Building talent: Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge opens in Kainaliu

  • Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge is now open in Kainaliu. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Gary Hicks opened Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge in Kainaliu. (Gerald Besson/Special to west Hawaii Today)

  • Gary Hicks at the recording studio in Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge. (Gerald Besson/Special to west Hawaii Today)

There’s a new place for aspiring and seasoned musicians to hone their skills, record their music and practice their art in Old Town Kainaliu.

Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 1, and owner Gary Hicks is excited about the opportunity to groom and promote local musicians. The lounge features lesson and rehearsal space as well as a recording studio.

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“I have a 900-square-foot performance area that I want to use for recitals for students who are taking lessons there,” said Hicks.

In addition to the lounge, Hicks wants to promote local bands — both here on the island and in California.

“There’s some very talented artists here that need a little bit of development and exposure. I have the ability to get bands here on the radio in California,” said Hicks.

He has a relationship with a radio station in Southern California that broadcasts a two-hour “local music” show.

“They’ve already told me anything I bring in, they will play,” he said.

The first project he wants to tackle is creating a compilation album with five California bands and five Hawaii bands, all on the same album and do a “crossover.”

“I’ll promote them, they will promote Hawaii. Hopefully, we can get bands to go over and play on the mainland as well as bring bands over here,” he said.

Hicks grew up a drummer, but put the sticks away after he married and had children.

About seven years ago, he got into music promotion and developed a promotion company called B.D. McGee’s in California which, he said, led to everything.

“I ended up doing local radio and writing articles for the local press. I got into booking and studio management,” Hicks said. “Once I got that going, it became a cycle for every part of the music industry.”

He managed a recording studio in Laguna Beach, and worked with the No. 1 club in the seaside town, booking acts every day of the week.

He moved to the Big Island two years ago, maintaining his bookings in California and writing a bi-monthly music column for the local newspaper.

He was looking for studios to work with here and people to get involved with and couldn’t find anything that made business sense for him.

“So I thought, ‘well, I’m going to do it on my own,’” he recalled.

He was looking for a location in Kainaliu to build his music lounge when the space above Kiernan Music became available.

He said he took the space because it was attached to Kiernan’s.

“That was a big, big opportunity based on every guitar player and ukulele player on the island goes through that store at one point or another,” he said.

Kiernan Music owner Brian Kiernan used the area upstairs as his repair shop, with soundproof studios for music lessons, but decided to give up the space as rent continued to increase.

“Gary put a lot of work into it. You would never know it was a repair shop,” said Kiernan.

Kiernan said it is a natural fit having the lounge upstairs. He said that all of the bands rehearsing upstairs are already customers, so if they need anything they can come down to his store and get it.

“I’m excited,” he said. “When I first met Gary, I said, ‘this guy has done this before. He is a total pro. I see him being very successful.’”

Although Hicks prefers rock ‘n’ roll, he said he will work with any kind of music he can listen to.

“If I can’t be in the room with it, it doesn’t make sense,” he said adding he shies away from heavy punk and “screamo metal.”

But his favorite to work with are singer/songwriters.

He envisions having singer/songwriter nights at Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge where he can bring in people from the island as well as the mainland to perform, providing something unique to the island that people haven’t experienced.

“I have 150 bands I work with in Southern California and every one of them say they want to come play in Hawaii, but it’s risky. It’s a little bit of a challenge to incur the expense of bringing a five piece band that nobody here knows,” he said.

So he is looking at grooming local talent, noting that rock ‘n’ roll is making a comeback with the younger generation.

“I would love to find a young, just out of high school rock band that wants to grow and attach them with someone on the mainland and get them on a tour, get them some exposure because they are very limited here,” he said

That’s where lessons will fine tune the musicians’ skills.

“There’s a couple bands here that I’m looking at that I’d like to bring in, start working with them. Maybe, if their drummer needs a little work, put him with the drum teacher, lead singer might need help with vocals, let’s get it right, build some really cool bands and turn them loose,” he said.

Lessons currently offered include drums, guitar, ukulele, piano and vocal.

“I want to build that team so that whatever you need we can provide. If I don’t have it, I can find it. Another option is streaming in teachers I work with on the mainland, but I would rather give the work to the locals,” he added, putting a call out to any teachers who already have students, or are looking to build a student base.

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“We are also looking to build ukulele jam groups. Group lessons, individual lessons and slack key lessons for children to 100 years olds,” he said “I’m looking for students, I’m looking for bands who are looking for rehearsal space and people who are looking to record. There’s a limited amount of venues and a limited amount of bands. My goal is to build talent here that the locals are going to go out and see.”

For more information, call 215-0341 or visit the Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge Facebook page.