Music makes Stuart Hollinger’s world go round. “It’s the universal language,” he says. “Even if you can’t understand somebody, when you hear their music, it just speaks to you.”
The Oahu native recently released an album titled Dangerous Crossing, and is excited to share his musical talents with the public once again. Hollinger devoted much of his early life to playing music but took a 20-year hiatus before diving back into the art in 2009.
“It was like I had unfinished business,” he explains. “I’m not the type of person who will one day say, ‘Oh, I shoulda, woulda, coulda. I want to just say, ‘I did it.’ No regrets. Life is too short to have regrets.”
Before Hollinger decided to “get a real job” as a landscape contractor two decades ago while living on Kauai, putting his musical talents to the side, he was playing the guitar and bass as well as singing. He performed solo gigs and played with various groups, including a Kachi Kachi band. He even opened a Lihue recording studio in 1986 called Splash Recording Studio with his business partner Wes Pacanas.
The music bug had caught hold of him years ago, when he was only 13 years old. His friends formed a band and needed a singer, and Hollinger was happy to oblige. Three years later, he earned enough money to buy his own guitar and taught himself how to play.
What makes Hollinger’s music experience so unique is that he has played rock ‘n’ roll style music throughout his career, even though he grew up with a strong connection to Hawaiian melodies. He recalls listening to his uncles playing ukulele in his family’s backyard, yet he was still more interested in contemporary tunes.
“I like my rock ‘n’ roll,” says Hollinger, who was largely influenced by groups such as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
After graduating from Kalani High School in Honolulu, Hollinger worked in construction and continued to play music on the side. He played bass for various bands and focused on different styles, including Hawaiian and folk rock. He also performed solo for private parties and venues around Waikiki.
Hollinger moved to Kauai in 1984 because he wanted to get away from the “big city.”
“I knew I had to get off Oahu because it was getting too busy,” he says.
The options he had were Kauai or Hawaii Island
“I decided to move here,” he says, “and hallelujah!”
Right before he made the move, Hollinger was playing bass for a top 40 cover band called Cohesion. Not only did the band play at various venues around Oahu, it also was contracted to play music six nights a week at a former business on Kauai. Now, Hollinger is “semi-retired” and has spent the last several years working on his new album. His melodies are not traditional, and he describes his tunes as “world music.”
“It’s music by a Hawaiian guy but it’s not Hawaiian music,” he jokes.
Some of the songs were penned by Hollinger, others are covers. One of his favorite pieces on the album is called Home in Georgia, as it reminds him of a trip he took with his wife, author Mika Ashley, to visit her family in the Southern state.
“It was country to the max,” he says about Georgia. “I felt so at home.
“Southern hospitality is as close to aloha as you can get.”
Even though his music isn’t Hawaiian, he represents his native culture in other ways, such as his tattoos.
They are a symbol of his Polynesian heritage, and each one represents some aspect of his life. He proudly points to some of the intriguing artistry engraved on his body such as a pueo, one of his aumakua, and awa – a plant whose roots are used in a drink (kava) that traditionally helps settle disputes in Polynesia.
Hollinger’s body art tells as many stories as his music does.
“I love sharing the gift,” he says of his experience performing on stage. “People dig the music.”
He is still playing solo at venues around the island as well as with bands, including Kava. He also is working on another CD.
“Something a little more different, a little more funky,” he says.
He hopes more people also find a way to do what they truly love.
“Don’t give up your passion. It’s never too late.”
Visit stuarthollinger.com for more information.