Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection is a weekly column covering the music scene of Kailua Kona. This week she spotlights musicians Serena and Kurt Jarvis of Sweet Misery, whose old and new classic Country sounds can be heard June 15 at 7 pm at Korner Pocket in Kealakekua and July 7 at Kona Brewing Company. at 5 pm.
This week I interviewed two Kona musicians who make up the married duo Sweet Misery. Their name comes from what is more commonly called ‘marriage’! This combo has lasted 28 years. As Tammy Wynette and George Jones (who fought like cats) said: some days are loving and sweet and others, not so much. Kurt has played music since he was a teenager and Serena began seriously studying five years ago. She credits him with teaching her guitar and harmonies and online voice lessons for the rest. They began playing in Kona three years ago and have lived here for 14 years.
When you catch them playing out, you may hear songs made famous by Chris Stapleton, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Charley Daniels and George Straight. They sound like Little Big Town and the Marshall Tucker Band. Their genres include classic country and southern rock; both play guitar and sing, Serena also plays mandolin and Kurt enjoys adding banjo and fiddle to the mix. The duo uses a drum machine to add a danceable beat, which makes it a bit livelier! Kurt likes to utilize his wireless instruments to surprise people all over venues, like standing on picnic tables to play the fiddle and surprising teenagers – who may be on their phones – with a little up close and personal serenade. They also play in the Celtic band Craiceailte (pronounced crack-kay-all-cha) meaning ‘crazy’ in Gaelic, a seasonal group which occasionally plays for Irish dance parties. That 5-piece group started in 2015, with each member having either distant or immediate roots in Ireland &/or Scotland. Craiceailte performs traditional pub songs plus covers of songs by the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and some originals.
Kurt went to junior high and high school in Hilo then moved to Oregon for 30 years, only to return to the Big Island with a family in tow. Serena is from Oregon as well. They enjoy returning there annually to play music. Both are retired now; Kurt played music full-time for 20 years before getting a real job to support his young family.
Serena shared that some of the joys of playing music here are meeting fantastic people, both locals and tourists, and the connection the couple shares on stage, which is so fun. Sharing their special gifts brings a lot of smiles all around, like when Kurt holds the chords on the fret of his guitar and instructs a youngster to strum and make music for the crowd. He is more of the stage ham, while Serena is only half a ham!
One of the challenges they’ve encountered here is that there aren’t enough music venues. As compared to larger cities, the pickings are slim. When they first attempted to play music in Kona, they noticed most spots featured rock’n roll or reggae; Sweet Misery stuck it out with getting country music out there! Kurt says they won’t turn a profit til 2026. His other love is buying instruments, as their home looks like a small music store, thanks to Amazon.com! Another slight challenge is staying up late, plus all the work that goes into running a business, even if it is a labor of love.
Both Kurt and Serena would like to say thanks to the Big Island Music Magazine for getting the word out, and Serena shared she felt happy to meet another musician who’s out there making it happen, in the Kona music biz.
If you want to see them live, visit Korner Pocket on June 15 at 7pm. Korner Pocket is located at 81-970 Halekii Street, in Kealakekua, HI. Call (808) 322-2994 for more info. You can expect to find a relaxed atmosphere, with pool tables, great food and drinks and a small dance floor right in front of the duo.
Love Guru Uma sings in the Uma Zuma Band, duo and plays solo ukulele, is a substitute teacher, Uber driver, tour guide and she writes books. She just completed Book 2 in a series of adventure love story and self-help reads entitled Love is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating your own Happy Ever After and Love is Crazy Satisfying. More at umaojeda.weebly.com