How Big Island Musicians Are Handling Isolation During The Pandemic – Part Three


In the third edition of this series, we’ll hear from Big Island musicians, like Trever Veilleux, Scott Reagan, and Uma Ojeda, and see how they’ve kept their creative energy flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.H. Hilo’s musical director Trever Veilleux’s annual Big Island Zappa Tribute concerts have received global recognition as well as accolades from Zappa family members. In a sense, these shows have put Hilo on the map of places that pay tribute to the avant-garde rock musician. Veilleux is also a talented guitarist who, before the pandemic, could often be seen playing at the Hilo Town Tavern with several local musicians.

Trever Veilleux (Photo: Steve Roby)

How are you spending your creative time during this pandemic?

I am happy to announce that I’ve just finished the final mixes on a new Professor T and the East Side Shredders E.P. titled Ratshit Weasels. It’s a power trio record with Zach Var on drums, Jesse Shaternick on bass, and myself on guitar and vocals. Gardner De Aguiar did the cover art, and we are currently working on a music video for the title track with director Derek Frey. 

In addition to that, I’ve been busy writing songs and recording demos for a new album. I’ve been having fun playing around with a vintage 4-track cassette recorder I picked up second hand at Roger’s Guitars. 

Do you have any plans to release new material, and will there be any COVID-related songs?

The Ratshit Weasels EP should be coming out sometime this summer. Those songs were mostly written before COVID-19, but they include some of my most political lyrics yet, and because of the way this pandemic has been politicized I feel that the songs are applicable.

Additionally, I recently released demo versions of a couple of new songs on my Facebook page.  One of the songs, called “That’s How We Win,” was inspired in part by the stable geniuses that say having to wear a mask in Costco is tyranny while 100,000 Americans have drowned in their own fluids. You can check out these new songs on our YouTube channel.

How are you connecting digitally with your audience?

I’m mainly using Facebook to stay connected. I’ve been uploading videos of live acoustic performances. I haven’t done a Facebook Live session yet, but I might. My main instrument is lead guitar and that requires a band, so social distancing makes things a little difficult. 

How has the pandemic affected your livelihood?

I’m fortunate because I still have my day job. I am worried for my friends who play music for a living.

What do you anticipate the future of performing might be like in the near and long term?

I think eventually things will go back to the way they were in the before time. Until then we can keep enjoying and supporting what musicians of all levels are putting out on the net. Thank you to Big Island Music Magazine for helping with that endeavor!

Scott Reagan is the lead singer for Bottle of Blue, Hawaii’s premier rock ‘n roll band. Pre-COVID-19, you could catch them most weekends and some Wednesdays at Kona Brew Pub, Laverne’s, and Huggo’s on the Rocks plus an occasional venue in Waikoloa, Hawi or Ocean View.

Scott Reagan (Photo: Steve Roby)

How are you spending your creative time during this pandemic?

Working on a lot of music! I’ve been writing and playing a lot. The band originally started by working to bolster our catalog of cover songs, thinking that we would be back to playing shows soon. Once we realized it would be a while, we quickly switched to creating new original music. And we’ve been quite productive. I’m also working on a side/solo project that I’ve had in mind for years. It’s a blend of more of my musical influences. This has been very exciting and I’m grateful, especially in light of what’s happening all around us these days.

Do you have any plans to release new material, and will there be any COVID-related songs?

Yes, we do! We are actually heading into the studio to record a new single that we hope to release as soon as possible. We also plan to continue recording on our way toward an EP or full album. The forthcoming single is a politically themed song that I wrote originally to vent. I’ve been really struggling with the state of the country for a while and with the COVID event happening, we are all more focused on the handling of the world around us. A lot of the time it’s hard to accept. But music is healing and can bring change. Some of the most significant and celebrated music of our culture has been fueled by tumultuous times.

How are you connecting digitally with your audience?

We are fortunate that we stay pretty closely connected with our audience and we have tried to correspond, on social media, with folks to check in and reminisce about when we were all together and when we may be again. A couple of us also had the opportunity recently to stream a performance in conjunction with Sage Sounds and we were stoked about the response. It was strange trying this new platform, but actually it allowed us to reach family and friends that normally wouldn’t be able to take part in a live manner, so that was a gift for sure!

