When we caught up with Hoku Ho a year ago, she was celebrating her first wedding anniversary, her first CD, a six-figure contract with Geffen Records, and selling clothes and jewelry she designed from her Web site.
New maturity gives
Hoku different focus
By Tim Ryan
There have been some changes.
A few weeks shy of her 21st birthday on June 10, Hoku no longer has a record contract with Geffen, which the singer says ended "pretty peacefully" late last year. She's been working on an as-yet untitled, "less poppy" and more personal album that she's prepared to finance; auditioned for two television roles; and with her husband, Jeremy, has temporarily moved to her mom's home in Huntington Beach.
"We want to buy a house, so we're saving money," Hoku says. "The new album will probably mean I'll have to use all my savings.
"Everything's still good," Hoku says, cheerily as usual. "Life is a series of changes, challenges and adventures."
Hoku returns to Honolulu as often as possible. Last year, she spent eight months here for beach time and to perform with her dad, Don. This time, her return centered around a 40-minute performance Thursday at Armani Exchange at Ala Moana Center.
"I rarely do live performances that last more than 15 minutes, so this was a real treat," she says. "On tours they give me three songs, then I'm out of there."
The focus of Hoku's career remains music despite the foray into acting. She's been working on a new album off and on for a year and has about a half-dozen songs written.
There seems to be some disappointment when she mentions being dropped by Geffen. The record execs "kept telling me I had to appeal to middle America," she says. As a result, her previous album was too mainstream, "a marketing thing."
"That's not what I'm finding myself leaning toward anymore," she says. "I have to let go of a lot of this mainstream appeal to something more organic and accessible and me."
The new album, she promises, will reflect her maturity since she burst on the music scene two years ago at 18.
"When I came into the music business, I was very young, and the record company marketed me as a 12-year-old, which was probably all right since I knew about as much of the world as a 12-year-old," Hoku says. "I don't know what I would have done without my husband.
"It's been a crazy ride, and I have a lot of source material for songs," she says. "l graduated from high school and got married; I moved to L.A., and suddenly I'm in the real world in a full-time job; I'm the career with major life decisions being made every day."
Growing up so fast in a strange place was difficult.
"I was pretty terrified sometimes," she says, "but I learned about making sacrifices. I want my music to be a reflection of me, not focused on them being palatable to the masses."
After the breakup, Hoku planned to return to Honolulu at least on a semipermanent basis; then acting opportunities arose. Earlier this year, Hoku did a pilot for an untitled 30-minute MTV reality-type show that she describes as a cross between "Star Search" and "Making the Band."
"We find three contestants for each show whose names we get from their friends who have told us are really talented," she says.
Hoku and the MTV crew surprise the contestants at their jobs or school, then whisk them to a boot camp where they learn how to perfect their craft with professional entertainers. The contestants compete at the end of the show, with the winner getting a record deal or a chance to open for a band.
If the show is green-lighted, Hoku would start working before summer.
She also just wrapped up the ABC television movie "Nancy Drew," on which she plays Bitsy, a "skinny and bitchy sorority girl in college."
Hoku's acting aspirations are based on keeping in the public eye.
Her first few reads were "horrible, awful," she says. "I wasn't prepared; I stuttered; I didn't know the routine. I said, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm training properly.'"
Hoku remembers not so long ago in high school when she and friends used to believe that following a dreams meant "everything will be fine, but it's not true at all."
"There's a lot of hard work that goes into following a dream; it can be depressing and disappointing," she says. "I've learned that there is always some disillusionment in life, but you have to move on and learn to focus on the positive things.
"I've been so lucky. I've seen the world and met so many interesting people. I have a great dad and family, and I love Hawaii.
"I'm just 21. We have so much time to experience so much more together."
Click for online
calendars and events.
BACK TO TOP