai introduced me to her friend Scott Baird, whose band Crazy Fingers was very popular. I began coming to their shows and waiting for a chance to get up and let loose. I was very lucky because I got a double-sided learning experience.
I learned a lot about the entertainment business from the Shuga’s manager, Angela Montilliano, and at the same time I would sit in with Crazy Fingers and learned how to be comfortable in live performances. I then went on to start a solo career and moved to LA to go to school at Musicians Institute.
MT: You were from Panama. How long have you been on Maui?
LL: I graduated here on Maui from King Kekaulike High School. I moved here when I was 14 because my sister had just got married and was having a baby. My mother and I came to help her. During that time I attended high school, and it was a big culture shock. School here is a lot more relaxed and kids have a lot more freedoms than they do in Panamá.
Also there’s less consequences when you get in trouble so of course that’s exactly what I did. After getting myself in trouble I had to attend tutoring for 3 months. One of the tutors told me that he didn’t think I would be able to graduate, so I was determined to prove him wrong. I’ve always been good at working under pressure, so I buckled down and did all the work I needed to do to pull it off, and I did. While I was in high school I got into surfing and the island lifestyle, I fell in love with Maui and by the time I graduated I just couldn’t leave this all behind.
MT: How does being solo differ from when you were with Shuga?
LL: It’s funny we’re called “solo artists” because we could never really do this alone. I work with many people in many different projects. I currently sing with some convention bands such as Funky Business here in Maui and Alapa Drive from Lanai. When I was in LA, the music I performed was mainly Hip Hop and Reggaeton, which was very popular at the time. I performed to tracks with a DJ and I had a choreographed show with dancers.
When I returned to Maui I was looking for something more organic, so I tried to look for a band I could join and work together with to not carry all the load. I found Livacious, this great dub-roots band where I met my boyfriend Kai Akin. After a short while Livacious broke up, but during that time I wrote a lot of good songs to Kai’s grooves that we still perform together when we do acoustic gigs.
After that I decided to just put my name out there as a solo artist and play with different bands. When doing a Lia Live show, I usually perform with bands that already have a name for themselves such as the Kryptones and HI Ground. I also perform with other local female artists such as Leylani and Kalisi, whom I have collaborated with on a few songs. My niece Sunny Kalama recently released a single which I’m featured on called “All I Wanted.” I’ve invited her to perform at some of my shows so it’s been really great getting to perform with her.
I also have help from my sister Oriana who sings back up on most my shows. She’s the founder of a nonprofit organization called Ocean Defender. Together, we created a program where we bring an ocean awareness presentation to kids in youth centers and schools.
MT: What are your favorite songs to perform?
LL: That’s a tough question because it changes from time to time, but right now I’m really digging this Dancehall version of Royals I do over the “Murder She Wrote” beat. I have many fall-back classics that I love such as “So Lonely” by The Police and “Underneath it All” by No Doubt. I also love singing a lot of Bob Marley because of the uplifting messages. Another artist I like to cover is Shakira; her latest, “I Can’t Remember to Forget You,” has a cool ska vibe reminiscent of The Police which is a sound I’m really into that seems to be coming back. Pharrell is another artist that I’ve been enjoying covering lately as well as Bruno Mars.
It’s also really fun to perform my originals. I have a really fun funk song called “Little Black Shoes” that people really seem to enjoy. Sometimes I put a little Latin twist on my latest single “411,” which makes it different and fun.
MT: How do you listen to music? And what are you listening to?
LL: I like Spotify on my mobile because I’m always on the go and I can make playlists of all the stuff I like and listen to them in the car. I have different playlists that I listen to, depending on what kinda mood I’m in.
I have a freeway rock playlist of stuff I used to listen to while driving in LA with stuff like Kings of Leon “Use Somebody” and “Reptilia” by the Strokes. I have a ‘90s alternative playlist with Pearl Jam and Nirvana and all that MTV stuff. I have another one with soul try stuff like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu Bilal and Dwele. I also like to listen to specific artist pages but my taste is really wide so it ranges from some not so known artists like Janelle Monae, to world superstars like Shakira. I have an international playlist where I put songs I discover from different artist that speak different languages.
My new favorite is Stromae from Belgium. He sings about real life situation and social injustices but still manages to put a dance beat to it. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Brazilian music because I’ve been really inspired to get back to my roots in the past year, and since we got the World Cup going on. From Brazil I’m listening to Michel Telo, Gustavo Lima, Claudia Leitte, Vanessa da Mata and Bebel Gilberto.
I also listen to the radio a lot. When I wanna listen to Reggae, I put on Q103 and I also listen to 92.5 to keep up with what’s current on the island scene. I listen to 101.9 and 98.3 as well, to keep up with top 40s because, as a singer, people are always asking me if I know this song or that song so it’s almost like a job. If I’m looking to hear something specific I don’t have I’ll use YouTube to look it up, and also I use it to find new cool artists.
My niece and nephew also turn me on to a lot of stuff–that’s how I keep up with what kids are listening to. They like artists like Miguel, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran. I really love that new Lupe Fiasco with Ed Sheeran “Old School Love” and the one with B.o.B, “Past my Shades.” When I hear something I really like, I’ll buy the track or album on iTunes to support the artist.
I’m one of those people who still pays for music because I know how much effort it goes into making just one song let alone an album. But I don’t mind if people download my music for free because I rather them listen to it and maybe come to the shows than not listen to it at all. I still listen to CDs, but not as often. I loved listening to stuff for hours and looking at the CD pictures when I was a teenager, but I don’t have time for that anymore. When I buy a CD it’s usually something I had in the past and buy just to have it. Sometimes, I like to go look at the used CDs at Request and find old goodies there.
MT: How do you manage being a musician with your busy island life?
LL: It’s challenging at times, but I always try to remember how lucky I am when I feel overwhelmed or frustrated. In the past, I would spend too much time on one thing and slack on others. Now I’m growing up as a person and as an artist I’m learning how important it is to balance both home life and music life.
I’m lucky because I have a great support system. My boyfriend keeps me in check when I have crazy ideas, my sister helps me with my crazy, out-of-the-box ideas, and my stepson and niece and nephew are who I have crazy ideas for. That’s really what keeps me going–doing something that they can be proud of and learn from.
I feel like if I had some sort of mentor when I was in my teens, I could have got a lot more accomplished from having some direction. My goal is to be that person for my family and the kids growing up around me. Someone who they can count on for advice, and maybe someone to teach them the ropes in the entertainment industry.
MT: Where can we see Lia Live?
LL: This Friday, I will be performing at Kihei Fourth Friday on the main stage from 7:45-9:00pm with Kalisi and Leylani and their band. I play at different types of festivals, concerts, clubs and private events. Last month, I performed at the Maui Brewers Festival at the MACC. This past weekend, I performed with an acoustic trio at a beach party.
To get updates on where Lia Live will be performing next, check out the following:
Facebook: Lia Live
Photo credit to Jessica Pearl