Waking Up with Maryanne Ito & The Astatine Collective
Honolulu band Maryanne Ito & The Astatine Collective lives up to its name as a rare collection... of talent. On the elements chart, astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element, and band member/producer Subzero felt that the moniker fit a group of people whose collective skills produce a rare and unique sound.
I had a chance to meet the musicians recently, and was captivated by 31-year-old Ito's soulful voice and sweet demeanor. Surprisingly, she has no musical training, though she adds, "I come from a family of musical talent. My mom is a pianist, my dad is a guitarist. I grew up singing around the house. Al my training is by ear!"
Ito and her band produce soulful music with hip hop, reggae and R&B touches. Her vocals show the influence of neosoul stars like Erykah Badu and Alicia Keyes. The group released its first album, Waking Up, earlier this year. Without any advertisement, it peaked at number four on the UK Pop Chart. "I rely on the DJs to play my music," she explains.
Waking Up is an album about love, and it was inspired by "life, different experiences, and a little bit of imagination," says Ito. "I am very pleased with it. I'm happy with the hard work we put in on it, and how people received the album."
She is currently writing more material for an album to be released possibly at the end of 2015, "but I also don't want to be rushed." Ito and her band are also rehearsing because they hope to go on tour soon - probably the West Coast, and ideally, New York City.
As she sits on the cusp of major stardom, she reflects on how it's been a long road here. In the early 2000's, her older brother, who goes by stage name Blessed Child, needed a singer for something he was recording. "It was convenient I could do this for him, and then I realized I wanted to keep doing this."
Ito, who is seven-eighths Samoan and one-eight Japanese, is a former "Army brat" who was born in Kansas and spent the first part of her life in California, before her father's tour of duty took them to Honolulu in 1992. "My mom fell in love with the islands and told my dad she wanted to stay. Poor Dad - he did a few tours of duty alone!"
She attended Aliamanu Intermediate, was graduated from Moanalua High School, and is currently working towards a degree in business marketing from University of Phoenix. "It's just hard to find time with my day job and my singing career." Additionally, she is the mother of two youngsters.
"My oldest is eight-year-old Quincy, which is his father's name too. My daughter, five year old Naima, is named after a John Coltrane song that I listened to constantly when I was pregnant!" she reveals.
Interestingly, Ito's career aspirations are not just aimed at music. "I am a licensed insurance agent now, and would like to be an independent agent in the future. That would give me time to make my own schedule around music gigs." She works at IC International as a broker, and says she likes helping people and the challenge of problem-solving.
What dose she love about music? "I love how it makes me feel. Music says a lot of what I want to convey. I'm a horrible speaker, but I can relay my emotions in song. It's a great way to express myself and a great release. I'm also touched when I listen to great music," says Ito, "and love if I'm able to touch people with my music."