Ron Artis II and his brother Thunderstorm have been lighting a fire under Oahu’s North Shore music scene. Now they will perform at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC) on Saturday, Apr. 9. Recently I interrupted Ron’s busy schedule long enough to find out more about his music and new album What Music Means to Me.
MAUITIME: How did you make the switch from Artis Family Band to a duo?
RON ARTIS II: There’s 11 of us. Six boys and five girls. We used to all perform together as the Artis Family Band. That was until about 2013. I did most of the singing and was a band leader with my family up until I got married. My wife is from Germany so I went to there for nine months to meet her family and get married. While I was away my brother Thunderstorm developed as a singer. When I came back to Hawaii, we ended up playing together. That was the end of 2012.
MT: How did your family background affect your musical style?
RA: I learned most of my style from my parents. My mother is a singer, my dad taught us all of our instruments. My dad performed every concert with me and my family growing up, but he passed away in 2010. My dad was adamant that if you want to have a lot of freedom as you grew up in music then you should never put labels or borders around the styles that you should learn. I grew up learning the styles that my dad liked to play and then developed my own styles closer to my heart. In doing that I began to find a freedom in all the different genres of music. I mostly love playing what feels true to me, and playing to my audience.
MT: You recorded your new album in Hawaii. What was that like?
RA: For this particular release we wanted to do our first studio quality album. So we spoke to Milan Bertos, who recorded Jake Shimabukuro and a few other notable artists on Oahu. It was a great experience to work with him. We spent three days in the studio and we got the whole album recorded in that time. But what went into it all before that was a year of planning, ideas of what we wanted to do, all that song-writing and formulating that Thunderstorm and I had been sharing since 2013. It was really incredible to get it all out and get it all down. It was a seamless connection. We really appreciated the guys we were working with. We felt really comfortable and could really express and pass a lot of the emotion into the performance in the studio.
MT: How is it different performing in a recording studio than performing on stage?
RA: It’s all about having a really good relationship in the studio. You’re creating a painting and you want to give the very best that you can. Having the right guys in the studio magnifies that, or it can make you clam up. When you’re performing on stage, you’re performing for an audience and right away you get a feeling back from the audience. You don’t have that in the studio–you’re playing to the electronics. But if it feels right, you’re sharing songs, getting down and creating something beautiful. That was how it went for us and I’m really grateful for that.
MT: Describe What Music Means to Me.
RA: It’s like a soft, warm conversation in the form of song. It’s a lot of stories about our life about people we have met, people who’ve inspired us, how we’ve grown up as a family. It’s two people growing up and going out into the world.
MT: So what does music mean to you?
RA: I believe there are only two types of artists in the world. There are good artists and bad artists. It has nothing to do with you skill level–it has to do with what you want to plant into the world, what you want to share. What do you want to speak about, paint about, write about or sing about? We really focus on putting positive things out to world. I feel there are too many negative messages out there that cannot be played for families. Destructive messages. So we really feel grateful for the opportunity to put positivity out there with messages about family and healthy living and caring for the people that we meet and taking time to be grateful for each moment that we breathe.
MT: What does the future look like for your duo?
RA: I look forward sharing as much music as we can as much love as we can with as many people as possible. To take time to live life in a healthy manner and to really learn to love. Really learn what that means. That’s something I really want to do in the following years.
MT: This isn’t your first trip to Maui. What were some of the highlights from the last time?
RA: The last time on Maui, my wife and my brother and I got to go to Haleakala one of the mornings. That was just beautiful. I had heard about it, read about it, seen pictures, but nothing compares to seeing it in real life. I also got to go to Hana. A few people told us before we started that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride so don’t rush. I’m really glad they told us that–it’s breathtaking! One moment you’re down at sea level, then a few turns in the road and you’re on the top of a mountain.
MT: What’s the plan for this weekend?
RA: I will be documenting this trip and concert. I’m bringing a friend along, KC Bassett, and he’s a videographer. We will be heading to Haleakala to record some videos, some songs and do our best to put on a beautiful concert for everyone on the 9th!
RON ARTIS II AND THUNDERSTORM
Sat. Apr 9
McCoy Studio Theater, Maui Arts and Cultural Center
1 Cameron Way, Kahului