You know how sometimes, when you’re out on the town, eating and drinking with your homies, background music is just that, background music? Neither here nor there, it’s usually just “stuff” filling the empty spaces around your conversation. Well, once you hear her voice, there’s no way that one Anuhea Jenkins can ever be considered background again. You see, back in November, when my boys took me to Tiki’s Grill & Bar for stop one of my bachelor party, I heard a voice that went beyond filling empty spaces.
Since then, I’ve been intrigued and wanted to know more.
Via Google, I was able to find her on Myspace and eventually messaged her to ask for this interview. Turns out, sistah is big on social networking/viral marketing and has been getting her hustle on since 2006.
And it’s all about to pay off with her debut album coming out later this month.
Here’s her story:
Edward Sugimoto) What is the history/significance behind your folks naming you Anuhea? Looking up “Anuhea” online, I read that it translates to “cool mountain breeze.” Is this accurate? Did you like growing up with such a unique name? What nicknames did/do your friends call you?
Anuhea Jenkins) My great grandma who is almost pure Hawaiian had a dream with the name Anuheakealaokalokelani before I was born. Same thing with all her great grandchildren’s names. It means the cool fragrance of the heavenly rose, which is the Maui flower. Friends call me Anu. Anuhea by itself does mean cool breeze. Growing up in Hawaii Anuhea wasn’t too hard to live with, especially at Kamehameha, but going to the mainland its difficult to get people to remember it. I tell them It sounds like “a new hea dew”, minus the “dew”. (Like, I just got a new hair dew…)
Edward Sugimoto) You grew up in Maui right? Give us a little history of little Anuhea. Were you a rascal? Good student? Boy Crazy? Whut?
Anuhea Jenkins) I grew up in Makawao, Maui. Went to Hawaiian immersion school, Kula Kaiapuni, where you speak Hawaiian for every class, then I changed schools a bunch throughout Maui. I think people were tripped out to see this little blonde hair blue eyed girl who could speak Hawaiian fluently. I spent a lot of time running around the neighborhood barefoot. Hide and seek and rock fights with the neighborhood kids and my 3 younger siblings. I was a good student, got a full ride to Kamehameha in 7th grade so spent the next 6 years of school boarding on Oahu. Not a girly girl in the slightest but not a full fledge tomboy. My dad was a basketball coach/PE teacher, so a lot of people on Maui know him. I was known as Mr. Jenkins’s daughter. He’s really strict, so boys would be scared to talk to me cause they were afraid of my dad! But luckily he’s a cool guy too, everyone loves and fears my dad. I think a lot of people thought I was weird, probably still do! I have an interesting sense of humor, class clown style. Jackass was me and my friends’s favorite TV show and we’d reenact the shopping cart scenes, and tripping and falling on busy sidewalks on video camera was funny to us. I surfed a lot, played sports, waterpolo in high school, drama and theater, video club president, always had a video camera with me.
Anuhea and her BFF Mandy
Edward Sugimoto) Your first love was film, earning numerous scholarships for film school. Why’d you lose interest?
Anuhea Jenkins) I wasn’t really focused on video when I was studying it, to be honest. The shock of being in Orange County from Hawaii was pretty intense for me for some reason, and I think it was just bad timing. I had a boyfriend that I missed a bunch back home on Maui, so I’d write songs and work 2 jobs to buy plane tickets home instead of studying. I chalk it up to all things happen for a reason, cause if I didn’t leave who knows what I’d be doing. Although video is something I will always pursue as a hobby. Someday I want to make a real documentary.
Edward Sugimoto) What made you want to run for Miss Maui? What if you had won!?
Anuhea Jenkins) I know, dodged that bullet, huh! No but I ran for Miss Maui for the challenge. I thrive off of challenges. I had hit a point where I was pretty stagnant, and I had some student loans I really wanted to pay off. Plus you see pageants on TV and stuff as a kid, and I just always wanted to try to be that girly girl for once in my life. If I had won, I honestly would have pursued my platform which was education through media. Although even at the time of the pageant I knew music was what I wanted to do. It was great practice for a life in the entertainment spotlight.
