New CD!

First off, after getting back from Cairns, I’ve been working hard all summer with my producer Tyler Fortier on the new album. We have finally finished it and it is available right now at CraigChee.BandCamp.com

I’ll have a huge write up about the project and all the amazing people that helped me in the next post. It will soon be up on iTunes and Google Play but for now BandCamp is the only place to get it digitally. You can email me to order physical copies or come see me at a ukefest 🙂

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Cairns Ukulele Festival 2013 Day 10-11 + Wrap Up

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*Again, a link to all my photos from the festival: All of my Cairns Ukefest 2013 photos!

The final days of the Cairns Ukulele Festival 2013.

What an amazing time… I always seem to be very reflective when I’m back from a long trip, but right now I’m being blasted with so many different emotions. I guess you could say I am bursting with a renewed vigor, a better sense of direction and surprisingly a bit of relief.   Ah, and maybe a punch to the face with inspiration.

We had such an incredible group this year. With Bryan Tolentino (with his beautiful wife Kalehua), Halehaku Seabury, Sarah Maisel, Ryan Imamura, the crew from KoAloha (Alan & Paul Okami, Griz) along with Australia’s Montgomery Brothers (Ryo & Damo), Thom Jackson and Tiffany Smith, we all connected so well. For about a week, all of us pretty much lived together, ate together, shared songs, stories and more. I could sit and listen to any of these musicians all day, but to have them all join me on stage… just an amazing feeling. They all feel like family.

That’s pretty much the last 2 days in a nutshell. Sharing of songs, sharing of hula, a blend of so many genres and backgrounds connected by the one instrument that many of us love so much. Thank you Gaby for putting this all together as well as to all the great volunteers for making this great festival happen!

I do wish I had more of a chance to hang out with the amazing Flap! or the Sweet Hollywaiians (who rocked it just as hard as when I met them 2 years ago!). Flap! from Australia has a great sound, I hope to do some collaborations with them if I’m back in the future. With the Sweet Hollywaiians, we got to spend a beautiful dinner together (thanks again Alan!) and they are just as friendly and funny as they are on stage. I was so happy to catch up with them and I’m so glad they are doing well. I promised I’d cook for them the next time they pass through Oregon so they don’t have to rely on Panda Express 🙂

One of the hardest parts about this festival is trying to do everything and be everywhere! There is so much going on during the week that if I don’t manage my time right, it completely wipes me out! This was the case last year where I was just trying to do too much but did not allow myself to rest in-between. There is a lot to balance for me, first we have all the promotional stuff (radio/tv/newspaper etc), the special events like the Green Island concert, Mystery Bus, etc, trying to find and catch up with old friends/attendees and get to know new attendees, take photos at every event, spend time with other artists, practice for the concerts (usually with some new collaborations on the spot), catch new acts/groups, cursing the dozens of $2 coins in your pocket that are dragging your pants down,  all while adjusting to the climate/time change. It can be quite the challenge! This year I had a lot more balance and although I still couldn’t be everywhere, I think I did the most I could.

There are many things that I am doing now that I did not expect to be doing a few years ago. And the relief I mentioned earlier, only refers to the fact that I have been able not only survive the past few years but slowly work towards my goals. Using my first time in Cairns 2 years ago as a benchmark, I am definitely relieved and excited that I followed through with my decision to pursue music full time.

I can’t believe I’ve been able to share the stage with so many legendary artists in the past couple years, travel as much as I do (not a lot compared to some others, but enough at the moment for me!) and to not only perform but to teach! Lessons have picked up so much and have provided me a chance to focus on creating and working on new music and I am incredibly grateful that my workshops have received such glowing reviews. I do take a lot of pride in my teaching and I’m glad to see the work spent on the workshops has paid off. Though I’m not playing nearly as much publicly in Eugene, it makes the shows that much more exciting throughout the year. There has been an increase in private party gigs though which has been fun! I think once the new album is complete, I’ll again make the shift in performing more and teaching less.

I hope to be working with these artists much sooner than later again! I’ll be seeing Sarah Maisel soon during her August west coast tour and at the Wine Country Ukefest!

It’s going to be quite a packed end to 2013 with some new announcements soon to come! Special thanks to DaSilva Ukuleles, again to Gaby, the volunteers and all of the attendees, thank you for your support! The biggest thanks to my parents for putting up with my shenanigans and being so incredibly supportive. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to follow my dreams and I hope I can inspire others to follow theirs too!

Much Love and Aloha,

Craig

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Cairns Ukulele Festival 2013 Day 4-9 (I fell behind!)

I have been having way too much fun at this year’s ukefest and have fell behind on my updates! I’ll be sure to leave a ton of photos at the end of this post to make up for it! If you’re interested in all of the photos I have been taking, please frequent here:

My Cairns Ukefest 2013 photos!

