Irie Love

Kalaheo High School - Class of 2000

Singer / Songwriter

Irie Love was terrified to sing in front of people as a kid, but based on the audience reaction, they rather liked it when she did. Irie grew up attending “Surf Church” (as she fondly calls the contemporary Christian surf crowd she was raised among), often singing solos at the encouragement of her mother. However, like most kids, young Irie thought: Mom, you think I’m good at everything.

It wasn’t until 1999, when Irie was a student at Kalaheo High School in Kailua, Oahu, that she witnessed her talent for singing take a turn toward potential acclaim. Irie was an avid athlete as a teenager. She spent her Windward days paddling, surfing, playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Her personal dreams of becoming a professional athlete were on the horizon, but then she suffered a broken leg during a game of basketball. At the urging of friends, Irie entered a local Honolulu singing competition called “Brown Bags to Stardom.” That little girl who was once scared to sing found herself in the finals at the Blaisdell Arena. It was there that she was scouted and signed by one of the competition’s judges, John Iervolino of Quiet Storm Records - the top independent Hawaiian label at the time.

At the young age of sixteen, Irie had all the elements in place to become the next Hawaiian Reggae superstar. Since then, she has navigated the ups and downs of the music business to achieve a successful career as a R&B Reggae singer and songwriter. Irie has worked, performed, and recorded her music from Hawaii to Los Angeles, Jamaica, London, and elsewhere. She has toured the world with such names as Morgan Heritage, Pink, Chaka Khan, Fiji, J Boog, Katchafire, and Tarrus Riley among others. Her debut album entitled THIS IS IRIE LOVE was released in 2012 and was nominated for a Na Hoku award along with it’s two #1 charted singles IT IS WUT IT IS and MY LOVE. Her most recent album entitled WE RISE, was released digitally on August 1st , 2016.

It may sound idyllic, but her singing talent turned passion has not been without its detours and alternate routes. She believes, above all things, that having faith in who you are is pivotal to dealing with setbacks, and that having a door slammed simply means that it is not the particular direction you were meant to be going.

What’s your definition of success?

I’ve gotten to a place now where I’m realizing a lot of what I wanted was what I thought I was supposed to do. People will see your talent and put labels on you. I remember my mom used to say, “You’re just like Whitney Houston!” For me, I’ve never really had a strong desire to be a pop star. I’m more of an artist, more indie. I like being really eclectic with my sound and having a message. After all the things I’ve done and after all that I’ve accomplished, it doesn’t matter to me how many numbers I sell or how many shows I do, it’s about the quality. 

How have you handled disappointments in your career?

I’ve tried out for every reality TV show for music that you can think of. I was on the X Factor UK and the X Factor USA. I was on The Voice and American Idol twice. I’ve been on a lot of things and I’ve gotten pretty close to being on the televised portion of the competition. Then it would always be a screeching halt; everything’s building up, I’m passing through the next level, I’m signing contracts and then I get an email saying, “Sorry, we didn’t pick you this year, thanks for coming out to all the preliminary auditions.”

I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face and it’s very frustrating, even for my family, they get devastated along with you. You all go on this journey together and it can be a lot heavier to handle as the person who is pushing this train that everyone is on. I think now, looking back, the biggest setback to me in life is our own disbelief. I think that your faith in who you are is the most important thing to focus on regardless of what happens. I think every door that was slammed was telling me that I was supposed to be doing something bigger than that. I just need to keep pushing to find that area or that specific part of music that was meant for me. 

It’s important what you said about looking at disappointments as being a different direction that you’re supposed to go rather than losing belief in yourself.

Yes. In those moments, it’s devastating, but I never gave up. I’m still here today doing it professionally. I’ve been all over the world now and toured with some of the bands I’ve looked up to. It’s really important to always look back and remember all the things you have accomplished when you’re feeling discouraged. 

Life can happen so fast that we forget that we’ve actually created and manifested the things we desire. We’re so busy looking to the next thing or focusing on the things that didn’t work out. When you get to that place where you’re just feeling dark and low, sit down and make a list of all the things in your life that have brought you joy. If you do that, it’s automatic that you’re going to be lifted up again, and get a new fire that will push you to the next step.

What do you enjoy most about performing live?

It’s an energy activation that I feel when connecting with someone through live performance. I’ve had someone say that a song of mine helped them get through a time when they were in the hospital after attempting suicide. She thought it was going to be over and she was revived. My song came on the radio and now it’s a reminder for her of a reason to live. I always make sure I sing that song if I see her at one of my shows. Those are the moments you really remember. You remember the one person who came up to you after the show and hugged you, shaking because you moved them with what you’re doing. That’s when you realize that you’re in the place that you’re supposed to be. The whole point of it all is for us all to be affecting each other in a way that we keep everybody moving.

What advice do you have for someone who has a passion for music and is wondering if they should make a go of it?

If I could go back in time and talk to sixteen year old Irie, I would definitely say it’s not about becoming somebody that you aren’t yet, it’s about remembering who you already are. Once you understand that concept and believe unapologetically that you are who you feel you want to be, then everything you need, you already have. Live your life every single day as if you believe that. It’s about your mentality. I watch a lot of documentaries on artists that I admire who have accomplished a lot in their passion. They have an unwavering belief that they were already a superstar before they had physically accomplished anything. Their attitude, the way they carried themselves, the way they talked about themselves and the conversations they had with other people - it’s as if they were already there. Those are the people who shot to the top. That belief in yourself is truly the way to get to where you want to be. It’s the fastest and the quickest way to manifest your dreams.