For most people being turned down by the “American Idol” judges is a devastating experience, for Paula Fuga it is possibly the best thing that could have happened. Now free to share her reggae-tinged tunes with the world, Paula Fuga has released her album ‘Lilikoi’, under her very own record label. If that isn’t enough she has earned the respect and support from the likes of Jack Johnson, John Butler Trio and Jason Mraz. Soon to be a household name, we decided to find out a little more about the lady behind the name.

R13: For those who don’t know can you give us a quick history lesson on Paula Fuga?
PF: Well My father was in the Army so I was born in Fort Polk, Louisiana, which just so happens to be the Bible belt of the boot shaped state. I think it is the reason I love soul music and one of the reasons I sing the way I do. Anyway, by the time my sister was born (a year later) we had already been living in Hawaii for a few months. So that’s why I’m from Hawaii. My mom is Native Hawaiian, French, English, Filipino, Chinese, and Puerto Rican. My dad is Samoan, Chinese. In Hawaii every nationality counts.

My grandparents were a major influence in my life. They would sing to me all the time. My grandma would dance with me and my grandfather would play slack key guitar, ukulele and piano for me. My grandpa used to be a rubbish man and he would bring home toys, bikes, guitar amps, records and other things that were still in good condition home from the dump. One day when I was about 5 years old, he brought an old, white, plastic, Mickey Mouse record player home and gave it to me. I would spin the records he had collected over the years and remember feeling so good about playing music for my family. One of my favourite records was the Mr. Roboto single from Styx!

Anyway I always loved music and began playing the flute for 7th grade band class. I took up the Ukulele in my junior year of high school just so I would have some music to accompany me while I sang.

In 2004 I auditioned for American Idol and after being rejected was asked to come to Hollywood for an appearance on a show about the rejects.

I made some very important connections and learned a lot through that experience. My business partner and now dear friend, Spencer Toyama is the best thing that came from it all. He was a production assistant during the auditions and I believe meeting him was the cosmic reason I had to audition.

R13: Producing your first album yourself- how did you find it?
PF: It was a little scary because I was learning as I was going. I hadn’t started performing regularly yet and had just moved from living with my family on the slow paced countryside of the island to the much busier city side with friends.

My business partner has a degree in Entertainment Management so he encouraged me to do it all independently with his help of course. He believed in me and made sure that all the people we worked with felt the same as he did. We started our own record label “Pakipika Productions” in the summer of ‘04 as I was just starting to make friends with the best musicians in the islands.

Spencer made sure that I had 100% creative control and the Producer we hired Patrick Conway, just really wanted to help bring out the music that was already inside of me however it was. I truly believe it is the reason Lilikoi came out so diverse.

R13: Did anyone give you any advice that’s stayed with you?
PF: Just before I started my label I would ask different local musicians for advice and I remember hearing the same thing… “be true to yourself,” “own everything” and “be humble.”

Humility is very important, no one wants to listen to music of a stuck up artist!

R13: You’ve had the opportunity to perform with some amazing artists- like Jack Johnson, for instance. It’s a far cry from American Idol! So what more do you see ahead for yourself?
PF: Jack is a beautiful, generous soul, his lyrics are profound and he has a heart of air. I’m grateful for the many opportunities he has given me and look forward to making beautiful music with him in the near future!

I’m still learning and growing as a singer, song - writer and musician. I can see myself getting better at what I do, making connections with remarkable people and helping to make the world a better place through my music and influence.

R13: Looking back at everything you’ve achieved, is there anything you’d change?
PF: I would have become a vegetarian a long time ago! Maybe make wiser decisions in regards to spending money. That’s about it.

R13: Do you think there was a specific defining moment when you knew you had become a successful artist?
PF: No. I consider myself to be regular, not more special than anyone else. I’m still developing musically so I consider myself to be a young pup. I still have to scrub toilets and hang laundry like everyone else that keeps me grounded. I have a pile of laundry to do even as I type.

R13: People keep trying to compare you to other singers; what has been the funniest comparison that you have heard of so far?
PF: None of the comparisons have been funny because I am honoured when they compare me to singers that I admire and love.

I think Fiona Apple would have to be the oddest though.

R13: You’re voice is stunning, have you always known that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
PF: I realized I could sing when I was 3. I’ve known for sure that this was my destiny since I was about 9 years old.

R13: What has been the most exciting thing to happen to you since you have been performing?
PF: #1. I caught a fine, hardworking fish and moved in with him. ;)

#2. Jack asked me to sing at the Kokua Festival in 2006 and 2008, and to tour with him in August 2008 with the Culver City Dub Collective

#3. Opening for Three Dog Night, performing with the Honolulu Symphony under the direction of Matt Catingub last August ‘07

#4. I got to swim and sing with some dolphins in February ’08!

R13: Would you rather be remembered for you music or yourself?
PF: I think my family and friends will always remember me for myself and the people whom I have never personally met will remember only my music. I’m fine either way.

R13: What anecdote will you be telling your grandkids someday?
PF: I like to laugh a lot so I think I’ll tell them really embarrassing stories of when I was a kid. I’ve always loved hearing stories of when my parents and grandparents were kids, you know “back in the olden days.”

R13: Barney or The Cookie Monster. Who scarred you for life more?
PF: None of the above, I’m a fan of both. I used to work for a pre-school when I was in high school and the kids loved Barney. He taught them how to clean up after themselves which is a big help for any childcare provider. I think every pre-school teacher and childcare provider knows the clean up song! Babies love Barney because he’s big and bright which makes it easy for them to see while their eyesight is developing and has a prema baby-talk voice.

Cookie monster, he’s wacky and loveable!