When Nathan Aweau is in New York, you can probably find him at Sottocasa Pizzeria in Harlem, one of his favorite spots in the City. When he’s not talking story with friends over a delicious slice, he is performing at a venue in the tri-state area, mesmerizing the audience with his sound. “His vibrato-rich tenor and falsetto will make you feel like you are soaring in your seat” was how the Honolulu Museum of Art described his vocals. But it is not just his vocals that will catch your attention, his mastery on the electric bass and acoustic guitar has simply been described by many as extraordinary.
His song-writing talent and creativity also emerged at a young age, when at just 8 years old while playing his ukulele, he started singing a song that he had made up on the spot. “My father looked at me and asked ‘what song is that?’ I just shrugged my shoulders and said ‘I don’t know it was something I made up.’” While this caught his father by surprise, Nathan assumed this was something that everyone could do. Years later, he would go on to write pop, adult contemporary, jazz, and classical songs.
It wasn’t until a challenge from Don Ho in 2001 that Nathan even considered writing a Hawaiian song. “During my 16 year stint as Don Ho’s bassist, he expressed that even though he like[d] my songs, he didn’t think that I could write a Hawaiian song.” At this time, Nathan was in the process of creating his debut solo album and decided to accept the challenge and write a Hawaiian song to include on the album. This song turned out to be E Apo Mai, which won the Na Hoku Hanohano award for 2002 Song of the Year. “Because of this, I turned most of my attention to writing Hawaiian music.”
In addition to the 2002 Song of the Year award, his debut solo album won the award for Traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year and he was awarded the Male Vocalist of the Year honor. Nathan was just getting started. In the years since, he has released five critically-acclaimed solo albums, including one in 2007 on which he played every instrument, and an album as one-half of the band HAPA, which reached #7 on Billboard Magazine's World Music chart. He has also won well over a dozen Na Hoku Hanohano awards, three of which were for Male Vocalist of the Year. Even with all the accolades that he and his albums have received there is still an opportunity to improve on perfection. “I think all my songs are better live than the recording,” he says, as performing his songs live can add an atmosphere of intimacy and authenticity that cannot be captured in recordings. “I'm very anal in my studio and can be too meticulous about the final results. So, sometimes perfection can be cold.”
Warm up with a live performance by Masters of Hawaiian Music: Nathan Aweau, George Kahumoku Jr., and Kawika Kahiapo on Tuesday, February 12 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chatham, New Jersey at 7:00 PM [get your tickets] and on Wednesday, February 13 at the Cutting Room in New York City at 7:30 PM [get your tickets]
To learn more about Nathan Aweau or to see if he's coming to an area near you, visit his website, Facebook page, or subscribe to his Youtube channel.