Charley's is my kind of place - Willie Nelson

 

Take a step back in time and find true Aloha.

Charley's Restaurant and Saloon, established in 1969, is an award-winning, Maui Landmark.

Charley’s is a reflection of the culture of Maui, the essence of its foods, and the warm spirit of entertainment and Aloha.

We welcome you to a favorite community gathering place and celebrated destination spot.

Charley’s is located in Paia, Maui, Hawaii; a former sugar-plantation town that serves as the crossroads to the North Shore of Maui.  Known for its large waves and ideal conditions for surfing, windsurfing and kite-boarding, the North Shore of Maui is a water playground. The North Shore is also known for its rainforests, waterfalls and hiking.

Paia maintains its small-town, old Hawaii charm, and is now a bustling destination with restaurants, bars, shopping, coffee and gelato.

At Charley’s you never know who might be sitting next to you. It’s long been a favorite hang-out for surfers, adventurers, writers, hippies, rock stars, artists, business leaders, celebrities, and all types, looking to get away and find the ultimate in Maui hospitality.

Willie Nelson’s Favorite Spot on Maui! See him at work at Charley’s here!

The Hangdog Hearts

The Hangdog Hearts 1 Photo

The best part of being a fan of the local music scene is the surprises. There are sentimental favorites of mine which I try to go see on a semi-regular basis. Because most venues book four to five bands a night; they are usually book ended by bands I have not heard of. There are times when an unknown sits me back in my seat and all I can say is “wow”! The Hangdog Hearts is the most recent band to steal my admiration.We were two bands into the night at “Locals Only” and I will admit I was routing for the band to be good when I saw them set up the stage with a banjo, trumpet and standup bass. What I couldn’t see or be prepared for was Austin Stirling’s passionate voice. I have tried to describe it to my friends as “The God Voice”, meaning he could narrate the omniscient. Confused? Think Morgan Freeman, now you get the reference point, right?

After the small dose of seeing them, we were very anxious to attend their CD release party, even though it was in Plainfield and outside on a chilly evening. I can tell you I was probably more nervous than the band. Were they as good as I originally thought? I had been listening to them beforehand on YouTube but local talent can be irregular. One night they are spot on and other nights you wonder if you were intoxicated when you thought they were awesome. I was rooting for this band to be what I remembered because I had really fallen for their music.

Early on in the show I leaned over to Roger, the only one else I know who will sit through shows and be open to the good, bad, or ugly without complaints, and said this is “Gospel” music. Not as in contemporary worship music – but a tent revival of the “Religion of Music”. The base is primitive, building with a fever, and every member of the band is not above testifying. Almost overloading the senses, you can feel the music vibrate through your body, Austin’s voice is sharp as his words, and Adam Reiss the trumpet and cello player can barely keep himself on stage. With the combination stellar abilities of the upright bass, trumpet, cello, mean tambourine, driving beat of drums, and the sometimes guttural sounds from Austin, I felt as if I were in an old time minstrel show and there would be commercial breaks complete with cure-all-elixir sales.

When I contacted Austin to set up an interview; I was greatly disappointed when he told me “The Hangdog Hearts” would be continuing on as a solo act. I wanted to protest and even was reconsidering the interview but I am always an optimist when it comes to music and the people who create. I am just a lowly fan; I wanted to hear the whys and hows of him continuing as a solo act and still be someone I wanted to stalk.

The band has had revolving members since its inception, which by the way has only been a year. The CD release party of the four consisted of Austin Stirling, vocals, banjo and guitar; Greg Manfredi on upright bass; Adam Reiss on trumpet, cello and tambourine; and Cristian Riquelme on drums.

The reason for Austin’s venture out as a soloist basically comes down to commitment. One of the first things I noticed about Austin is he doesn’t half ass anything; if he takes on a project he gives the proverbial one hundred and ten percent. His “band” consisted of serious artists who were already committed to their own projects. Greg Manfredi plays upright in Harley Poe and Cristian Riquelme plays drums in Harley Poe and is the lead singer in The Innocent Boys.

Austin is far from discouraged or even hesitant; he is embracing his upcoming solo act as “the natural next stage” in his pursuit of this musical journey. The word ‘natural’ is important to him. This is not a childhood dream he is following but more of a deep seated need, I personally do not think he could ever stop writing and playing at this point. Still at the experimental stage, he is testing his abilities and pushing this raw talent of his to see what the final product will be.

