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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

Singer-composer returns from L.A. for 'Bash 2003'

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Justin Young, 24, who has released seven CDs, with an eighth perhaps coming out this fall, says he's concerned about "a problem of staleness" in the Hawai'i music business.

Hawaiian Bash 2003

6 to 9:30 p.m. tomorrow

Waikiki Shell

$10-$25 in advance, $12-$30 at the door


Featuring: Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu, Maunalua, 'Ale'a, Kahua, Kim, Justin Young, Na Palapalai and The Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus

On the Web: For more on Justin Young, see www.justinsmusic.com

Justin Young, a prolific island singer-composer who has been living and studying in Los Angeles for two years, is home for a pop on the "Hawaiian Bash 2003" jam tomorrow at the Waikiki Shell.

"I've been involved in a two-year music business program at UCLA extension," said Young, 24, who felt he needed some basic savvy about the recording industry.

"My goal has been not only to do music in Hawai'i, but outside of Hawai'i, too," he said. "So I've taken up a lot of different things and may go back to study some more. Not that I'd be a manager, or a record-label type, but as an artist, you have to keep abreast to be informed."

Young, a 1996 Kalaheo High School graduate, is known for his contemporary ballads and pop reflections about love and life, often with an island spin. While he ventures into Jawaiian and reggae, he clearly has molded his own niche through seven CDs of mostly romantic songs.

Living and working the L.A. club and music scene have further broadened his horizons.

"There are a lot of creative people in the L.A. vibe," he said. "There's definitely a different energy there, which is cool. But you appreciate home, once you get the distance (being away), and Hawai'i still is my home, though I've been experiencing independence for the first time since I was 12 or 13. My mom's home in Hawai'i, after all."

For his Bash stint, Young expects to unveil medleys of his older signature tunes and share some less-noted music. "I'll be performing with Chant, which is exciting, since we did a couple of shows together in Japan — small acoustic things, and quite a few lu'au shows," said Young.

Because of the Hawaiian motif of the evening, Young also will do a few Hawaiian tunes, possibly previewing material from his first traditional Hawaiian CD,"One Foot on Sand," which he is completing for possible fall release.

"The Hawaiian songs are a nice break from my usual stuff," he said. "I think I've written five or six, maybe seven new ones for this album. It's something I've always wanted to do." He'll be in the studio here to do more recording.

Young's previous seven CDs — the most recent was "Postcards" — have sustained a career that includes two tunes picked up for movie ("Shallow Hal" and "Uninvited Guests") soundtracks.

Of big concern: the lackluster nature of the local music business, an attitude Young attributes to Hawai'i's climate and laid-back ways.

"There needs to be a movement of creativity; a few artists are trying to be fresh, and those who do some Jawaiian are pretty cool, but there's always a problem of staleness," he said. "The challenge for me, as a singer, is to keep from being redundant. It doesn't help when radio stations continue to perpetuate the formula Jawaiian stuff; after all, people like it, so artists still do it. But for a lot of us, who like to try different things, it's frustrating that there's no real progression. I really think the climate stifles creativity."

As an observer of the L.A. music scene, he said performers there share the same challenges as here.

"It's tough to get paying gigs everywhere," said Young. "It's competitive but inspiring."

In L.A., budding acts often pay a club to get a showcase. "The way it works is that you buy 300 tickets to a gig, pay the club for the tickets, and try to sell to whomever you can," said Young. "Hawai'i has so many backyard bands; maybe this is something that we should try, too."