If you’re interested in my personal experiences, keep reading! Since I last wrote, the other festival artists have been arriving. Sarah Maisel, Ryan Imamura, Bryan Tolentino, Halehaku Seabury, Thom Jackson as well as the KoAloha crew (Alan Tagama, Alan and Paul Okami) have been hanging out and sharing a lot of music.

I have also been seeing many familiar faces from those who live in Cairns and those who travel many miles each year to be here. It feels like a big family reunion! I must say, the artist line up this year is incredible… I feel so honored to be a part of this crew.

Ryan has taken everyone by surprise and has come out strong with his take on pop music and high energy performances. Keep an eye out on this guy, he is only going to get better and better. Bryan and Hale have been so inspiring to watch. When they perform, I am reminded why music was so important in my life growing up in Hawai’i. They remind me of why I wanted to play music, the sharing, the raw joy of creating something spontaneous. I can’t wait for their full set on Sunday night.

Sarah I believe has become even more confident and comfortable wow-ing a mass of people with both her personality and music. She is such a fun person to even just be around. I am so happy that she made it down for this festival. She’s been such a pleasure to work with the past few months and am so proud of her success.

Thom Jackson has still been keeping up with his great performance skill and even the KoAloha gang is spreading the aloha not only with their great uke building workshop but singing and doing hula too! Such a fun time to be had by all!

I need to make a special shout out to the Montgomery Brothers… What an incredible duo of musicians. Hopefully I’ll have some videos to post after my concert with them tomorrow night. They are so versatile and add so much to the many performers they are helping to back up. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the festival events are getting better and more efficient. We had a great time at Green Island (I didn’t get extremely sea sick this year!!!) and the mystery tour bus today. I can’t wait to see what Gaby (Cairns Ukefest director) thinks of next! I could go on and on, but I need to catch up on sleep with some early workshops tomorrow morning, the world record attempt in the afternoon and my performance at Union Jack at night. Will try and update soon. Weather is beautiful, the people are lovely as ever, music is flowing, and laughs are to be had. This is Cairns. IMG_2508 IMG_2515 IMG_3194 IMG_3195 IMG_3216 IMG_3226 IMG_3334 IMG_3346 IMG_3359 IMG_3360 IMG_3362 IMG_3363 IMG_3370 IMG_3382 IMG_3431 IMG_3444 IMG_3469 IMG_3028 IMG_3065 IMG_3075 IMG_3130 IMG_3148 IMG_3169 IMG_3172 IMG_3173 IMG_3175 IMG_3182 IMG_3186 IMG_3188 IMG_3191 IMG_2504 IMG_2500 IMG_2503 IMG_2954 IMG_2968 IMG_2971 IMG_2972 IMG_2992 IMG_2994 IMG_2995 IMG_2483 IMG_2484 IMG_2837 IMG_2847 IMG_2850 IMG_2866 IMG_2871 IMG_2878 IMG_2882

Cairns Ukulele Festival 2013 Day 2-3

Day 2-3

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Despite the airline drama making it over, there was plenty of fun to be had on the opening of the Cairns Ukefest 2013! 53+ straight hours of either being on a plane, or at an airport… But all is good! Cairns is looking incredibly beautiful and I’m hoping the amazing weather stays throughout the week.

 

With the time difference and the lost day at the airport, a few hours after I landed and with maybe 20 minutes of a crash rehearsal with the Montgomery Brothers and Tiffany Ann Smith (they are some of my favorite musicians in the whole world!) off we went to open the festival. It was a good warmup for the big show at the Jacks next weekend where we will also be playing with Australia’s own, “Flap!” Many surprises to work on through the week in-between all the festival events.

 

It was great to see so many familiar faces… Cairns really is like a second home for me. With the first event out of the way, expect many more photos and videos throughout the week!

 

Cheers!

 

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Official Lips Video Is Up!

 

Such a fun video to shoot. Lips is the first single from the new album, with a lot more on the way as we speak! Can’t wait to share more, please enjoy the video and please share it!

Aloha,

Craig

Big Big News!!!

Wow, this is going to be a big one… lots of things to share!

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First off… it’s official, adding to my very short list of performance ukuleles (just my Mya-Moe myrtle to be exact!) is my own signature ukulele!!! Michael DaSilva of DaSilva Ukuleles (ukemaker.com) has created an ukulele that completely fits in with my ever changing play style and I have been blown away. I’ll have a full post on the details of this instrument when I get a chance but for now I’ll leave you with some photos. Go check out his site after you finish reading this blog post, I promise it will be worth it!

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Other big news:

I’m extremely fortunate to be working together with Sarah Maisel (sarahmaisel.com) for a few different events this year. She is jazz ukulele player/singer and is just a blast to hang out with. We spent a week together recently doing a bunch of promotional material (I can’t mention some of the other events just yet) and really hit it off. She’s extremely driven and easy to work with. Between the two of us, there is a ton of different styles and instruction that we can cover which will be extremely useful later this year.

The first event we are doing together happens to be described in the next section…

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My return to the Cairns Australia Ukulele Festival!

