Songs & Stories: S2, E4: Lopaka Rootz
Show Notes: Lopaka Rootz is a singer/songwriter from Kailua Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. He has appeared in the documentary film Livin’ on a Rock: A Big Island Music Story and at various Hawaii island music festivals. In this episode, you’ll hear Lopaka perform “Livin’ My Best Life,” and “The Three L’s,” two recent songs from his catalog. Listen to this week’s show below.
You can find Songs & Stories on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts. It also airs weekly on KONA 100.5 FM in Kailua, Kona. You can also read an excerpt from the podcast’s transcript below.
Steve Roby: Let’s start out with a brief overview of your music career so far. How did you get started?
Lopaka Rootz: Well, about three years ago, I decided to start taking music a little bit more seriously, and I’d been playing the open mic circuit for a while and going out and trying to perfect my craft and cover a lot of songs; a lot of bands like Soldiers of Army, Revolution, and Tribal Seeds, mainstream reggae music. I decided that I wanted to start writing my own music. So, I started delving into what it takes to write a good song and started writing. And of course, my songs were coming out really, really preachy. I wanted to have a message, but I didn’t want to come off as a preacher. I wanted to do more of something that people could relate to. So, I started doing the open mics and going out and writing some original songs and seeing that people weren’t vibing to my originals because the songs were being a little bit preachy. I wanted to play with a band, and it was this dream of like having a big band and playing originals and playing covers as other people do it. I wanted to be able to do that, but it was hard to find other musicians to back me up or to jam with me. And the reason that is, is because as a musician, as an artist, you have to kind of go out there and do the legwork yourself, even with promotions and things like that. So, I had to build my craft a little bit and get a little bit better. I put an ad out on Craigslist, and I had made a connection with a drummer from the Puna side, David Fulkerson, who was probably the first guy that I started with, a reggae drummer. And he’s actually the person that introduced me to you and to a lot of the musicians that I play with nowadays.
Roby: Here’s a little backstory for the listeners. I had recently moved to the islands and decided to start a documentary about the musicians here. David introduced me to you, and we went to Mana Studios in Hilo. It’s a long story, but you can see it in the film Livin’ on a Rock. I was really excited to sit in on a couple of your sessions, and it was really exciting. How would you say some of those musical influences that you just mentioned shaped your music?
Rootz: I originally wanted to emulate them and sound like them. A lot of my ideas came from those types of bands and that type of music. And of course, me being an individual and not having that voice or that sound or those ideas, it started becoming like my own interpretation. And I was kind of getting frustrated with myself like I should sound like this or I should say like that. And in time, it has slowly begun to progress. I realized that I’m kind of falling into my own sound. It may not be the sound that I thought it would be, but at the same time, it’s the sound that it is. And I’m starting to embrace that. And as an artist, a lot of times we hear so much music that we want to be like this person and that person that we strive for. And we forget that we’re unique in our own ways, that we have our own sound and our sound could be the sound of the future that people can relate to and they might start to enjoy.