Sunday, August 19, 2007

The weekend is finally here! What's a girl to do with all this free time? R had to work, therefore I have two days to do my own thing. Sleeping in was fun but I didn't want the day to go wasted just staying home. I could have stayed home since there was some household chores to be done ~ laundry, organizing, etc...but where's the fun in that? So after waking up, showering, having a cuppa of coffee and saying goodbye to R as he left for work...I planned my Saturday. I decided to head out east to browse through the shops at Hawai'i Kai Towne Center. In addition to that, there was going to be a free concert ~ performed by award-winning singer-songwriter John Cruz.

Who is John Cruz, you ask? I have no idea either since I've not heard of him or his songs, but thought I drop by and enjoy an evening with some (hopefully) great Hawaiian music. And indeed it was...with him strumming away on his acoustic guitar. I later googled him and found out that he is world-renowned for his virtuosic, crossover style that encompasses pop, rock, folk, and native island music. Here's a little bit more on him to share with you.

From the time he was a young boy growing up in Palolo Valley on Oahu, John Cruz knew he was destined to play music. Whether inside or outside the home, his earliest memories were filled with song. His Hawaiian grandmother had a beautiful voice and sang in church. His mom loved the Motown sound and had an extensive record collection. His dad played country music and taught John to perform live shows at a very young age. His brothers and sisters were all musically inclined and, along with numerous aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends, they have surrounded John with the gift of music for his entire life. Although John grew up in Hawaii, it wasn't until he moved to the East Coast in 1983 that he developed his own style as a singer songwriter.

During his 12 years in the Northeast, John cut his musical teeth in subways, coffeehouses and bars in New York's Greenwich Village, as well as in the clubs and local haunts from Martha's Vineyard to the Boston area. While attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, John ventured in to acting and dancing, which strengthened his command of the stage. He spent six years in theatre and dance companies, performing everywhere from Lincoln Center to Washington D.C. John starred in a variety of shows, including ensemble productions, two-man plays and gospel inspired musicals. Often the leading man, his roles spanned a wide range of characters and ethnicities. He has played a Chinese immigrant, an embittered Native American and a Hispanic hustler, to name a few.

As a member of the prestigious New World Theater, John played the lead role in "The Dance and the Railroad," by Tony Award winning Broadway playwright, David Henry Hwang, of M. Butterfly fame. John's outstanding performance was nationally recognized in the finals of a collegiate drama competition. John returned to Hawaii in 1995 to help his brother Ernie record his album. At the time, Ernie was in the immensely popular band, the Ka'au Crater Boys. He invited John to play bass with them and to play his own songs during their shows. The exposure to large crowds gave John's music a substantial fan base before it was even recorded.

When his first album, Acoustic Soul was released in 1996, it made an artistic and commercial impact like few other recordings in Hawaiian musical history. Acoustic Soul to date has sold about 100,000 copies in Hawaii alone. John produced the album himself and released it on his own label, Lilikoi Records. It spawned the radio hits "Shine On," "Sitting in Limbo" and "Island Style," which has become a local anthem. Most songs from the album still receive daily radio airplay and can be heard on numerous compilation CDs, in hotels, airports, shopping malls, school music classes, commercials and just about everywhere else music is played within the state. Acoustic Soul won two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in 1997 -- one for Contemporary Album of the Year and one for Most Promising Artist.

In 2005, John added the Grammy Award to his list of honors. His original song "Jo Bo's Night" was featured on the compilation CD Slack Key Guitar Volume 2, which won the first Grammy ever awarded for Hawaiian music. Over the years, John has attracted some stellar fans. Stars like Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Trey Anastasio, Lisa Loeb and others, have shown their support in various ways. World Champion surfer Kelly Slater featured three of John's songs on his new DVD, "Letting Go," which was released worldwide in the Spring of 2006. He invited John to play at the Quiksilver Pro surf contest in Hossegor, France, as well as on his MTV special, "The Kelly Slater Celebrity Surf Invitational 2006." John's recent touring has included stops at the massive Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Summerstage in New York's Central Park, Carnegie Hall and prominent national venues up and down both coasts.

In October 2006, a documentary film on his life, "Made of Music - The Story of John Cruz," debuted at the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu. A few weeks later, it was honored with the Aloha Visionary Filmmaker Award at the Molokai Film Festival. It was recently chosen to be screened at the Pacifika Hawaiian Film Festival in New York City, in May 2007. It features John's signature candor and wit, as well as a personal story that tugs at the heartstrings, and music that will delight and inspire. Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Kelly Slater and Jake Shimabukuro add color and insight to an already powerful story. John has distinguished himself as one of the most talented songwriters that has ever come from Hawaii. This well-earned reputation will become even more solidified when he releases his long-awaited second album in the Spring of 2007. It promises more of the warm, heartfelt melodies and passionate, soulful vocals that John's fans have grown to know and love.

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