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Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos




I caught up with local musician Sabrina before her Kaleidoscope show at Thirtynine Hotel in Chinatown. Joining her in performance that evening was her sister doing backup vocals for a few songs, as well as Mike Pooley, the guitar player/vocalist from Pink Mist and Painted Highways.

So as the daughter of a mariachi and a hula dancer, who is Sabrina and what is her music all about?

My music is very personal. A lot of it is about desire. Wanting to be someone else, wanting to change something or wanting to get rid of somebody. I just notice that the common theme of what I write about is the desire to be something different or something more. And I guess that my music is me – pretty quiet and pretty personal.

I read on your website that you were tinkering with you’re dads music gear since you were 5 years old. What compelled you to do this at such a young age?

I started playing piano when I was five, just because I come from such a musical family. I went to Ellen Masaki School of Music. And then when I was seven, I started playing the violin. It just a part of my life, I didn’t have a normal childhood. We didn’t even have a kitchen! Our whole kitchen table was a mixing board. It was just music everywhere. We had mic stands set up, and it was my dad always playing or recording. That or my parents recording my sister and I singing. So yeah, that’s how I started. I actually started playing the guitar (at the age of 19) because I had a boyfriend in college who also played the guitar and skateboarded. And I wanted to know what was the big deal, so I got a skateboard. I totally sucked, no sense of balance [laughter]. But I stuck with the guitar. I’m not that good at it but I use it to support my song writing. There’s shredders (on guitar) and then there are songwriters like me who use the guitar to support their lyrics and melodies.

On the subject of going to music school, I read on your Myspace page that you passed up the chance to go to Berkelee School of Music in Massachusetts. How come?

I already had a degree, so financially it was really expensive. And another thing is when I visited the school and talked to a counselor there, he told me that I should stick with the violin, that I shouldn’t study guitar. But I wanted to play guitar! And he told me, “Throw a rock and you’ll hit 500 girls that play guitar and want to sing. But there’s not a lot of people who play the violin. You should stick with it, you’ve been playing it for 13 years. You should do that”. So I felt that I should go to a place that believed that every person had a chance.

I see that you have music roots in Portland. Did you go to college there?

No. I actually went to Portland just to write songs. Since I was 19, I studied guitar and songwriting at different places and different times. But in Portland I went just to be uncomfortable, cause I really didn’t know anyone and so I felt like it would bring out a different songwriter in me. So that’s what I did. I recorded The Anomaly EP there in 2007 with a producer named Rob Stroup and did a couple shows.

I read on your web page that you met Rob Stroup through a friend because he had a studio and also a similar interest in music genre. Did you feel this producer would help bring out the best of Sabrina, than producers here in Honolulu?

I liked working with Rob because I wanted to find someone who was really organic in the way they recorded. I didn’t have a big budget and wasn't sure about my songs and how to record. We built everything from scratch. All my percussion was built from scratch, whether it was pounding on cardboard, as I referred to as “the ghetto tamborine”. That and I also didn’t know anyone in Hawaii to work with because I didn’t have any roots set here with my music. In Portland, I just took a chance with recording with Rob because at the time he was my only contact there.

Tell us about your Anomaly EP and what was your drive at the time in Portland when you produced it.

Really, it was a songwriter’s album more than a singer/songwriter’s album. It wasn't about a genre or style. All the songs are kind of different because it was the first thing I released. So I wasn’t sure how it was going to sound. It was more of a personal challenge about whether I could even sound good recorded. That’s really why I did it. It took me six days to do everything, to mix and record. I wasn’t even going to release it but I figured, “what the heck?” Let’s just see what happens.

What genre of music do you consider yourself? How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard The Anomaly or seen you perform?

I always say that I have two roads that I go down. Either really folksy, cause I love artists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. But I also love the bluesy-country thing like Neko Case and I love Cat Power. I haven’t really picked one yet but a lot of people say I sound alt-country, that I have kind of a “twang” with my music. I don’t know how to classify it. It’s just the Sabrina sound.