I cannot believe how fast time flies. My first trip to Cairns was very special. That was when I decided I was going to dedicate myself to music. Music will be my job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every decision will be made towards that goal. Looking back it seems it wasn’t much of a choice as I’ve been working toward that conclusion my whole life but in the moment, it was the scariest and most exciting point in my life.

The trip really opened my eyes and thrust me head first into the water filled with others who were filled to the brim with experience and talent. Although quickly intimidated (this was the first festival I’ve been a part of that was filled with that many great performers), it never crossed my mind that I might drown in this vastly increasing ocean. I learned, watched and grew from the experience. Instead of trying to scramble my way to the top to breathe, I realized I was able to find my own path up towards the light and I found my place. Then I dipped back down and looked for a different path. I’ve continued this cycle a few times while I have been growing as a musician (and as a person) and love where each experiment takes me. I love being able to play in different styles, in a full 10 piece band or as a duo, in front of thousands or just one special person. I love trying my hand at things I am completely uncomfortable with just to see if I can do it. I can’t express how much fun I’m having because of it.

Last year (my 2nd time), I was much more confident. I really focused on connections I made with attendees the previous year because I was truly excited to see how they were doing (not just musically). They were part of the whole experience, the whole decision to pursue music full time, and I’ve been really lucky to stay in touch with them. I was much more hands-on throughout the event (even if just taking photos), getting to know new comers, finally meeting people who were too shy to say hello the first year (hi Kahiwa!) and loved every minute of it. That is until I got sick. This was my biggest regret from last year… My throat was shot and I completely blew out my voice during my first performance and could barely talk throughout my second performance. I was crushed. Some of my favorite musicians are in Cairns (Ryo, Tiffany, I’m looking at you) and it destroyed me knowing that in my short window of time performing with them, I was not at 100%… or even 10%.

With that in mind, I am overjoyed to be returning again to Cairns. I’ve been working on some very special surprises with other performers. Expect bigger this year. I’m sure we will expand on all the great things that worked out in previous and experiment with new ones! The staff has shown year after year that they are determined to put on a great event and have been incredibly successful thus far. Personally I want to get more traditional “non-ukers” involved. I’ve said this before, but you do not need to love the ukulele to enjoy this festival, just someone who enjoys good music. Most importantly it’s fun! There is something special about the ukulele… you’ll witness it yourself at this festival, seeing people from all over, of all ages, get together and share songs, techniques, and joy of being able to play music together.

For repeat attendees, expect more. As you have grown as musicians, so have we as instructors. As your ears have been soaking in more lovely ukulele music, we have been honing our craft and expanding our skill sets. I promise you will see many more unique collaborations this year. I also promise that Sarah Maisel will bake you cookies. Well… maybe not but you will fall in love with her (and her music!).

The past few years have been incredible and I’ve had a lot of help along the way (too many to mention at the moment but I will make a giant list soon). Cairns was a life changing event, like my father putting me on a bicycle for the first time and gently nudging me down a steep hill. Maybe nudge was more like a shove. Either way, thank you to the staff and attendees of the Cairns ukulele festival. I’ll see you soon.

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PS big thank you to Bob Williams for your excellent photography skills, I hope to work with you again soon!

February Already!

2013 has already started and I haven’t even updated the fun times from late last year! This will probably end up being one of the longer posts here… hope you’re ready!

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First off, the new single Lips is up on iTunes and is the first song from the new acoustic album that I’m doing with Tyler Fortier (as producer). You can find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lips-single/id586017856

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I’m going in a little different direction for this album and I hope you like it! I’ll be making another post in the new future with more new album news.

A few months ago I have had the honor to tour with Aldrine Guerrero (of UkuleleUnderground.com) and Lorenzo Vignando (from Italy, you can see a collaboration we did together where I played the cello a few posts down!). It was such a great experience being around their talent and energy. As I have said all year, it’s amazing how one instrument can be played in so many different ways. If you get a chance to see either of these guys play, make sure you go, I promise it will be worth it!

A special thank you to the Watkins and Russ for hosting us and being amazing!

Other fun tidbits… I experienced my first NAMM show this year thanks to Mike DaSilva and got a chance to hang out with Kahiwa Sebire whom I was able to meet last year at the Cairns Ukulele Festival! We recorded one of her originals while she was here visiting and the video should be up in the next few days! Fun times indeed.

Oh, before I forget, I’ll be down in Chico, California next weekend for their ukulele festival!

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I hope to see some familiar faces, it’s going to be a fun time! This is one of the few festivals I’ll be performing and teaching at this year mainly because I want to take some time off and really focus on writing. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to just sit and write new songs… it’s been a bit frustrating and I promised myself that this year I’d create a lot of time to do just that!

That’s it for now, there’s a lot of little things that I’ll be updating this month, stay tuned 🙂

PS: Huge aloha to the UkuleleUnderground members who met up for the jam, it was so nice to meet many of you for the first time and to see some of you who I haven’t seen in a while! The post jam at “Ghandi’s” will always be one of my favorite moments ever!

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