Honolulu is in full summer mode. Sunny days, surf is up on the east side, everyone’s wearing their coral friendly sunscreen, and happy hours are thriving, especially with live music. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports on one young singer/songwriter who is making his mark.
Singer/songwriter Nick Kurosawa performs Tuesdays at the Outrigger Reef, Fridays at Merriman’s and Saturdays at the Surfjack. He’ll debut material with his new band at HPR’s Atherton Studio on Saturday, August 18, 2018, 7:30pm.
“My name is Nicholas Kurosawa, born and raised in Manoa valley. I’m a second generation musician, my father was a sax player and singer for a funk band in the ‘70’s called Natural High. I’ve kind of just recently embarked on my musical journey.”
Last year, September 2017, Kurosawa quit his jobs and started playing music full time.
Kurosawa: Once I let go of that security, monetarily I guess, everything started happening for me musically. In terms of meeting the right people, playing the right venues, and experiencing the right musical experiences. Once I quit my job, which blows my mind. It’s been an interesting 6-7 months for sure.
Kurosawa: I was really unhappy when I was working my full time job because I knew that I wasn’t creating something that could help at least O‘ahu and Hawai‘i be a little better.
Kurosawa: That was my idea, to open the door with music. Yeah music was the thing to get us to this new culture and identity and feelings about ourselves being from Hawai‘i.
Kurosawa says he sees musicians asking themselves, Do I do Hawaiian music, or…what? An up and coming generation with global music tastes, still resonates with being from this place.
Kurosawa: I’m local, I’m of this place, the fact we’re existing in this moment in this place right now, we are creating local music.
Kurosawa has just gotten a band together, he’s performing regularly, and just put an album out on the Aloha Got Soul label. This all looks meteoric, but Kurosawa has been flying under the radar for a decade doing private parties, working, he says his family didn’t even know he could sing until his junior year of high school.
Kurosawa: I had to do a project for my English class. Funny enough, I just procrastinated and at the last minute, I was like, I need to do something! So I created a Power Point presentation with a bunch of slavery photos and played and sang Redemption Song by Bob Marley. My mom them were in the crowd, I played the Power Point and played the music. I could see my dad crying in the crowd! I was like Whoa! He’s crying! That’s heavy, that never happens!
At this point, Kurosawa’s sister giggled on in.
“My name is Kennedy. I’m his sister I was born in Mānoa valley and I wanna grow up and be like him.”
You watched him, growing up, you heard him?
Kennedy: Uh huh. Because my room is right next to his and our wall is very thin so you can like hear him.
What did it sound like?
Kennedy: Um, it sounded more interesting than when he was playing with his band.
Kennedy says, when Nick was working full time at the state capitol print shop, plus the sandwich shop, he would go to rehearsals and stuff when he could.
Did he talk to your folks first about quitting his jobs?
Kennedy: He talked about quitting his sandwich job, but…
The job nobody was going to complain about?
Kurosawa: Yeah, dip the toe in the water first before you jump in. Set them up for the fall at least.
Your parents were supportive, though?
Kurosawa: Yes. Definitely.
Damn. Kurosawa is another example of having to leap before you know where you’re landing.
Kurosawa: And I honestly didn’t even have a weekly gig yet. I had just broken up with my girlfriend too. There was just a lot of things I was unhappy about with my life. For some reason I knew in the back of my mind that it revolved around the fact that I want’ doing anything I was just existing. That frustrated me so much because I knew that I had a lot to say and I knew I had a lot of emotion about here, this place that I’m living, especially, it wasn’t until I finally just let go and let this all happen that it flooded me back with positivity. I was so negative for so long.
Kurosawa: I’m finally in the groove I’m supposed to be in, and I’m not riding next to it, or above it or around it. Once I settled into it, everything just started falling into place.
One thing, he is prepared to write songs. He was an English major in college!