Hawaiian soul and reggae will be heard Downstairs
Hawaii-based singer and songwriter Rylee Anuheake’alaokalokelani Jenkins, who goes by the one-name moniker Anuhea, released her self-titled debut album digitally in 2009. The release hit No. 7 on the iTunes Pop Charts a few hours later and landed on the No. 3 spot of Billboard‘s World/Reggae charts.
A year later, she has performed for sold-out audiences in her hometown of Honolulu with Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley and Taj Mahal, and also performed during the National Football League’s ProBowl halftime show in 2011.
These are impressive accomplishments for a kid from Oahu who told The Park Record she didn’t have a strong background in musical training.
"The reality is that I’ve always loved music," Anuhea said during a phone interview from St. Louis, Mo. "My auntie, my dad’s sister, was in a very popular Hawaiian music trio called Na Leo, and I watched her when I was younger, but I never thought I could do it until I was much older."
Anuhea will share her love of music during a full-band performance Downstairs, 625 Main St., on Sunday, March 31. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Although Anuhea taught herself how to play guitar by looking up tabs online during high school, she never thought about making music for a living until she went off to college.
"I started playing guitar because Jack Johnson, Bob Marley and Nelly Furtado were huge inspirations of mine, and I would look up their chords and figure out how to play them," Anuhea said. "I knew I didn’t want to work a regular job, and as things turned out, I got a scholarship to study film at Chapman University in California."
Of course, Anuhea took her guitar to school and continued to play.
"When I discovered that I wasn’t super passionate about film production, I decided to reset my thinking to find what was important to me," she said. "I took off again and went backpacking over Australia, and continued to take classes at a community college and worked at a coffee shop, where I met a lot of interesting people, and cool friends."
Anuhea began performing at the coffee shop and realized she wanted a career in music.
"I found that I could incorporate some of the interests I had in film production for music videos and live performances," she said. "I also had some theatre background and that became a fun component of the singing that I enjoyed."
The singer also found she liked making and maintaining her own website.
"Through that, I was able to help promote my music," she said. "So, when I looked at the big picture, it seemed like music would be a perfect career for me."
Anuhea’s songs are filled with soul, hip-hop, reggae and some "island sass."
"Most of them are autobiographical, and I haven’t had to venture too far outside of my own life to find things to write about," she said. "I know that I will at some point, because I won’t only be able to write about the happy relationship I’m in now.
"Sometimes I like to go back in time and write about things that happened to me years ago," she said.
Other things that influence her songwriting include books, films and situations her friends and family go through.
"There are times when I do get nervous when I share things about myself," Anuhea said. "I have come to realize there are people who are out there who want to know everything about me, even to the point where they will assume things and begin bashing me."
Still, those people haven’t deterred Anuhea from writing those personal songs, because of her fans’ support.
"Songwriting is a reality check sometimes, but I also know that very fact of sharing myself is the reason why people like my music, because that’s something they can connect to," she explained. "On my last album, I did open up pretty far, but I think it will be interesting to see how much further I open up from here on out. I’m sure I will open more."
Although she has worked hard to promote her music, Anuhea was still surprised when her debut CD made a splash on iTunes.
"I was very excited, even though it was up there for only an hour or two, before it dropped down to a normal consistent spot," she said with a laugh. "But it was so exciting to see it in the Top 10, and to think that I was just a little girl from Maui who didn’t think I could do this as a career."
Seeing her face on the chart gave Anuhea a taste of success, which fed her desire to do more.
"I’m competitive by nature, so it made me want to keep going back there again and again," she said.
The singer is constantly coming up with new songs ideas and is currently working on a new album.
"I have a few new songs ready, and the full length will be ready by next year, and we’re looking to it being released in February," she said. "In the meantime, we are still releasing new singles one at a time, and are releasing live extended plays, because I’ve been playing live so much."
In order to maintain the success, Anuhea has learned to prioritize.
"Juggling the variety of things that I have to do to keep doing this job I love is very demanding and it kicks my butt sometimes," she said. "I’m now used to it, but balancing interviews, with load-in times, playing, writing my own music and designing my own merchandise is a lot of work — especially for one person."
Still, that gives her full creative control of her career.
"It’s really just me and my manager and some key people who help us out," she said. "But I get to say what I want to do with my art, which is something that many people aren’t able to do."
When Anuhea plays in Park City, she will bring a full band.
"The last time I was in Utah, I opened for Soulja and played my acoustic guitar, but for this tour I’m going all out," she said. "My opening guest is another artist from Hawaii named Justin Young. He is amazing and we do a few songs together. It will be rocking and we’ll have a lot of fun."
Anuhea and Justin Young will perform at Downstairs, 625 Main St., on Sunday, March 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://ticketcake.com/event/anuhea-park-city/park-city/2013-03-31.
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Some of the recordings are of radio broadcasts from decades past, and some of the recordings are from Beethoven Festival performances from the past few years.