Edward Sugimoto) What is one thing people may not know about you? (Anuhea trivia if you will.)
Anuhea Jenkins) That I’m a huge MMA fan. I admire the dedication it takes to commit to a fight and the training and then the performance in the octagon. Its reflective of how I view a career in music sort of. How you practice practice practice for one show, then its over, how you have to earn your fans based on performance, and how you must live and breathe it everyday.
I love BJ Penn and all he’s doing to make a name for himself to the world while representing Hawaii and Hawaiians. I want to do the same. Shine a light on true Hawaii through any successes I may come to in this career.
With The Prodigy, BJ Penn
Edward Sugimoto) Hobbies, other than music?
Anuhea Jenkins) I’m getting really into stand up paddling. Tried it for the first time this year, and I’m dying to buy a board of my own. I also love the outdoors, hiking, running in nature, the beach, etc. Being outside often is vital.
Edward Sugimoto) Your day job (if you have one)?
Anuhea Jenkins) No day job anymore. I worked super hard right before I went to LA to record in May of 08, been gigging for my pocket change ever since. I was a barista for a long time, and I even have a song about it on the album called “Barista By Day”… about working that 9-5 and wanting so badly to play music instead. I was not cut out for the type of job where you clock in and clock out. I like my livelihood to encompass my every action. Makes life easier.
Edward Sugimoto) What is a typical day in the life of Anuhea Jenkins?
Anuhea Jenkins) No two days are the same for me anymore! I usually am up late at night either at a gig or out and about, so I don’t get to bed till late, which means I wake up kinda late. Coffee is VITAL for me, as is breakfast. I check my internet stuffs, do something like run Koko Head crater or hit the gym before everyone gets out of work and it’s packed, and then I am on the hustle the rest of the day. I spend a lot of time online and on my phone picking up gigs, trying to open doors and get balls rolling. I’m hustling to get as many people to know who I am before the album is out so when they see it they’ll already have heard of me. Steady on the grind, hustling all day. At night I might have a show or go support other friends. Since moving to Oahu in September, anytime I have a chance to meet new people and network, I’m on it. It’s hard moving somewhere new, so I’m getting into the scene slowly but surely. I practice guitar and try to learn a new song every week, especially with my weekly gigs its always fun to learn the popular song on the radio and do my rendition of it. I know all this will change once the album is out… we’ll be traveling way more, and even more inconsistent days living out of suitcases and such. Can’t wait!
Edward Sugimoto) How would you describe your music to the Anuhea virgin? (type of sound, similar to who?)
Anuhea Jenkins) I’m influenced highly by R&B and Soul, Hip Hop and Funk, but my instrument is acoustic guitar. I’m a typical chick born in 85, influenced by everything that every other 23 year old is influenced by, so my style is just a mixture of it all. I hate to compare specific artists, but I may say Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz meets Fergie. Lyrics are super important to me, and every song has a real meaning behind it. So hopefully people will dig the melodies as well as the message.
Anuhea and her guitar
Edward Sugimoto) The first time I ever saw/heard you was at Tiki’s for my bachelor party. I wasn’t facing you, but as soon as you opened your mouth, I had to turn around and see who the h*ll that was. 😉 Your voice is so original, though the first thing that popped into my mind was Colbie Caillat. Do you get that a lot? Why do I get the feeling that you don’t really like that comparison?
Anuhea Jenkins) Thanks for the compliment! But the Colbie thing? Ahhhh I get that all the time. She hit mainstream before I did (hehehe..) so I expect everyone to compare me to her since she’s pulling the Hawaii card and has sort of that acoustic island vibe about her. But I say I’m funkier, edgier. I’m looking to collab with rap artists and funk bands, do some things that chicks with acoustic guitars haven’t done before. I really need to write some songs in all Hawaiian though, something my tutu is pushing me to do, and I haven’t gotten around to.
