Cruising with Cruz

John Cruz plays at Paddlers.

Sitting with a glass of red wine or perhaps a beer, audience members took in the John Cruz concert last Friday night with a mellow attitude. While there was plenty of applause at the end of each song, listeners kept conversations to a minimum, hanging on to each of Cruz’s soulful melodies.

John Cruz has pockets of fans throughout the country, and has played at some big venues, like the famous South by Southwest music festival in Texas. But in the past few years, the popular Hawaiian musician and Grammy Award-winner has been touring the mainland a lot – and some of his loyal home-based fans began asking him: when was he going to return and play in Hawaii?

John Cruz returned to his roots this month, when he started a state-wide tour, including one show on Molokai. Cruz played at Paddlers Inn last Friday night, in a freelanced acoustical solo performance. His manager, Leslie Truglio, said Cruz never plans his solo shows, and just plays whatever comes to him.

“When playing real small intimate places [like Paddlers], you can get really introspective,” Cruz said. “When playing for little bit bigger crowd, need to be really inclusive. Invite people in with open arms rather than close up and talk about how alone you are.”

Earlier this year, he played at the Sust-`AINA-bility conference on Molokai with his cousin and fellow Grammy-winning musician, Amy Hanaiali`i.

“It reminded me how rare it is for me to come to Molokai,” Cruz said, adding this is where he is able to go fly-fishing and enjoy some rare solitude.

Cruz said he likes to bring his Hawaiian vibe to his mainland audiences, many of whom have not had much exposure to Hawaiian music. But when he returns home, he likes to bring different influences from the mainland – Irish music, African music –  more than just acoustic soul.

He is currently working on his third album, due out sometime next summer. He said producing a recorded album depends on how much inspiration comes to him.

“As time goes on, more things happen in your life, you have more and more things to deal with in your head,” he said. “So it’s hard to have that time free where your heads open, your hearts open and things can come through.”

Cruz is headed to play concerts next on Oahu and Maui.

“When playing live, it’s all about the energy and connecting, and communicating with people live,” Cruz said.

For more information, check out Cruz’s official webpage,


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