Heels & Picks: Fuga readies ‘Rain on Sunday’
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
In life, people often find themselves looking for a lucky stroke. A moment that will change things and catapult their dreams towards reality.
What some may never realize is that it takes work to get luck to flow in your direction, and once Lady Luck has smiled on you, you better hustle your booty off to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.
For local blues, R&B and reggae singer (and personal friend) Paula Fuga, that moment came when local superstar Jack Johnson discovered her singing at a park near his North Shore home. He took a keen interest in her music, and over the years the two musicians and their families have become good friends. Johnson is a strong supporter of her music, and in addition to writing and recording songs together for the Mana Moali Collective (one of my favorites is “Country Road”) and for Ziggy Marley’s album, “Family Time,” Johnson has taken her on tour. Most recently, she opened for him in Australia and New Zealand.
But let’s be clear – the girl works hard. A few years ago, I gave Fuga a call to pick her brain a bit about some business decisions and big picture ideas I was working on with The Throwdowns.
As we chatted on the phone, her on the North Shore of Oahu and me in Kihei on Maui, I remember one thing she said to me very clearly: “Erin, there’s no way Jack would have taken me on tour to the mainland with him if I hadn’t been working on my own and toured there already, independently.”
And so it is; Lady Luck is not so much a free-wheeling girl who turns up in the night, but more of a classy, smart, well-dressed woman who shows up at the right moment to say, “You did well, kid.”
For Fuga, the chance meeting with Johnson brought about friendship and opportunity, but so many other choices and experiences have helped lead her to this point in her career. She auditioned for “American Idol,” is a 2007 Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner for Most Promising Artist, performs regularly all over the islands (both on her own and with several musician friends, including talented vocalist Mike Love and percussionist Sam Gonsalves) and is always on the move with various tours and appearances. She balances this with married life and spending time with friends and family.
2014 has been a pinnacle year for Fuga, one that led her to her second performance at the White House for a celebration of Asian American Pacific Islanders in the Arts, where she performed alongside Oahu singer/songwriter John Cruz and met President Obama. She opened for Johnson in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled to Brazil for the first time to perform. And now, Fuga is ready to record and release her second full-length album, “Rain on Sunday.”
So how does an independent artist fund an album these days? For many, crowdfunding is the best solution. Sites that allow fans to kick in a dollar, spend $15 to buy the album in advance, or indulge in elaborate fan packages are quickly becoming the go-to way to bring projects to life. Albums are very expensive to make, and with the prevalence of downloading music these days, a return on investment requires ideas other than just music to generate income.
Many countries have government subsidies for the arts, allowing artists to apply for grants to help release their albums. Such programs are a huge asset for the arts, but since that is not a reality in the United States, crowd funding is a great alternative to funding by music labels and investors.
People claim this all the time — hell, the bio on my website even says it — but it really applies when it comes to Fuga’s voice: once you’ve heard her sing, you won’t forget it. She’s got an intense power and lovely mix of fluidity and control. Her voice is adept at belting blues and R&B, yet the nuances aren’t lost amidst the sheer volume she is capable of operating at. It’s really something.
Fuga is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed to complete recording of her new album. Of the various crowdfunding sites (Indiegogo, Pledge Music, Patreon, etc.), Kickstarter is likely the most well-known.
“Kickstarter is a wonderful way to be connected to my fans that have been supportive of my music throughout the years,” Fuga said. “It’s giving me (the) chance to create experiences that otherwise would not be considered.
“When I recorded my first album, I had a business partner (and) we got a loan to pay for it all, and eventually recouped the costs. Today I’m basically doing this all on my own, and I’m glad that I won’t have to get a loan this time.”
As of today, Fuga’s Kickstarter has eight days to go to reach her $25,000 goal. The deal with Kickstarter is that the set goal needs to be met in order to receive the funding. If Paula were to hit $24,999, the project’s funds would not be collected and the project would not be funded. So spreading the word is paramount.
With her growing fan base, dedicated longtime fans and position as a cultural spokesperson for Hawaiian people and culture, I’m certain Fuga will surpass her goal. However, let’s not tempt fate or mess with Lady Luck! If you’re a fan, pre-buying the album is just a smart move; anyone who pre-orders on Kickstarter gets three exclusive bonus tracks in addition the album.
The more elaborate packages are well thought-out and fun. She’s got everything from a stay at a Lanikai beach house or a Turtle Bay villa, to snorkeling trips and lauhala bracelet weaving sessions with the artist herself.
Of all the incentives offered to fans, which is Fuga’s favorite? Though she said she couldn’t pick a true favorite, she did have one activity with fans she’s really looking forward to.
“I think that it will be so fun to weave lauhala bracelets for those who’ve selected the Dream Weaver package,” she said. “I love arts and crafts and being able to offer something I made with my own hands for them to keep forever is exciting because of how much I value these things myself. It takes a while to prepare all the materials, so that’s the reason I had to keep the price of that package a little high.”
Listening to Paula Fuga sing on a rainy Sunday is an idyllic idea. Check out her Kickstarter to make sure you get your very own copy for a rainy afternoon.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.