Edward Sugimoto) Is that why your Myspace says, “Sounds like: Anuhea”? You like to be unique vocally and musically?
Anuhea Jenkins) Yes, it’s so easy for people to categorize artists with others, oh she’s just another Jewel or whatever. I’m guilty of doing the same thing with other artists for convenience sake. But we are all ourselves, and unique in our own way. I pride myself in certain things, and being from Hawaii makes me proud. Hawaii has such a unique music scene, our own style that the rest of the world doesn’t even realize. I want people in the rest of the world to be conscious that I’m from Hawaii right off the bat.
Edward Sugimoto) When did you first pick up music and why? When did you realize that it was your calling?
Anuhea Jenkins) Kamehameha schools has song contest every year, so between that, chapel two times a week, and Young Life club that I was a part of, I was singing all the time in school, but so was everyone else. My aunty being a singer, I knew all her songs in and out since I was a little kid. But looking back I think I was into it more than others. In sixth grade around the Spice Girls era my friends and I started a little girl band called Cloud 9… ha! I still remember the songs we wrote. In high school me and my friends would make music videos and one of my BFFs Kimie, who also sings, and I made this music video commercial for Ragu Pasta that we won a contest for, and got like a years supply of Ragu Express and a shopping spree and stuff! Music was always just for fun. Started playing guitar in 11th grade, and used it to write songs for fun from then on. Wasn’t until after I got back from Australia did I think I could take it on as a career. But my grandma has some video footage of me as a three year old singing songs that I made up, and pictures of me dancing to New Kids on the Block on TV.
Anuhea blowin’ [Photo courtesy of Stan at BJPenn.com]
Edward Sugimoto) Your musical influences/heroes?
Anuhea Jenkins) Jack Johnson. Number one. Talked to him a few times and he said he’s heard of my music through friends and stuff… I almost fainted. He’s a huge reason why I play guitar. India Arie and Jason Mraz as well. They all have such style. I think that’s the most important thing in music, actually in ANYTHING you do… style.
Edward Sugimoto) If you could work with anyone in the music industry to make that #1 hit, who would it be and why? Same question, but pick a local, artist from Hawaii (who hasn’t hit it big).
Anuhea Jenkins) I would love to work with Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes again. We did one song together on a whim after meeting at one of his shows in San Francisco. He’s extremely talented, and has the vibe that I think could tear up the main stream hip hop BS that’s clouding right now. But making some stuff from scratch with him could be cool. He loves Hall and Oates and classic rock although he makes hip hop, so putting it all together should be interesting to see what conspires.
As far as Hawaii goes, there are so many that I want to collab with. From Maui there’s B.U.B’z who is an amazing producer as well as singer/rapper with mad style. We’ve started working on some dub versions of my songs, stay tuned. Guerrilla Jazz is an up and coming group from Maui as well that are so unique – hip hop and ukulele- I want to do something with them too. J-Boog too! His voice is so sick. I’ve already gotten to work with King Kekai (Rhythm of the Falling Rain) who is an amazing producer as well, and he’s coming out with his 2nd album December 30th. He’s breaking some boundaries of the Hawaiian music scene, and talking about stuff nobody really touches on. I admire him for that. I’d love to do more with Kekai as well.
Edward Sugimoto) If you could emulate anyone’s career in the music industry, who would it be and why?
Anuhea Jenkins) Jason Mraz had a very grass roots beginning, lots of focus on his acoustic stuff before he hit mainstream pop. I really like that. It gives validation to his talent since its not just a hype, he really deserves it.
And Fergie, and Rihanna! They’re the go-to girls when you need a hook sung or some female flavor to hip hop/r&b songs – I’d love to jump in that pool. Bring some Hawaii to it.
Edward Sugimoto) What is your fantasy concert scenario (e.g. jamming with who? at where? in front of how many? singing what?)
