Anuhea, the next big thing?
The 23-year-old songstress has built a following via the Internet
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
Meet Anuhea Jenkins. Singer, songwriter, guitarist... and Hawai'i's biggest pop music export since Jack Johnson?
Sure, everyone wants to be known as the next Jack Johnson, but Anuhea ... well, she just might the one.
Last month, after being one of five Hawai'i artists to be invited to perform at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, her self-titled debut album reached No. 7 on iTunes' most-downloaded-albums list. The songstress also opened for folk-blues artist Amos Lee when he was in Honolulu in May for a two-show engagement, and rumor has it she stole the show. We'd say too bad for Lee, except that he's the one who started the rumor.
Last week, Anuhea — who goes by just "Anuhea" — performed in Los Angeles for an exclusive audience of industry heavy hitters, any one of whom could set her on the path to pop music superstardom.
So yeah, all things considered, it's pretty safe to say that Anuhea might be the next big thing to come out of the Islands.
Of course, there are no guarantees. At 23, Anuhea knows what she wants, and what she wants is to be a multiplatinum-selling recording artist with a Grammy (or two or ...) and a foreign boyfriend to wake up to every morning. OK, that last part isn't a must, but if we're talking about her ideal life in, say, 10 years, she's putting it out there that she would dig a nice Brazilian.
"I hope that in 10 years, I'll have a family and a successful music career," Anuhea said. "I want to be able to do it all, like Gwen Stefani and Nelly Furtado do. If they can do it, I can too."
Anuhea is proof that the Internet makes its own kind of stars. In the age of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, DIY singer-songwriter types like Anuhea literally have the world at their fingertips.
Right now, Anuhea's job as a pop music artist is to spend eight, 10 or sometimes 12 hours every day on the Internet keeping up with her real fans via a virtual groupie community.
It's called viral marketing, and it's second nature for the Maui native, who now lives in Hawai'i Kai.
"I can spend all day just keeping my fans posted on what's going on with me, " she said. "And it's a mutual thing. They become my fans and I become theirs because we're able to communicate and connect using the Internet."
Oh, how things change.
Remember the time when a rock star was about as accessible to his or her fans as Mars' second moon? Those days are all but forgotten, thanks to the Internet. And lucky for people like Anuhea.
"Whatever success I've had so far, I attribute to the whole viral thing," she said. "I'm really active online, and it gives me a window to the whole world."
And what up-and-coming star doesn't want the world at her disposal? It can only help, even if it is just a virtual world.
But even if Anuhea could sit comfortably at her computer and garner the kind of success she's after, she wouldn't be able to do it. She's too social. Too engaged. Too reliant on the interaction between her, the singer, and her audience.
"I thrive on the energy of an audience. On knowing that they feel me, and I feel them."
And so it's on to the next phase — one that requires more hard work and more than just a YouTube following.
Anuhea, who writes her own songs and is her own accompaniment on the guitar, is now hoping to take her viral popularity and grow it until it's big enough to fit into the biggest stadiums in the world.
Her album is a slick, well-produced record that clearly reflects her influences — Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz — while still being all Anuhea.
Comparisons to artists like Jewel, Colbie Caillat and Anna Nalick are unavoidable. She's got that whole folksy, barefoot-girl-and-a-guitar vibe. But there's no mistaking that Anuhea comes from these Islands, an influence that no one else can claim. Except for Jack Johnson. And like Johnson, she can't help but sound local. But where Johnson is all about the cha-langalang, Anuhea is all about the skank.
With more than just a thread of reggae in her music, Anuhea pays serious homage to not only pure reggae influences like Bob Marley, but also to the localized version of reggae, known as Jawaiian.
Is the rest of the world ready for Jawaiian-slash-pop-slash-R&B? If Nico from Switzerland — Anuhea's self-proclaimed biggest fan — has anything to say about it, the answer is, yes.
And Anuhea's ready to take on the world.
"I'm not the best singer. I'm not the best guitarist. I'm not the prettiest. I know that," she said. "But I have a passion for this. I love it, and I want to do this for the rest of my life."
Anuhea's 25 Random Things, Facebook-style
1. I'm from Maui, but I've never been to Lana'i.
2. I am THE oldest of my generation in all my family — both sides, all cousins and siblings.
3. I've never had a voice or guitar lesson in my entire life.
4. I bought my senior prom dress from Savers.
5. I know every single word to many old-school rap songs like "Bust a Move," "Baby Got Back," "Ice Ice Baby" and "Humpty Hump."
6. I consider a person's sense of humor to be of higher importance than anything else when it comes to guys/friends.
7. I'm obsessed with sushi — could eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner.
8. I was president of my high school video club.
9. I'm terrified of jumping off high things. Bungee jumping? Skydiving? No, thank you.
10. My brothers are named Michael and Jordan after Michael Jordan.
11. I make my bed every morning.
12. I'm the most car-accident-prone person I know.
13. I would like to someday have my own reality TV show.
14. I'm super into mixed martial arts but am scared to train myself.
15. I'm part Chinese.
16. My first job was at The Pet Shop (Maui).
17. I suck at cooking.
18. I used to raise Jackson chameleons.
19. I played the trumpet in intermediate school.
20. I can recite every line from the movie "Liar Liar," verbatim.
21. I'm obsessed with Spam musubi.
22. I've never had the chicken pox.
23. One wall of my bedroom is covered in a collage made from magazine clippings and photos.
24. I want to dye my hair black, but I can't until I sell a million records.
25. My alter ego is a tatted up, Kat Von D-type, motorcycle-riding bad ass!
Anuhea's dream collabo team: If she could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, Anuhea said she'd love to work with Michael Jackson, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, James Taylor or Busta Rhymes.
Anuhea's perfect supergroup: If she were to form a supergroup, the members would be Carlos Santana on guitar, Travis Barker on drums, Flea on bass, and Alicia Keys on piano and backing vocals.
Anuhea's best main act: If Anuhea could tour with and open for anyone, she would pick Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson or Gym Class Heroes.
The last album Anuhea bought or downloaded: "Sunny Side Up" by Paolo Nutini
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