Has the pandemic affected your livelihood?

For sure! We were a pretty busy band before all this started. It’s hard when that just comes to a screeching halt. So many musicians and people, in general, have been affected. Unemployment, as we all know, is rampant. And with the unemployment system overwhelmed, there hasn’t been any relief for most, me included. It’s not easy but I’m doing my best to stay hopeful that something will change. There’s been so much speculation as to what things will be like when we start getting back to “normal.” I’m hoping it will be better than most folks expect.

What’s the first thing you want to do when the live music returns to the venues?

First of all, I hope to see that everyone is safe and healthy! I just want to sing and perform with the band, and hopefully, bring smiles to all the folks that we miss so much. We’re so blessed to have a close community here and we know we are all an important part of each other’s lives!

Uma Ojeda is a multi-talented musician/singer from Kona and also writes the column “Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection” for Big Island Music Magazine. She’s also busy as a substitute teacher, Uber driver, tour guide, and self-published author. She’s working on #3 in a series of adventure love stories and self-help reads entitled Love is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating your Own Happy Ever After and Love is Crazy Satisfying.

Uma Ojeda (courtesy photo)

 Do you have any plans to release any new material, and will there be any COVID-related songs?

I am itching to get back into the studio. Whenever I possibly can, I plan to record a few songs or an entirely new CD, either in Nick Wong’s home studio or wait until our guitar player finishes up his home studio!! I have been singing “On the stage again” from Willy Nelson’s On the Road Again…which seems pretty fun, but no I don’t plan to record anything around the topic. It seems like after this passes, many may not want to be reminded about it, especially if they’ve lost a loved one, business, or drastic income. 

How or are you connecting digitally with your audience?

About six times a week I stream live on Facebook, YouTube, and Sessions Live Music Streaming app. It’s fun playing for 100-2000 people worldwide in 200 countries! I like chatting with people all over, which makes it so fun, especially taking requests for friends and family. I share my website which has a tab with over 200 songs for them to ask for; I’ve dubbed myself “The Request Queen,” and people seem to love it. Some generous friends follow through with tips which helped immensely.

How has the pandemic affected your livelihood?

OMG, my income has reduced down to 1/20th of what was flowing before, so it’s been harsh! Thankfully my spouse still works from home with a slight reduction in his days, so we’ve survived. I just submitted 10 weeks’ worth of Unemployment certification, as I was unable to get into the system despite dozens of phone calls and emails until May 25! It’s been slightly insane and uncomfortable, surviving on so little income, but on the positive side, I’ve never made money solely from music and creative endeavors before. I have been promoting my CDs and books more and singing six times a week livestreaming on three platforms. I also have a church gig, which I do with a skeleton crew of 4 to 5 church members in Kona. It was awfully fun and thrilling to have a tiny choir of 4 (socially distanced) perform an original church composition! That was an unexpected bonus.

What do you anticipate the future of performing might be like in the near and long term?

From what other musicians share with me, perhaps solo and duo gigs may return, but big band opportunities may not be a thing if dancing and gathering will be limited for who knows how long! I’m hoping that means more opportunities for solo artists, and with my husband for our duo. So, it’s a very good thing that I’m playing a ton right now, to prepare for that. I’ve gotten used to using a beatbox, which I never would have imagined myself doing EVER, as we used to be averse to the entire concept! Playing fast fun tunes really do lend themselves to a steady beat and Latin tunes are enhanced by it for sure. So, maybe this has been a good thing, I certainly have been allowed the time to play more than I ever had before. It seems like the livestream thing is super popular to share with friends and family who are far away, so hopefully, that aspect will remain. I certainly enjoy chatting with folks I’ve not had the chance to in forever. People seem to like it as well. Performing and making friends worldwide still stars on my vision board, so it’s extremely amazing that a piece of my life goals has come true.

Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and a Big Island filmmaker. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: