The Magic of Maoli
The irresistible sounds of Glenn Awong and the country-reggae band Maoli are back and bringing scores of music lovers together.
The country-reggae group Maoli is rocking the boat again with its Maoli Music Overload 2 campaign, with plans to drop its first single this Friday, Oct. 13, and follow that up with the release of a new track every three weeks through next June.
The band conducted a similar push last year when it released new singles every two weeks for about six months before fans finally had it all — an album that music lovers just couldn’t stop singing along to.
“That country-reggae vibe is really who I am,” confesses lead singer and group founder Glenn Awong. “The fans have been loving it, so I just keep giving it to them.”
Looking back, it’s been a whirlwind year for Maoli. After being on the road for its sold-out tour, the band returned home last summer for jam-packed shows around the state. More than 25,000 people attended the outfit’s performances at Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell, with the first show selling out in just 8 minutes; tickets for the second and third shows also went at record speed. Meanwhile, performances on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i island drew more than 17,000 concertgoers.
“We like to try and push the limits for ourselves,” shares Awong, noting the Hawai‘i concerts have become a highlight of his career. “We’ve been working together (with Paulele Alcon, founder of concert promoter Hawai‘i’s Finest) for over 13 years, from those times when we used to play the Pagoda lobby and we couldn’t even sell 20 tickets back then. We’ve just been chasing that dream ever since then and I’m so grateful.”
Since its debut in 2007, Maoli has continued to put music into the universe, including more than 21 No. 1 Regional Island Reggae songs. In 2020, it won a prestigious Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Reggae Album of the Year, and iHeart Island Music Awards for Album of the Year (Sense of Purpose) and Group of the Year. The following year, the band returned to the iHeart Island Music Awards stage and earned top honors for Album of the Year (The Breakthrough) and Song of the Year (My Reason).
Born in Hilo and raised in Ha‘ikū on Maui, Awong says his love of music developed from listening to the radio and taking music classes at King Kekaulike High School.
“I kind of knew at a young age (intermediate school time) that I wanted to do this, and as I got to high school, I loved it even more,” he recalls. “As I started growing and releasing songs and albums and music, I wanted to create a name that represented who I was. Maoli means native in Hawaiian, and I wanted to represent my culture and who I am no matter where I went in the world and I continue to do that to this day.”
After the group’s recent homecoming concerts, Awong says he took a short break before heading back into the studio, where he spent the past couple of months working on the group’s new MMO2 album that features 12 tracks. The band released a sneak peek trailer of the first single, Broken Up, earlier in the week.
“This past year has just been a lot of studio time, a lot of traveling, a lot of touring, I really need to take a break and spend time with my kids and do stuff I like to do,” says the father of four, during his visit to Honolulu in July. “I like to golf, fish, and just go back to the country, work the ranch with my uncle guys and stuff like that, go back to those days.
“I’m not on O‘ahu too often now, but I try to come back every year to perform. (When I’m here), I love Goma Tei Ramen, and I like to go out to the West side. My kids love the water park, but other than that we’re usually around Waikīkī just chilling.”
Of course, the past couple of months have also been difficult for band members with the Maui wildfires hitting close to home, and directly impacting some of their family and friends. The day after the fires, band members were seen loading up trucks with food, water and supplies and delivering vital items to those in need.
“Healing is going to be needed for a long time,” says artist manager Reggie Villa, “and we’ll continue to be on the ground helping as needed.”
Looking ahead, the band has scheduled performances at the One Love Music and Art Festival in Tauranga, New Zealand, in January, and at the Jammin Australian Reggae Festival at Main Beach, Australia, the following month. It also has other exciting projects in the works that members hope to announce in the coming month.
“This is definitely what I love doing; I love playing music,” reflects Awong. “As far as the dream goes, there’s a lot of ups and downs to this industry — the good parts of it is the dream and the bad parts are the journey.
“There’s a lot of tribulations you gotta go through, a lot of sacrifices, a lot of time away from your family. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved in this movement, this journey through life. If there’s anything I could say to young artists who are trying to do this is just learn to love the journey. The painful parts are just a part of it. It’s an obstacle that if you learn to get over it, you’ll be fine.”
Awong admits that dealing with fame has also been difficult for him as he’s more of a private person. But he keeps finding his reasons to keep vibing and to ensure that the lyrics continue flowing. He says many of his songs (he writes about 75%-80% of them) are from his personal experiences, and names Quincy Jones and David Foster among his biggest artistic influences. He also lists George Strait and Zac Brown as his favorite country artists.
“I love seeing the people’s reaction to the music,” says Awong. “I love how it inspires them. I love how I can bring so many people together not only just to have a good time but in love. That’s really what I’m here to do. Let the music bring people together in unity and love.”