So you have a new album coming up? Are you going back to Portland to work with Rob again for this?

I went back to Portland to record a full length album with a different producer named John Askew. I recorded it during April and May of this year and it's being mixed right now.

How many songs should we expecting on the new recording?

I recorded 13 songs at three different studios in Portland (Scenic Burrows, The Secret Society and Type Foundry). 13 tracks full band and 7 live acoustic. I’m waiting for the album to finishing mixing because I’m not sure yet which ones are going to go on the final album. I’m trying to release it in October of this year.

I see that you’ve been successful networking your music on the internet. Which is your favorite website to use? Which site do you recommend for aspiring local artists?

I like Twitter.

Wait, can you put music files on Twitter?

No, but because it’s instant, I feel more of a personal connection to it. It drives people to listen to the music on my website and to know me more as a person. I’ve sold albums just by putting up a tweet. It’s just weird to me because I didn’t publicize The Anomaly at all. I just put up a tweet saying, “I just put an album up on iTunes.”

Doesn’t you’re picture have something to do with it? I would assume it does, don’t you think?

Really?! But I’m such a nerd! My pictures are of me looking at the camera, and my sister who is a photographer telling me, “Don’t look stupid, just look at me!” and me going, “errrr….alright”.

You’re Myspace page says that you work best during the hours of 11pm-3am. Just wondering if your rockin’ the rock pipe round then, cause where I live, that’s when the ice heads come out to rip sh*t off [laughter]. Can you tell us why that’s your magic time and how this time helps you focus creatively?

I work two jobs to support my music habit because I’m addicted to music [laughter]. And I also live in an area that’s very quiet. I’m constantly writing-whenever I hear words and melodies, I record them on a tape recorder, on my phone or on a digital recorder. I’ll see something or hear a melody in my head and write it down or record it. I am sure it always looks like I’m talking to myself. I write everything in a notebook that I carry around. So when it gets to that time of night (11pm-3am), it’s getting a feeling for everything that I've been working on throughout the day. It’s like putting together the puzzle and this point, its (the melodies, etc.) been going through my head the whole day.

Unlike what the counselor told you at Berkelee, what words of advice would you give other local musicians starting out? How did you get you foot into performing shows in Honolulu?

I would say to take every opportunity. I say this because I started out by playing at a friend’s birthday party at 39 Hotel back in 2006. I was writing songs but just for the hell of it. My friend heard me as she was walking to my front door to visit me one day and asked me to play at her party. On the night of her birthday, one of her friends saw me (who had also had set there) and invited me to perform with him at 39 Hotel every other Wednesday. I was so deathly shy of playing, I would get drunk when I played just to make it through without nerves. And since then, every time someone has asked me to play somewhere or do something, I’ve just taken the opportunity. As long as it’s legal! You just never know who’s hearing or watching you.

For more information on Sabrina or to listen to tracks off “The Anomaly”: - The 808 Scene Zine

"Velazquez's new album celebrates the ragged edges"

Local singer-songwriter Sabrina has been working behind the scenes for just about a year to record her music and prepare it for a wider audience. Her concert this week will mark the beginning of a new stage.

Sabrina (last name Velazquez) performs Wednesday at TheVenue with some friends from the Honolulu indie music scene, in celebration of her new album, “The Hawk & the Hunter” (now available at and on iTunes).

After going to this year’s South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, in March with a contingent of fellow Hawaii musicians, Velazquez moved to Portland to record her album with the assistance of producer John Askew and drummer Brian Wright. Last year at about this time, she used funding website Kickstarter to raise money for the studio production

Supporters who contributed to her project will soon be receiving CDs, and additional copies of it will be available at the show.

Now, with album calling card in hand, the 31-year-old will weigh her career options, which will probably keep her on the mainland, although the concert is one she wants to share with her local fans and friends.

Velazquez said that even if she fell short of the Kickstarter funding goal of $5,000, she would have borrowed the money to make the album that she had been mulling for many months.

