Maui's 'Country Girl'


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Despite proclamations that she's “;kind of a big deal,”; singer-songwriter Anuhea Jenkins exhibits a semblance of modesty when she talks about her debut album, released earlier this week.





        “;Anuhea”; CD Release Party

» Where: The Shack Waikiki


» When: 8 p.m. Saturday


» Cost: $5


» Call: 921-2255




Born and raised on Maui, the 2003 Kamehameha Schools graduate attended middle and high school on Oahu before spending a year at Chapman University in California. Economic difficulties forced her to return home, but that didn't stop her from pursuing a career in the recording industry.

Now signed to OneHawaii Music, she's transitioned from Coffee Shop gigs to performing alongside the likes of Fiji and some of Honolulu's biggest island music stars. She also attended the prestigious South by Southwest Music Conference last month.

Jenkins spoke with the Star-Bulletin last week about growing up on Maui, how she figured out the music biz was for her and the possibility of recording a Hawaiian-language album.

QUESTION: You're a self-proclaimed “;country girl”; from Maui, yet you have an air of sophistication from living on Oahu. Was it difficult going back and forth?

ANSWER: It's kind of night and day sometimes, but I kind of got used to it. I have family who is from Haleiwa ... so we spend a lot of time on Oahu.

But boarding at Kamehameha for those six years, you go home once a month, so I was doing a lot of interisland traveling. And it was necessary, I thought, for me, right before my album came out, to come to Oahu and try to grow some more fans because there's just so many more people here.

I kind of exhausted the places that I played out on Maui. I was like the big fish in a little pond, and I strive to always challenge myself. So Oahu is the next mountain to climb, as they say.

Q: Were you a musical person in high school?

A: Kamehameha, as we all know, is a musical school. We had chapel every week, and then of course, Song Contest, so we were singing all the time.

I was into music, or so I thought, just like everybody else was, but looking back I realize maybe I did like it a little more. And I was in morning announcements (as) the anchor. ... A lot of people might remember me as the funny, weirdo girl who didn't care.

Q: Was there ever an “;aha!”; moment where you realized a career in music was your ultimate goal?

A: You know what? I think it was probably my first breakup. (I was) sitting on the beach on Maui, and then I wrote my first song. This one was kind of a really deep one and helped me deal with my emotions.

The fact that I knew that was my best outlet might have been my “;aha”; moment. I was about 18, I think, maybe 19.

Q: How did you make the transition from playing in private to performing in front of a live audience?

A: I was the assistant manager of this coffee shop in Lahaina ... and my good friend was the manager. She was like, “;You should play at the coffee shop!”;

I was so nervous, (and) I remember being so scared to perform. It just got easier and easier, and people started to like (my music).

Q: “;Anuhea”; is described as your solo debut. Have you previously recorded any other material?

A: For all those years in between when I started writing songs and now, when I'm 23 ... I developed a little demo CD called “;Rough Cuts.”;

I probably burned about 5,000 of them on my home computer. It was all acoustic stuff that I had recorded at friends' houses, at radio stations on Maui. I even did a song with Travis from Gym Class Heroes ... and put it on there, too.

All the songs are (on “;Anuhea”;) in their produced form, but not the acoustic versions.

Q: You recently had the opportunity to travel to Texas for the South by Southwest Music Conference. What was that like?

A: That experience was amazing. There was, like, 20 of us (local musicians) altogether, and we all traveled in herds and stayed at the same hotel. We even played at Roy's Restaurant!

You only get a few official showcases. ... We only had one, and that was hard to get into. (But) we had a booth, and that's where we met all sorts of celebs and people who work for the Grammy organization.

Q: Any chance of releasing a Hawaiian-language album in the future?

A: I know a lot of people don't know that about me, but I do speak Hawaiian and I would love to make (a Hawaiian album). Who knows? Don't count it out.

Q: What's the biggest lesson you've learned so far?

A: Realizing there's so much music out there. What it comes down to is just being yourself, (and that) just kind of reassured me that this is a pretty intense industry and there's a lot of people who want it just as bad, if not more, than me. But I know I definitely want to do music.


Visit hilife.starbulletin.com for an expanded video interview with Anuhea Jenkins.