21 Questions

What’s your favorite food?
Meat Jun. Or Zippy’s fried chicken.

Favorite ice cream?
Snickers ice cream bar. Pro Tip: It actually has less calories than the regular sized candy bar. That or cookies & cream

Tell me three pet peeves.
1. Getting lost or a missing an exit while driving and spending more time on the road because of it.
2. Bad coffee at a good coffee shop (where you like the vibe/atmosphere).
3. When Netflix says your device is not connected to the internet, but you know it is.

What are you reading right now?
Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris. It’s more of a reference book that I keep on the table and crack open a few times a week. But I just finished a Stephen King thriller called 11/22/63. It’s a book on time travel and alternate history. And love, I guess, which I didn’t expect.

If we went to happy hour, what would you order?
Dark beer or whiskey soda.

Who is someone you admire, and why?
Theodore Roosevelt. He really knew how to get things done.

Who are some of your musical influences?
John Legend, Jamie Cullom, Kalapana, C&K, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto … oh and Jeremy Passion haha.

What was your first ukulele?
It was some no-name Wal-Mart uke that was on special for $8. I knew my parents were thrifty and this was totally in reach, so I begged them to get it for me for my 10th birthday.

What kind of ukulele do you play now?
I’ve been playing Koʻolau Ukulele for years, but I write most of my ukulele songs on a pretty rare Abe Mahelona. My dad picked it up for something like $60 from a street vendor and it was pretty beat up. I took it to an ukulele refinishing expert and he said, “I’ve only ever seen 2 other Abe Mahelonas in my life and one of them belonged to Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.”

What kind of guitars do you play?
Taylor R-22, Taylor 214CE, PRS Hollowbody II. I used to have an acoustic Guild that I really liked but nobody really sells them in Hawaii anymore.

Where did you grow up? Any favorite childhood memories?
Pupukea Road in Haleiwa. Our family home has a huge yard and my grandma used to let me chop down banana trees with a big machete starting when I was 8 years old … which is kind of crazy when I think about it now. These days, I wouldn’t trust any 8 year old to swing a weapon like that around me. 

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A local news anchor.

What did you study in college?
I got a degree in Speech Communication from UH. After I graduated, they changed the name of the major to “Communicology,” which is weird to tell people because it sounds like you’re saying “community college”

What was your first job?
Working for my dad’s construction business.

What do you do now (aside from music)?
I’m a real estate broker and investor.

What is your ethnicity/nationality?
Filipino. I think on the mainland, people would say Filipino-American, but for some reason we don’t say that in Hawaii. Maybe it’s because when our grandparents’ generation came here, Hawaii wasn’t part of America yet and we just learned to say it the way they did. But I’m totally 100% American too.

But you have a Hawaiian name?
Yeah, it was a given to me when I first started recording by my friend Lehua Kalima. She tells me it took her two weeks to “compose” because she wrote like a song or poem.

What is it? What does it mean?
Kaleowaiʻoluhoʻolaʻikanaʻau. It means“The sound of sweet water that soothes the soul.” Kaleo means voice/sound. Waiʻolu is flowing, fresh water, like a stream. Hoʻolaʻi is to cease striving, to bring peace. Ka naʻau is literally the gut, the place in the body in which Hawaiians believed the soul to reside.

Name a few of your daily habits (other than a shower and brushing your teeth).
Spending an hour or two in the morning reading, writing, praying and meditating.

What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
Writing, playing pick-up basketball, surfing small waves, or choir directing.

What would your personal motto be?
“Do your best with what you have where you are.” When I was 20, I thought the path to becoming a musician was to pay mega bucks to go to a top music school like Berklee. Then I read this quote from Theodore Roosevelt and thought, “Well, I don’t have enough for tuition and I would have to move. What’s the best I can do with a few hundred bucks here in Hawaii? I could take private music lessons for guitar and voice and buy a few books on writing too. So that’s what I did. Now I try to apply that principle to every goal I have in life.