“There are so many songs in my head, I wanted to make a new record every time,” she said.

TGIF sat in on a September meeting between Sabrina and Askew in a studio in the industrial part of the city, on a gray, rainy Portland day. There was an easy give-and-take between the two as they talked about making “The Hawk & the Hunted.”

“When I brought my songs to John, he asked his friend Brian (the drummer) in our pre-production meeting what he thought and I didn’t know what to expect from him. I was surprised when he said, ‘God, these are so good’ — so me, John and Brian basically became a band.”

Askew — who Velazquez chose to be her album producer because of his work — said, “As we were listening to the master, Sabrina and I wanted to make a specific kind of a record. We only had a few big goals in mind to accomplish: keep it organic, warm-sounding, without tons of embellishment. What made it easier for me is that here’s someone who can sing and play guitar well, so I wanted to see how little we could get away with. For instance, if any one guitar or vocal take was done early on in recording a song, it would usually survive on the final mix.”

“I would give John ideas on how I wanted certain songs to sound by giving out genre ideas,” Velazquez said. “Like with ‘Drakes,’ I wanted something that would sound like the time period Nick Drake was in (influential British folk-rock singer-songwriter of the late 1960-early ’70s). Or with other musicians I admire, like Cat Power, who I feel is honest to her songs and albums.”

“The key was to come into the studio with a couple of little ideas,” responded Askew. “The goal was not to make music that sounded false. We didn’t mind that it has some rough edges, like buzzing from amplifiers, or outside sounds leaking into a given recording.

“It’s actually a very simple record, but realistic and idiosyncratic sounding.”

Looking at Velazquez, Askew said, “It’s totally about the song and your voice, which I think is great.”

“THE HAWK & the Hunter” is basically a spare-sounding album with experimental touches here and there.

Velazquez sings with conviction, especially on the songs “Hollow,” the dreamy “Places,” and with naked emotion on the aforementioned “Drakes” and “Dark Rider,” the latter a much better retake of the original from her early EP “The Anomaly.”

You might think that at Wednesday’s concert, Velazquez would want her musical guests to mimic the sound of her recorded songs, but that won’t be the case.

“I want everyone to bring their own sound to the show,” she said at a rehearsal in Honolulu a couple of weeks ago, at the Blaisdell Hotel space downtown.

She’s invited the Shopping List trio to join her, as well as Mike Pooley of solo project Pink Mist and band Painted Highways, his fellow bandmate Kai Salus, and her fellow singer-songwriter Kelli Heath. “Playing as a collective, it doesn’t have to be perfect. … I want different interpretations of my songs.

“Coming together spawns good ideas. Both bands rock really hard, so this will definitely up my rock status, and it’ll help me reach a different audience. We’ll also do one Shopping List and Pink Mist song each, plus I want to do a cover song from Beach House, who’s my favorite band.”

After the rehearsal, Pooley said, “Sabrina’s songs, since she usually does them as a solo, have a lot of room in them that the rest of us can fill in. Since I’ve played with her in the past, I trust her talent and skill. There’s a cohesive trust between us, so I’m not stressing over our playing together.”

Velazquez will return to Portland to continue her music work after the show. “I want to record again,” she said. “I have all these ideas for EPs and albums that I want to do in different styles, since I like so many different kinds of music. I also want to start licensing my songs for commercial use. It’s going to be a challenge to see how far I can go on my own, but I welcome it.” - Honolulu Star-Advertiser

"2011: Year of the indie band"

Freely adapting various genres and artistic attitudes to their liking, the musicians who hang out and support each other throughout the island are starting to develop their own interesting sound. With most of them in their 30s, their collective efforts will probably not hit the audience numbers other homegrown artists like Jake Shimabukuro or Bruno Mars have achieved thus far, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

One factor that has and will help the Hawaii musicians’ outreach is through the art project funding site Kickstarter. Sabrina Velazquez and Clones of the Queen have had their recordings (“The Hawk & the Hunter” and “Gate,” respectively) funded through large numbers of individual donors via the site, and Alex Kaiser and his 2.0 version of GRLFRNDS is in the midst of laying down tracks in Los Angeles.

