Meet Kawehi: The Internet's Latest Music Crush

Categories: interview

We're certain you've seen Kawehi in action by now; she's no stranger to internet success (all three of her Kickstarter projects well-exceeded their monetary goals), but it took an impromptu cover of Nirvana's 'Heart Shaped Box' to make her work go viral. Even Mrs. Courtney Love Cobain was touting Kawehi's synth-heavy, electronic rendition of the song about Love's vagina.

It's understandable why the internet has a crush on this talented 'one-woman band': in addition to her talent, Kawehi is spunky, ends sentences with 'yo', and despite massive internet success which led to throngs of managers and venues contacting her, remains grounded:

"Even if no one listens, even if no one buys this EP - I'd still be here in this garage, making music. 'Cause that's the kind of shit you do when you love something."

But what's known about this elusive internet superstar whose bio simply states: "what you don't know won't kill you"? We spoke with Kawehi and discussed her humble past, current online success and her promising future.

OC Weekly (Jena Ardell): Your name means "The decoration; the song" in Hawaiian. Is it safe to assume musical ability or music appreciation runs in your family or is this a serendipitous coincidence?

Kawehi: It's kind of a crazy coincidence. My dad loves to sing, but he's not really a good singer (laughs). Don't tell him! And my mom she always sang when I was a kid, but that wasn't something that I enjoyed to do. They've been fully supportive and it's kind of a coincidence. It's weird.

Can you please explain how you were 'discovered in a Jamba Juice' in Hawaii?

Well, I wasn't actually discovered in there, but I was working at Jamba Juice--this is like a long, long time ago--and I did an audition for a band and I made it and they flew us out to Los Angeles. I was fresh out of high school. I'm not with the band anymore. It was a really long time ago and it wasn't something I wanted to do anymore, so I just kind of did my own thing.

And now you live in Kansas. What did you dislike about L.A. that made you want to move to Kansas?

Mostly it was so expensive. I really wanted to quit my job and put everything into music and it's kind of impossible to do that in Los Angeles and be able to afford your mortgage and not lose your house; so that was the main thing that captapulted us to move somewhere we could afford and create full-time.

Are you self taught? Have you had any formal training?

Like every other little Asian kid out there, I took piano lessons. But all the loop stuff and everything is just kind of something I developed over the years [on my own].

How long does it take you to piece together a song like 'Closer' or 'Heart Shaped Box'?

'Heart-shaped Box' was really quick because I had just gotten a new piece of gear and I was practicing before I went down to Austin and it just kind of came to me that way. Stuff like 'Closer'--things where I really get into different sounds--that could take me a little while, for sure. That one probably took me a week of just messing around with different sounds and stuff that I thought fit and sounded cool. It just depends on what the song is and how quickly the idea comes and whatever imagination I have.

Have you been approached by any big acts interested in having you open for them?

No, I've just been approached by tons of different people. I was really stoked that Courtney Love liked [the 'Heart-Shaped Box' cover] and mentioned it and shared it. I was really excited that she didn't hate it because that would have really sucked.

We don't think that anyone hated it and we imagine Trent Reznor would be wanting to book you...

That's what everyone says. I mean, I'm really just nobody and it's really cool that this caught fire.

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