Try Wait: Young into island vibe

Jun. 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Justin Young, center, performs with John Cruz, left, and Shawn Pimental during the CD release party for his new album, "Makai," at Gordon Biersch on Saturday, June 15. (Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato)

Justin Young, center, performs with John Cruz, left, and Shawn Pimental during the CD release party for his new album, “Makai,” at Gordon Biersch on Saturday, June 15. (Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato)

BY GARY CHUN / gchun@staradvertiser.com

It’s time for Hawaii-born singer-songwriter Justin Young to get back in the spotlight.

On Saturday, June 15, he hosted a CD release party at Gordon Biersch Brewery with several of his high-profile friends like Anuhea (who he’s been touring with on the mainland), John Cruz, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole and surprise guest Colbie Caillat.

Makai_Cover2“Makai” is the first of two new albums from Young, who plans to follow it up with, naturally, “Mauka,” which he hopes to record in total by the end of the year.

Young said putting together “Makai” (funded thanks through a successful Kickstarter campaign) was a piecemeal affair, with its main track, a collaboration with Caillat titled “Puzzle Pieces” originally released a little more than a year ago.

Young has been Caillat’s musical director in previous years, along with an on-again, off-again relationship that, according to Young, is on again (if her appearance Saturday was any proof). “Puzzle Pieces” has received more than 865,000 views on YouTube (see video below).

“‘Puzzle’ was originally going to be released on an album called ‘Lucky Stars,’ but then I started to record new music, and at that point, I decided to do some island music again,” said Young. “So I recorded five new songs with that island vibe, and incorporated it with some of the earlier songs.”

Those new songs make up the first five tracks of “Makai”: The opening “Hana Hou” has a pleasant, dub-like reggae pop feel to it, a vocal showcase on “Win the War,” the acoustic-based “Amnesia,” “Until Tomorrow” (featuring electric guitar work by Imua Garza of the Opihi Pickers), and my personal favorite, “My Favorite.”

Justin Young. (Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato)

Justin Young. (Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato)

Even though “Puzzle Pieces” is a relatively old song, Young, 34, said he thinks it’s still pretty new to island listeners.

“And KCCN has also been playing ‘Amnesia’ and ‘Hana Hou.’ With the album representing five years of sporadic work, the songs are different snapshots and moments compiled over the years. I sequenced the album with first some island reggae, and then progressing to a more contemporary pop sound.”

The latter songs include “Lose This One,” with a guest vocal by Trevor Hall, and “Open Wounds,” a mid-tempo song distinguished by its Fleetwood Mac feel that Young said is his personal favorite “because it expressed exactly what I wanted to say.”

The album ends with a dance remix of “Puzzle Pieces.”

“I thought the song could be showcased in another way. I got to play with Common earlier on, and because of him, I became friends with a band member of his, the keyboardist Johnnie ‘Smurf’ Smith,” Young said. “I sent him the track and he did his thing, and another friend, Scott Stallone, mixed it and did the programming.

“It’s kind of a fun approach. I love ’90s R&B and, in fact, I redid the vocal and guitar on that track.”

Young said he considers “Makai” “the best record I’ve ever made.”

“I know I haven’t released much new stuff,” he admitted. “‘All Attached’ was released on iTunes back in 2007, and that was recorded at home, so I consider ‘Makai’ to be my first full release since I did ‘One Foot on Sand’ in ’03.

“The new album really represents a growth in my writing and singing, and I was fortunate to play with such wonderful musicians,” he said.
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Gary Chun is a features reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at gchun@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter.

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