It’s early in the morning in Paia and I’m meeting Gaia Golden at her parent’s coffee shop, Da Vine Art, where she also moonlights as a barista. This weekend, Golden will debut her new album at Casanova and The Dirty Monkey, with five tracks that she’s poured heart and soul into for the last two years.
“I have been doing piano and singing since I was six, but I moved to LA when I was 16 to go to music school,” says Golden. “I went to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. At first I thought I wanted to be a Disney artist. Disney artists are Hollywood pop artists like Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s uptempo, no swearing, very light, PG-13. You can be six and listen to it, or you can be 50 to listen to it–a very broad age range. “
But two years into it, and after writing two Disney pop songs, she realized that path wasn’t for her.
“I realized when I was writing that all of my songs are about sex,” says Golden. “I can’t be myself if I’m going to be a Disney pop artist. So I switched lanes. I started writing edgier music. At the time I was around 19 to 20, going back and forth to New York to work with a producer my manager set me up with.”
But working with producers just frustrated her artistry.
“The producers would say, ‘Let’s change the chorus, and let’s change this and that,’” says Golden. “It’s like telling an artist to move the eyeball in their painting and change the color. You’re gonna be like, ‘Yeah, but this is my fucking painting. Don’t change my art.’ It upset me when they would get my song to 75 percent but never exactly how I envisioned. I didn’t want to be stuck with a song that would hopefully get big, but then I would have to sing it for the next 30 years and it wasn’t what I really envisioned. So after working with two or three producers, I went back to music school for a year and a half and learned production. I decided to do it all on my own.”
She recorded five songs while she was on the mainland, scrapped them all, then moved back to Maui. She’s spent the last two years working on her music release.
“I’m producing my own music now,” she says. “At the end of the day when I write a song, I know what I want it to sound like, I know what I want it to be about and I know what I want the video to look like. I’m creative in that aspect. Now I’m at the level where what I put out is really what I want it to sound like. I’ve been working on this release for two years. It took me five months to record it and a year to produce it. I wrote it about boys I dated. It’s about different boys I’ve liked.”
Her songs are all personal. What I really liked about the album was its edgy pop element.
“‘Bad Boy’ is the single,” she says. “I fell in love with this boy who was pursuing me. He got me out of this toxic relationship. He was the funnest boy, loved to dance and go out. But then he broke up with me on my birthday. That night on my birthday he was out with someone else. I was at a concert and there he was with another girl. He said he didn’t know how to tell me. We went on and off for six months. Then I was dating another hot mess, an alcoholic, could not get his shit together. I like hot messes. When I got back together with the other guy, he was like, ‘What is up with you? Why do you like bad boys?’ I just like the entertainment of it. The song is about that process for me.”
The songs are catchy and fun, you get hooked. The hard part is getting it out there now.
“I’ve been struggling with how to get my music out there,” she says. “I’m using Instagram, I am @GaiaGolden. I’m going internet-strong. My friends have a lot of followers. I’m going to do some Snapchat filters at the high schools. This is all new to me. I’ve read all these blogs and books.”
The album, titled Lost in Paradise is available on Spotify and iTunes, but you can see her perform it live this weekend.
“This music is the first time I am releasing something,” she says. “This is the first time I’m really proud of what I’m putting out there. This is really me. There are songs like ‘Island,’ which is a poem, and ‘Bad Boy’ is about never finding a real boyfriend because you only like bad boys. It’s a broad spectrum of me. The stuff that I did before is either stuff I felt someone was pushing me in a certain direction or they would give me songs to write to and wasn’t connecting with it. So the five that I did before I might redo. Working in LA is just such a grind. It’s not a happy place. Everyone is searching for more. Now I’m happy. I moved back home three years ago. I’m more of a creative person. I’m more myself.”