Anuhea Jenkins) Jamming with Jack Johnson at a backyard BBQ with just a couple dozen peeps, and Jack singing background harmonies to one of my songs…. Hehehe…. 🙂
Edward Sugimoto) Ultimate goal/dream musically?
Anuhea Jenkins) To have a song that I wrote change someone’s life. To me that would have made my life worth something, you know? But of course I strive to have something on MTV, to win a Grammy, to tour the world singing songs I love. I just want to be able to do music for the rest of my life and to be happy.
Edward Sugimoto) “Rhythm of the Falling Rain” gives sort of a local, Hawaii vibe (ala Ka’au Crater Boys), while still putting your own, hip-hop, funky stamp on it. Is reppin’ Hawaii in your music important to you?
Anuhea Jenkins) Absolutely important, and inevitable. Reggae music is a huge influence of mine although my style isn’t necessarily reggae per say. And like I mentioned before, Hawaii has such a unique thing going on with our music scene, I want to be able to fit into this scene as well as mainstream. Maybe be that bridge that connects our style to the rest of the world.
Anuhea with Shawn Pimental on drums
Edward Sugimoto) Your aunty is Nalani Choy from Na Leo. Did you grow up watching her, thinking that career path might be interesting to you?
Anuhea Jenkins) I got to witness at a very young age all the cool things her career involved. Traveling, the performing life, playing instruments, having songs on the radio and TV… it was really cool to witness, and it made it more of a touchable reality seeing her do it.
Edward Sugimoto) Now you’re signed to her label OneHawaii Music. How has it been working so closely with your Aunty?
Anuhea Jenkins) It’s been awesome, she’s one of my biggest role models. We keep it pretty professional when it comes to the business stuff, but she is my blood aunty so it’s nice to know she’s always there for me. I’m so blessed to have her shape my career like this.
Edward Sugimoto) When is your album supposed to be released?
Anuhea Jenkins) It’s going to be released on iTunes exclusively on January 27th. For one month the only place you can download it is there, then the street date is February 24th. It’s been a long road, but I’m beyond excited and I know it will be worth the wait, and all the hard work.[Editor’s note: album release date has been pushed back to Tuesday March 24th with an iTunes release of Tuesday Februrary 24th]
Edward Sugimoto) Where would your life be if it wasn’t for music? Movie director? *grin*
Anuhea Jenkins) I think about that sometimes, and I have no idea! All I know is the type of person I am, and I can not stand complacency. Change is comfortable to me, so a regular job wouldn’t work. Something to do with entertainment, either a concert promoter or behind the scenes of a reality TV show or something like that. Or even a broadcast journalist. I used to be into that in high school too, anchorwoman style!
Edward Sugimoto) What is the most exciting/rewarding part of doing music?
Anuhea Jenkins) The most rewarding part of this music thing is when people tell me that a song I wrote is “their song”… or that it helped them through something. This couple from Australia found me on myspace and hired me to play at their wedding in Waimea Valley last year. They chose my song “I Just Want You Around” as their wedding song… and knowing that forever more, that song is “their” song… crazy. Affecting peoples lives through doing what I love, it amazes me. Exciting though is meeting and slowly beginning to jam with people that I was once just a huge fan of… like Natural Vibes and Fiji. I know it will happen more and more, but it’s such a trip!
Edward Sugimoto) Anything else to add to your friend/fans out there?
Anuhea Jenkins) Thank you so much for the support thus far. The positive reinforcement is what keeps me going. In this viral age, I’m super into myspace, Facebook, youtube, etc. so if you are too, hit me up online! Very easy to check up on.
www.facebook.com search Anuhea Jenkins
With her voice, her passion, and her hustle, there ain’t no way that Anuhea Jenkins will not succeed. Come February 24th, Anuhea will come to the foreground.
Anuhea at sunset [Photo courtesy of Angelina Hills – www.alohaportraits.com]