UPDATE: Mauitime just got word that Sunday’s show has been cancelled. New date will be announced at a later date.
I’m pretty mesmerized by Eli Mac’s latest release, “Roots Girl.” It’s a catchy reggae song that’s screaming up the iTunes charts, and features guests Nattali Rize and Paula Fuga. The music video is a great production too, filmed on O‘ahu, capturing Eli Mac’s rootsy island-girl fashion that has a touch of urban inspiration. Her roots are here on Maui, where she grew up in Ha‘iku and once waitressed at her parent’s IHOP restaurant at Maui Mall. MauiTime caught up with Eli Mac this week, as she’s on her way back to the Valley Isle to do a show this Sunday at Mulligan’s on the Blue.
“I haven’t had a show in Maui in awhile,” says Eli Mac. “Maui is my hometown so I’m really excited to be back home. I just released my newest single and it debuted at number one on iTunes reggae chart. It’s called ‘Roots Girl,’ featuring Paula Fuga and Nattali Rize. It’s doing really good right now on the charts.”
She has a humble, laid-back style. Eli Mac has been working hard, touring a ton, and staying true to her sound.
“I’ve just been traveling. I’m about to go on the road with Common Kings for a month in October. I just got off the road with The Green and SOJA. I’m just tryin’ to stay busy and singing.”
In between tours, she works on her album.
“I’m working on a full length album. It will be my first full length album, about 11 songs. It should be out in early 2020.”
Eli Mac got her start on the big stage in LA as a young girl named Camile Velasco. Her early claim to fame might have been making it to the Top Ten of season three of “American Idol,” but she’s well on her way to seizing her own celebrity as Eli Mac, a reggae star in her own right.
“Yeah, it has been quite a journey,” she says. “You know I moved to LA when I was 18, and I tried so many different genres: R&B, hip-hop – I was in a hip-hop group and I had a record deal with Motown when I was 19. Then, I would say about maybe eight years ago, I moved back to Hawai‘i. I linked up with The Green and I got into a studio with them and I recorded “Dub Stop.” It just felt so good. I grew up with reggae and roots and Jawaiian music. I never really thought about reggae before that. When I recorded my first reggae tune it felt so right: This is where you are from, this is your roots. I just felt so good. It was that moment where my career just started blossoming as artist.”
That was back in 2014. From there she’s been touring with Sublime, The Green, and J Boog. She’s opened for Lauren Hill, Shaggy, and SOJA. After her Dubstop EP, she had the five-track Tricky One released last year. That was followed by the single “Roots Girl.”
“This song, ‘Roots Girl,’ is a very special song to me,” she says. “My best friend’s husband wrote the song for her. He came to my house to record this song. My other half is in the band Tribal Seeds, and we have a recording studio at the house. When we played it back, it was such a beautiful song that I just started crying, knowing it was written for his wife. A couple months later we were all talking and he said, ‘Camile, you should record this song, we aren’t going to do anything with it.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, I would love to.’ It was so magical.”
She contacted a few friends to drop tracks on the song with her.
“I hit up Nattali Rize, she’s from Australia,” says Eli Mac. “She is an awesome singer and lyricist, just a super strong woman. Paula Fuga, Nattali, and I were actually never in the studio together. We did it all over the internet. Nattali was in Australia when she dropped her verse and sent it back to me. I was in California – I live in California now, I have been here for about three years. Paula was in Hawai‘i. I sent her the song, and she sent me her verse. That was it – the rest is history.”
The song did so well they got together to film the video.
“The ‘Roots Girl’ video we filmed in Hawai‘i, absolutely,” she says. “Nattali Rize flew over from Jamaica, that’s where she lives now. She flew over and stayed three days and we just banged out the video. We did it on O‘ahu.”
While Eli Mac lives in California and travels often, Hawai‘i remains important to her music.
“This summer I spent three months in Hawai‘i and got some recording done working with Noah Crown from Sea Major Seven, working with The Green,” says Mac. “Me and my honey, we have this studio at home, so we’re mostly in California. We will send out stuff for mixing. I have a guy in Las Vegas who does my mixing and a couple of guys in Hawai‘i too. It’s really spread around. Half of the album is in California and half of it is recorded in Hawai‘i.”
Eli Mac is looking forward to spending time on Maui, even though it’s always brief.
“I’m always in and out,” she says. “I did a little set at Mayjah Rayjah this year, but it has been years since I have done a show of my own on Maui. It sucks every time I do a show, that I’m kind of always heading out the next day. I have hanai family and cousins on Maui, but my mom is in California now and my dad is in Washington state, and I live in San Diego. I miss home so much, but I am lucky I get to visit pretty often.”
Eli Mac with Guest Rabbitt
Mulligans On the Blue
100 Kaukahi St., Kihei
Sunday, Sep. 22. Doors: 6pm. Show: 7pm.
$25/Advance; $30/Door at Eventbrite.com
Facebook.com/iamelimac IG: @eli_mac