RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Braxton Olita, here in the parking garage at Restaurant Row, is pointed toward the limelight, through MTV's "The Ashlee Simpson Show."
Ready to rock
Guitarist Braxton Olita’s reality
TV role puts him in close proximity
to those irrepressible Simpson gals
-- Ashlee and Jessica
ALTHOUGH HE'S only 18, 2003 Campbell High School graduate Braxton Olita has already performed across the United States and will soon be seen on MTV's new reality series "The Ashlee Simpson Show."
Thursday, July 1, 2004
Janice Olita dropped out of school in the 10th grade. An incorrect grade was given in a Monday story on Page D1 about her son Braxton Olita.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I should be in the third or fourth episode," said Olita, who was back home recently for a 10-day vacation before going on tour in Canada, Japan and Europe.
The third episode airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Olita's episode will show the final audition for a guitarist and bassist for Simpson's band. Olita won the guitar slot.
It's been a short but intense journey for Olita, who moved to California just last year, following graduation, to attend the Costa Mesa branch of the Art Institute of California. He had planned on studying multimedia and Web page design but had to drop out once he started touring with Simpson's band.
"Living on the road, you experience so many things and have so many huge responsibilities that you grow up a lot faster than people (normally) would," Olita said. But he wouldn't trade it for any other lifestyle right now. "It's awesome. ... to be able to go out with some of your best friends and ... play your guitar in front of 60,000 people every night."
He said the experience can be stressful, but the trade-off is that he gets to work with some of the best musicians in the business, who occasionally take the time to teach him a few techniques. And because he is always around music, he says, "I'm always learning."
Being in Ashlee Simpson's band means Olita also gets to hang out with her older sister, pop star Jessica Simpson.
"Jessica is the biggest female on the planet right now," he said. "It would be cool (to be as big as Jessica)," he said, "but it's not my goal."
Although Olita is still in his teens and has big dreams, he shows pragmatism and maturity beyond his years. He is trying to learn everything about the entertainment industry and is taking the time to make friends and network.
"I could lose my arm tomorrow," he said. "Nothing lasts forever."
Although he won't share his goals, one gets the feeling talking to him that this quiet thinker has a master plan that goes beyond wishful thinking. "I always want to keep climbing the ladder," he said. "If I can do better things, why not?"
Although gossip columns are full of items about rock 'n' roll excess, Olita doesn't appear headed down that road. One of his immediate aims is securing his financial future. "I want to be able to have the option to retire at a young age," said Olita, who plans to start investing soon. "It would be the smartest thing to do. Money grows."
But he's not likely to spend his retirement doing nothing. His 10-day vacation already had him itching to return to the mainland. "I got used to such a fast pace because I'm always moving, moving, moving," he said. "I forgot how laid back it is here. When you get to be so productive, where you do so many things in one day, you feel like you have to be doing something. ... I feel like I haven't been productive here."
Yet, the driven teen is always working, and the day before he left the islands, he met with people interested in sponsoring Ashlee's band.
Olita is in a unique position to know what goes on behind the scenes of the Simpson empire, and says that despite the dumb-blonde tag associated with Jessica that started with her MTV "Newlyweds" series, the Simpson sisters are where they are today because "they are both smart people."
"What we see ... it's their job to be that way. ... It's not that what we see is fake, (but) you can edit things to make it look exaggerated," he said.
Olita gets to hang out with Jessica and hubby Nick Lachey because the sisters tour a lot of the same cities. "Jessica and Ashlee are pretty close," he said. "Nick and Jessica are really good people."
Proximity to "The Newlyweds" doesn't hurt. Olita knows success in the music business is often a matter of whom you know. Olita got the audition for Ashlee's band through his connection with National Product, another local band trying to make it on the mainland. The musical director and lead guitarist of Ashlee's band is also producer for National Product. Members from the group recommended Olita, calls were made, an audition took place and the rest, as they say, is history.
Olita said he hopes two other local hopefuls, Camile Velasco and Jasmine Trias, and the other "American Idol" contestants learn to network. "It can be everything," he said.
He said the performers who didn't win the "American Idol" competition shouldn't dwell on that fact. Instead, he said, they should remember that they were on national television for a number of weeks. They should be thinking, "I could be making a name for myself," he said.
OLITA has always been able to play by ear or watch someone play a song and reproduce the chords himself. He learned basic ukulele from Roy Sakuma, said his mother, Janice Olita. She bought him a chord chart after his uncle gave him an acoustic guitar, and by the sixth grade Olita knew he wanted a career in music. He made a list of goals but says now the list is too long to share.
When he was in high school, Janice advised him to learn to read and write music, and he heeded her advice.
He'd always been a determined child, Janice said. When he was in elementary school, he'd wake up at 4 a.m. just so he could go surfing before school. Later, he got into skateboarding, and T&C became one of his sponsors. The company gave him a video camera, which he used to film himself skateboarding, finishing up by setting the footage to music.
But no matter what extracurricular activities Olita took up, he knew finishing school was most important to his mother.
"My mom never graduated, and our family was in and out of bad times," said Janice, who dropped out in the seventh grade. "When Braxton graduated that was the best for me, next to giving birth to my two sons," she said.
Janice, a cafeteria worker at August Ahrens School in Waipahu, and Paquito Olita, an employee of Dick Pacific Construction Co. Ltd., have another son, Nico, who is 15. "Braxton is a good, positive role model," Janice said.
Braxton describes his relationship with his brother as "cool."
"We do a lot of the same things," he said. "He doesn't play music but he loves music.
"I listen to everything," Olita said. "My collection is huge. ... For me, (the) quality (of the music) is the thing." He feels that if a song is written well and done right, that is all that matters. He doesn't care if it's pop, rock, alternative or any other genre.
"Listening for so long, you go through different periods," Olita said. "You'll have a bunch of favorite punk bands, ska bands, metal bands, legendary bands like Pink Floyd ... everything." Right now, he's enjoying the newest album from the British band Muse.
Olita said he didn't think his parents understood how big his current gig was until he was scheduled to be on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" with Ashlee's band, and when they saw her music video.
Janice said she told everyone she knew that her son was going to be on the Leno show, but then was embarrassed because all they could see of him when the show aired was his shadow.
Hopefully, as "The Ashlee Simpson Show" progresses, we'll be seeing a lot more of Olita than his shadow.
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