A lot of songs just start with an idea. The composition “Song for Waimea”, which is the title track from my album of original song about the people and places around Waimea, started with a simple story that someone shared with me. They were returning back to Waimea for the first time after over 20 years of being away. While I was listening to this person share about their feelings and impressions about being back, they said something that really resonated with me. I scribbled down what was shared and just knew that sometime down the line I was going to write a song about this idea.
And what was shared was this. Basically we all have these memories of our childhood, about where we grew up, and all the distinctive characteristics of that place. And for this person, it was shared about how the older they have gotten, the better the memories have become. And as I have gotten older myself, I have begun to understand this idea in a deeper sense. For me, the first feelings of longing for my home started when I left Hawai’i when I was 18 and going to college. While I was away I began to listen to Hawaiian music with a ferocious passion that I had never experienced before. And there was one song that really struck me deeply every time I listed to it. That song was “The Beauty of Mauna Kea” by Keola Beamer. Specifically the more recent recording he did for his album “Kolonahe”.
Anytime I was missing home and I would put the recording on and it would take me right back to the green hills, blue skies, and swiftly moving clouds of Waimea. But that was a yearning by way of a physical distance. As I have gotten older, I have begun to sense the yearning by the way of a temporal distance. These are two very different things. And this is what I wanted to capture in this song.
In composing this song I started looking at some of the defining characteristics that make Waimea special, the rolling hills, the flowing streams, the never ending rainbows. And also some of the important places, Pu’u Laelae, Mānā Road, and of course majestic Maunakea. Lyrically I used language to capture the temporal yearning that is at the core of the song. Days unfolding, memories lingering, forgetting and remembering abound.
Musically I needed a structure that was simple and would allow the message and lyrics to shine, and something that would match the “feel” of an easy Waimea day spent strolling through the hills. I started with a simple bouncy groove built around D major. The progression stays grounded in a standard I-IV-V structure with a very common I7 chord as we move to the chorus in the IV. Nothing fancy, just there to serve the song. Instrumentally I wanted some 12-string guitar included to create a fuller acoustic pallet than just the typical set up I use of 6-string guitar with ‘ukulele.
As I was listening back to the first scratch tracks I realized that I wanted to add an open tuned slack key guitar in there too. I tried a few open D tunings, but none felt right. I did have a new open C tuning that I had been messing around with that I had read was one of Atta Isaacs favorite tunings. And since I was in the key of D I thought I’d just capo up on the second fret and give it a try. When I added it in along with the ‘ukulele rhythm, I knew I had that full acoustic pallet that I was searching for. (For those that are curious what the tuning is, lo to high, C-G-E-G-C-E.)
Since I released the song back in June, I had been playing with the idea of having some shots of Waimea and the Pu’u of Kohala that I could add the music to. It was an idea that I had been kicking around in my head for a few months when my brother called me up day and showed me some drone footage that he had taken with his new drone camera. After looking at the aerial views of Hoku’ula, Maunakea, and all the Pu’u around here, I knew that this had to be edited together to accompany the video. So we got together over a couple of editing sessions and put the video footage together with the song to create this audio-visual piece that I am really happy with.
I hope you all enjoy the video. It looks great on larger screens so if you have the YouTube app on your TV, or can broadcast your desktop or mobile device to a large screen I recommend you do so. For those of you that have spent time in Waimea either during your childhood, or some part in your life, I hope the song and video can take you back to that time when you could just freely stroll through the hills with the whipping winds and rain hitting your cheeks, or the glow of a new rainbow shooting out across the hills in the afternoon mist. And for those you, no matter where you grew up, I hope the song can take you back to that place that is so special to you. Think back, where is that place that you remember from your childhood in which the memories of what is what like keep getting better and better with time?
While the song at its core is about Waimea, it is also about so much more than that. The song is about a feeling. A feeling of going back to that point in time in which you were truly connecting with the space around you. In which you were able to take the time to take in the elements and the defining characteristics of that space that you occupied in your youth. Those are special times and I hope this song can take you there.