Austin didn’t grow up in a musical family or background. Athletics were the focus; he was a boxer and a kick boxer continuing to compete into college. Even though his dad bought him a guitar when he was thirteen, he didn’t pick it up until well into his college years. Music wasn’t even an influence in his childhood, just a background noise he really didn’t pay attention to.

It wasn’t until college, when Austin ended up calling upon a creative muse to feed a hunger inside of him. Not sure how to quell this unrelenting demand, he learned the guitar and started writing prolifically in journals. Experimenting with various friends, he didn’t consider himself a musician or couldn’t imagine where this would lead him.

Then the opportunity came to lead a worship band. For three years he was in the Christian heavy metal genre with revolving members and he honed his lead singer skills. This is the first time his family saw him perform and realized he had musical abilities. Once he thought he took it as far as it could go, he walked away. ”The Hangdog Hearts” was formed on the insistence of Stevie, his girlfriend, because she recognized he needed something to fill the void of not honoring or singing to God. Could he take this new found expression out of it’s regimented structure and still be true?

A year of performing with various members evolved into a CD release party at Three Pints Brewpub with around three hundred people in attendance. While there, I noticed the tight family unit he had around him. From his parents to his five year old son to many what seemed to me as longtime friends of his; I asked him how many people were like me and just fans he picked up on the way. He admitted he is fortunate in the fact he does have a great following that discover him and then are loyal listeners who eagerly show up to support him.

So the next inevitable question is ‘what’s next’? He calls his upcoming solo act as Plan C. He never intended to be doing this. He has a real job as a contracting supervisor, which is a high pressure job he enjoys and isn’t shy to acknowledge he is good at. Yet he is planning a four to five week tour in April where he will travel down south and then go up the east coast. He receives a number of emails requesting him to play and even an offer from Nashville to record. In his zealousness to protect his passion, he is very selective and not afraid to decline offers which might compromise his vision of what he is trying to do. It isn’t stardom he is searching for; the truth in musical form is what I think is his quest.

Austin is carefully planning his solo act around his banjo which is strung like a guitar, and percussion kit, his aggressive voice and those words which he hones to a razor’s edge at times. There is an almost careless nature in his ability to play with this abundance of talent he possesses. He isn’t scared of taking chances and doesn’t try to mimic anything else out there. Over the past year he has wrote over sixty songs and has only played about twenty with a band. As a solo act he will have the freedom to stretch into his own. He knows he plays a roots vein of music but tell him he sounds like Mumford and Sons and you can sense his irritation. There is no “just” in being himself; he has no intentions on joining the mainstream.

I had to question him about a particular song, so I asked him what was up with “Terra Haute”. Then I explained to him, I sensed a caustic judgment in this song which wasn’t a mainstay in his other songs. He explained he went to school in Indiana State University and has worked there on sites on a couple of occasions. It got to the point as the upcoming exit approached he would be filled with a soul-darkening dread. The song is not so much as a tongue lashing for the city but broad strokes of societal deficiencies. Unlike his other songs, it is unbridled anger and we touched on the fact what other people have to say about his music. He said his mother asks occasionally why his lyrics have to be so angry. He has had former church members accuse him of no longer honoring God with his talent.

This brought up the subject of his noticeable faith. On the night of the release party he had a pitcher of water brought out to him. I asked him if this was because he was performing. He doesn’t drink, never has. It’s a personal choice he made long ago as an admission to himself this could be a possible self-destructive device he would rather not partake in. Now don’t get the wrong impression here. Austin’s faith is important to him; but it is more focused on his personal journey to being the man he should be rather than the judging of others. He doesn’t buy into the organized religion and feels he is not turning his back on God with his interpretation of the world through his music.

In a blunt unpretentious statement, he told me he wasn’t entirely happy with the self-titled CD he just released. I can honestly say I was a bit taken back by the statement. He explained it was mixed too flawlessly; it wasn’t as “dirty” as he wanted it. After the interview I took the CD home and listened to it. From beginning to end, this is not-a-bad-song and addicting release. It’s only fault is as Austin indicated; it’s not as good as the live version. I wouldn’t default any of the people who helped make this gem, I would blame it on the human inability to bottle passion. For this is what makes “The Hangdog Hearts” a band you want to see again and again. Austin takes the concrete truth of his performance to sing songs of visionary quests. Every song with the exception of the above mentioned “Terre Haute” leaves an ache as you are pulled into the search with him. This being said, I always have a sense of hopefulness undercurrent in his songs. Purchasing the CD from CD Baby might be the smartest thing you have done with your money in a while. Then when you think you can’t love this sound anymore, hunt him down and see him live.

 

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