Interview: Talking Story with Stef Mariani


Singer-songwriter Stef Mariani delivers sensitive melodies and driven lyrics that come together to form a passionate sound straight from the heart. Mariani finds her inspiration from classic rock artists like The Doobie Brothers, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. Her goal is to uplift the spirits of people, so they can feel hope in a tough world.

Mariani’s album Stay Gold (Klever Kitty Records) won the 2018 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Alternative Album of the Year. She’ll performing at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kona on July 22 along with showing her new documentary Stay Gold.

Let’s talk about your background, and how you became a musician.

Mariani: I’m from Santa Cruz, California and come from a family of musicians. My grandfather was a jazz pianist, and my mother was a singer-songwriter. Music is a part of life.

What got you interested in music? Was it a song or concert that inspired you?

Mariani: That’s a really interesting question because I grew up around live performances and my mother used to take my brother and I to her gigs. Because my mother was such an outgoing performer, I fell into her shadows, although it took me awhile to play in front of other people… I’m a little bit more of an introvert than my mom, but I finally got the courage to do it.

Were there any first gigs that inspired you to go professional?

Mariani: I started out playing open-mics, and private events. I perform because I need to get my message and music out there, but it wasn’t necessarily being a performer that was appealing to me.

Well, let’s talk about your message. I understand you’re debuting a documentary film on the Big Island soon.

Mariani: I’m really excited about this! My new album is titles Stay Gold, and I wrote it on my lanai on Maui while looking at the sunset. I was thinking about a friend of mine who I felt was in danger of losing her virtue in this severe trial that she’d been through, and there’s some reflection in there too. We had a filmmaker get involved about the making of the album. We then asked people what it meant to them to “stay gold.” The film will debut on the Big Island at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar on July 22.

So, what does “Stay Gold” mean to you?

Mariani: Remaining a good person with kindness and compassion in a hard world. The message has given people a sense of hope. For example, you’ll see people insulting each other on social media and TV. It’s becoming part of our culture. The alternative is exercising kindness and compassion, like a muscle.

You recently won a 2018 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for your album “Stay Gold.” What was that like?

Mariani: I didn’t expect to win that! Being nominated was such a huge honor for me. Winning the award helped me realize that not only are people listening to my music, but they really need the message in it. The coolest part was getting on stage in front of 1.2 million viewers and talk about what “Stay Gold” means. I also got to perform as well. (See video.)

You also are a three-time Big Island Hawaii Music Award Winning Recording Artist. Let’s talk about that.

Mariani: My two previous albums (Colour My Soul and This Wave) both won Big Island Music Awards. I feel a lot of love and support from the Big Island.

I understand you have a new album in the works.

Mariani: I do. I’m going to be co-writing with Lonnie Park who is a Grammy nominated artist and producer. We’ve completed our first song, which is really exciting, and we’re working on a couple more. Likely we’ll have a single out this year.

Let’s talk about your upcoming show at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kona on July 22.

Mariani: I got the idea from someone who runs a film festival who said I should perform as well as show my film. So, it’s not just music, there’s a message and stories behind the songs. We’re going to start with a 45-minute set and storytelling time, show the film, and do an audience participation and let everyone say what “Stay Gold” means to them. We’re pre-selling tickets. They’re $15 in advance, and the week of the show they’ll be $20.

If You Go

Stef Mariani will be performing and screening “Stay Gold” at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar on July 22, 2018 from 6-8 PM.

Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is located at 75-5699 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona. Call 808-327-JAZZ for ticket info.
Tickets online:

Stef Mariani online

Photos: Kevin Rogers


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