Amy Hānaiali‘i Gilliom and Willie K. Reunite With New Album, “Reunion”
Two legendary musical partners, together again.
Photo: courtesy amy hānaiali‘i gilliom and willie kahaiali‘i
Back in the 1990s, the duo of Amy Hānaiali‘i Gilliom and Willie Kahaiali‘i was one of Hawaiian music’s greatest collaborations, followed by one of its highest-profile breakups. After finding critical and commercial success with three collaborative albums in a row, they broke up, both professionally and personally, going on to pursue separate careers.
Now, more than a decade later, they’re making music together again, with a new album, Reunion, hitting the streets November 11.
Making up after a breakup, especially such a public one, can be tricky. What happened?
“We were at (Willie’s) daughter’s wedding, and my father had just passed, so it was an extremely emotional time,” Amy recalls. “We were talking, and there was a kind of, do you think we could ever record again, feel.”
And so they decided to give it a try, collaborating on a couple of tracks at Willie’s Maui recording studio. “At first, both of our camps were like, what the heck are you doing? Walking around the subject, feeling it out. But once we got into it, it really clicked,” Amy says. “We both have a lot of respect for each other, you know, we both have families and kids. It was actually refreshing to set everything on the side and just work.”
The old creative spark was still there: After almost a year of composing and recording, Willie says they’ve got 56 new songs on the computer—enough to release a triple album, if they wanted. (They’re saving the rest of the tracks for future albums.)
The songs on Reunion are a mix of Amy’s traditional falsetto vocals and Willie’s famously eclectic guitar work—benefiting from the years of experience and growth since their last collaboration. “Imagine Marshall Tucker Band meets Pearl Jam meets Willie K meets Gabby Pahinui. When you hear that, you’re gonna go, whoa!” Willie says. “It’s an upgrade to Hawaiian contemporary. It’s gonna be scary. It’s gonna come right at you like a freight train.”