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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 27, 2006

Gilliom: Music, marriage and more

Hear an excerpt from "Napua," Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom's
song that pays tribute to her late grandmother:

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

And baby makes three. Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, daughter Madeline Uale'a o ka Mahine Tikehu Austin and husband John Charles Quinell Austin.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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AMY HANAIALI'I GILLIOM

8 p.m. today

Hawai'i Theatre

$33

528-0506

Upcoming appearances:

Nov. 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Banyan Courtyard, Sheraton Moana Surfrider hotel

Nov. 26, 2-3 p.m., Windward Mall

Dec. 2, 2-3 p.m., Kahala Mall

Latest CDs:

"Generation Hawai'i," Hanaiali'i Records (latest solo album)

"Return to Romance," Mountain Apple Co. (appearing with the Matt Catingub Orchestra of Hawai'i, with other guest artists)

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Being mommy is tops in singer Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom's life right now. "It's all been very good," Gilliom said about the feedings, the changings, the companionship of daughter Madeline Uale'a o ka Mahine Tikehu Austin, born April 8. "She's been pretty easy-going. And of course, she loves music. She's singing at the top of her lungs and her motor skills are quite advanced. I've already picked up a little piano at Thinker Toys; she's always around my band, surrounded by noise. So life is great with her."

Gilliom, 38, was pregnant with Madeline when she was recording "Generation Hawai'i," her latest CD. She'll sing many of the album's songs at tonight's concert that's also titled "Generation Hawai'i," launching the Hawai'i Theatre's popular Friday-night "Hana Hou!" series.

"What was interesting with this album project was that it came at the right time," she said in a phone interview from Kilauea, Kaua'i, where she and her husband, John Charles Quinell Austin (who owns Tahiti Nui restaurant in Hanalei), live with Madeline.

Her grandmother, Jennie Hanaiali'i Napua Woodd, had died. Tutu had been both an inspiration and the foundation of her singing endeavors and a life model for Gilliom, and her passing left a huge vacuum in Gilliom's life.

"But once I got pregnant, all of the songs started falling out of me," she said. "It all changed my outlook about a lot of things. I didn't realize that I had the power of motherhood. I sing to baby, and hello, I had the power; she likes all those old Hawaiian lullabies."

BACK AT THE HAWAI'I

When Gilliom last performed in the historic downtown theater, her then-beau Austin got up on stage during an audience chant of "hana hou" (encore, one more time) at the end of her show. He got down on his knees, popped out a ring and proposed catching Gilliom by surprise. Her guitarist, Chino Montero, shouted at the time: "Well, did you say yes?"

"The Hawai'i Theatre always has been home for me," said Gilliom. "There's so much aloha, and roots. I still remember when Grandma performed with me there. So this concert, with lots of pure Hawaiian music, is getting back to my very Hawaiian roots."

Gilliom said she has periodic conversations and brushes with Tutu reinforcing her vision as a Hawaiian.

"Doing 'Generation Hawai'i' has been totally wild," she said. "Sometimes, I 'felt' Tutu was looking behind me, from a corner, even talking story. Just her whole demeanor. I often am asked, 'Who you talking to?' and it would be Tutu."

For the new album, she composed a tune, "Napua," to honor her grandmother. "It was the heart-wrencher for me," she said of the track. Her lyrics were translated into Hawaiian by Kaumaka'iwa Kanaka'ole. "Michael (Ruff, her producer and song contributor), had written a melody, and I started writing lyrics with Grandma in mind, hoping for kaona (hidden or double meaning typical of many Hawaiian mele and oli), with a reference to flowers. Tutu spoke only Hawaiian in a childlike way in the end (before she died), and it was a challenge to get that kaona."

NATURE AND SUPERNATURAL

The recording was done at Ron Pendragon's studio in Wailua, Kaua'i, with Gilliom laying down her vocal tracks two weeks before she gave birth. When the historic 40-plus days of rain flooded the state and caused the Kaloko Dam disaster in March on the Garden Island, Gilliom and her musicians were recording, and Madeline arrived the day after the major flooding on Kaua'i.

Throughout Mother Nature's soaking dance, the recording continued occasionally blessed with strange doings, said Gilliom. "We'd be in the studio, and Chino would take off his headphones, and said somebody would be singing with me," she said. "When we were working on 'Rain Kilikilihune' (one of the CD selections), Keli'i Kaneali'i (who guest-performs at the Hawai'i Theatre) would hear aunties in his headphone, too."

Ruff would ask her, "Does this always happen?" To which Gilliom answered, "Tutu's always around."

Gilliom confronted these spiritual encounters in the liner notes of "Generation Hawai'i," in which she wrote: "My grandmother informed me that everyone will have an opinion about who you are and what you do in life. As long as you have integrity, be true to yourself, your culture and walk with your kupuna, you will be very blessed ... Many of my kupuna from the spirit world came to visit us."

She addresses the need to enlist the aid of kupuna in linking the past with the future, on "No Na Hulu Kupuna," which boldly carries forth the generational theme of her album, beckoning the wisdom of yesteryear to enlighten and influence the young of today.

It's a stance she hopes to practice in her daily regimen, to transfer this spirit to her child.

MADE FOR MOTHERHOOD

She's effusive about being mom to Madeline.

"She's huge; only 6 months, and already she's wearing age 1 clothes. John wants to get her into rugby, basketball; I want her in ballet. Maybe mix sports and theater; theater is great for children, it opens minds, lets them explore, gets the barriers down. And definitely hula; culture will be a very big part of her life. Especially since she's part Maori, too."

The Maori blood comes from Austin's New Zealand roots, "which is like how Moloka'i was a hundred years ago; extremely cultural. She (baby) gets her first trip to New Zealand shortly," said Gilliom.

She wants Madeline to be exposed to show business to mirror her own past.

"When I was a baby, I was in a hotel dresser drawer from the time I was 2 weeks old," she said of her early years traveling with grandma and parents. "I want Baby Girl to get used to life outside of Hawai'i, because that's how I was raised," Gilliom said. "Next month, we have two concerts in Tahiti, and baby will be along to Pape'ete. Then San Francisco. She goes everywhere with us."

Gilliom has dropped about 14 pounds of her pregnancy weight, and is contemplating when to have a second child. "I'll probably have a couple of kids; my clock's ticking, and I can't think so straight," she giggled.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.