Coming Full Circle

High school friends Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho have reunited to release an album, realizing a longtime dream to collaborate musically again in their island home

Melissa Moniz
Friday - June 29, 2007
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Daniel Ho says Tia Carrere ‘has an amazing vocal talent’
Daniel Ho says Tia Carrere ‘has an amazing vocal talent’

Before Tia Carrere’s big movie roles, Daniel Ho’s music label and their fast-paced L.A. lifestyle, was an innocent teenage friendship that began in Mr. Ray Wessinger’s jazz band, the Lancers.

“Tia and I met in high school,” says Ho, a Grammy-award winner. “My music teacher, Ray Wessinger, was the band director at Saint Louis High School and he formed a big band jazz band. I had been studying arranging with him and he wanted to feature a vocalist. I heard that there was this girl from Sacred Hearts and she’s an amazing singer, who was Tia, and she was the one who ended up singing with the band.”

Just as their musical talents brought them together 20 years ago, Carrere and Ho crossed paths again recently to make good on an endeavor that they have been talking about doing for years. They hit the recording studio and produced the recently released album, Hawaiiana.

“Daniel and I have kept in touch and remained friends over the years,“says Carrere.“He was doing his thing and I was doing my thing. We talked forever about doing a record and it was like you know what? Let’s just do a record of all the songs that we love. “

The album, which hit shelves June 19, is a compilation of all the music that Carrere remembers as a child, as well as her favorites today.

“I’ve figuratively and literally traveled very far from home and I feel that I’m just now coming back to who I am and what makes me happiest,” says the mommy of 1 1/2-year-old Bianca. “All these songs take me back to home.”

Tia and Daniel in Mr. Ray Wessinger’s jazz band
Tia and Daniel in Mr. Ray Wessinger’s jazz band

The album jacket is an intimate expression of Carrere’s love for Hawaii and the music that has touched her life. It’s scattered with fond memories, childhood pictures and sentimental descriptions of what each song means to her.

“The concept of this record was simplicity,“says Ho.“We kept it pristine, just one instrument and her voice. Our goal was really to leave a lot of space for people to hear every breath and every note. She also knows how to tell a story, and that’s what is really amazing about what she does. She’s not singing high notes just to sing high notes that take away from the meaning of a composition. It’s not a lot of movement and not a lot of notes, but carefully chosen to orchestrate and compose lines that support.”

Aside from handling the production, mixing and mastering of the album, Ho also is responsible for the instruments featured, which include the ukulele and slack key guitar. He worked closely with Tia to create the perfect balance of instruments that would allow her voice to shine through.

“Tia is amazingly easy to work with,” says Ho. “I’ve known since we were kids that she has this amazing voice and tone. And while she can totally get by on looks alone, she doesn’t even need to. She has an amazing vocal talent.”

Carrere was discovered in a local grocery store in Waikiki when she was just 17 years old, and was immediately cast in the movie Aloha Summer. From there her acting career catapulted her from the valleys of Kalihi to the hills of Hollywood.

Since then, she has appeared in General Hospital, MacGyver, Wayne’s World, True Lies, Rising Sun, Relic Hunter, Lilo and Stitch, Dancing with the Stars and most recently Nip/Tuck.

Although acting has been Carrere’s claim to fame and the primary source of the spotlight that has beamed down on the starlet for the past 20 years, music is actually her first love.

“I always sang and always loved music,“says Carrere.“I would sing in the car. Stick me in the corner and I’d be singing to myself. My grandmother took me to my first singing lesson when I was 11, then I started entering talent contests.”

Professionally she has been featured on two tracks of the Wayne’s World soundtrack,which went double platinum, and also released a solo CD, Dream, in 1993. But she holds Hawaiiana most dear to her heart, as it brings her closer to home.

“I so can’t wait for the day when I can live back in Hawaii,” says Carrere.“It’s hard to do what I do and to live anywhere else but L.A. So I’m playing this out, but I’m trying to figure out a way to get back home.”

The album features a list of familiar favorites, such as Aloha ‘Oe, He Aloha Mele, Pupu Hinuhinu, ‘Ulili E, Ku’uipo Ipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One, Hi’ilawe, Pua ‘Olena, Po La’i E (Silent Night), Sing and I’ll Remember You.

“I love the old standards and that’s why I love these Hawaiian songs that I’ve chosen,” says

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