Along the lines of promising singer-songwriter types like the aforementioned Sabrina, there’s Kamuela Kahoano, Kelli Heath, Candy Diaz and former Our Distance frontman Stephen Agustin.

- The Honolulu Pulse

"Sabrina Sings"

Sabrina Velazquez, The Hawk and the Hunter / Singer-songwriter Sabrina Velazquez enjoyed a well-attended album release party recently for her first LP, The Hawk and the Hunter. But the scratchy- and sultry-voiced guitar strummer isn’t all that new to the music biz game. She was selected to play in 2010’s music industry expo South by Southwest and has been playing shows for years before that. So it’s about time fans have something tangible by which to remember her while she’s taking up residency in Portland, Ore. At the album release party, Velazquez made sure everyone received a copy of the album, regardless of whether they could pay for it or not. That’s how nice she is and that’s often the first thing that people will say about her–only after, of course, noting how talented she is.

The 11-track album has tracks that fans of Velazquez’ live shows can sing along to instantly. “Drum Machine” has her signature dark, minimalist sound, yet has catchy sing-along parts that keep listeners energized. Velazquez’ finger-picking on songs such as “Repeat Offender” get the attention they deserve on the recording. Her favorite hana hou song about soap on a rope (it’s a sweet song, really) isn’t on the album, but that just gives listeners more of an incentive to catch Velazquez live.

Lucky for us in Honolulu, Velazquez thus far has made it a point to come home every few months to see friends, family and perform. She just played a string of shows earlier this week and last week, but you might still have a chance to catch her at an invite-only showcase/live audio stream at Soul Sound studio. - The Honolulu Weekly

"Pulse picks: Sabrina’s back in town"

Honolulu Pulse blogger and indie singer-songwriter Sabrina Velazquez will once again leave her adopted base, Portland, to return to Oahu for two showcase gigs next week.

With the help of her good friend, musician-promoter Brandon Apeles, she’ll appear as part of the weekly Kaleidoscope show at thirtyninehotel on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and the following evening as part of “Screwed-Up Wednesdays” at Jazz Minds Art & Cafe.

The appearances promise to be two of the more attractive options for music lovers over the next seven days — Sabrina is a polished, charismatic performer who’s taken her intimate alt-folk to the next level, as many new fans saw when she opened for Cat Power in February.

Also on the bill both nights will be fellow singer-songwriter Johnny Helm, solo Tuesday and with his band on Wednesday.

Another familiar performer, Kevin Jones — whose day job is as special events producer for Clear Channel Radio of Hawaii — will be on the Jazz Minds bill.

Three brand new bands will make their debut — Naked Babies both nights, The Intire Project at thirtyninehotel, and Drowning Dreamers at Jazz Minds.

Velazquez continues to write new songs to follow-up her Hoku-nominated album “The Hawk &?the Hunter,” and she’s sure to do fan favorites from the album, such as “Drum Machine,” “Repeat Offender,” “Dark Rider” and “Places.” Listen to a playlist of her latest recorded music at, and listen to tracks and buy her music at

Kaleidoscope starts at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at thirtyninehotel, 39 Hotel St., 599-2552. “Screwed Up Wednesdays” takes off at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Jazz Minds, at 1661 Kapiolani Blvd., 945-0800. Cover charge on both nights is $5.
— G.C. - The Honolulu Pulse

"Morning Crush: The Hawk & The Hunter"

just because i am holding out for the cd (the downside of loving a hifi geek), doesn't mean you should miss out on a listen of the hawk and the hunter, the new-ish release by honolulu singer/songwriter sabrina who funded her second offering via kickstarter.

the gorgeous vocals and lovely indie spirit will make your ipod swoon with happiness.

download on amazon ($8.99) or itunes ($9.99). -

"Brighten up your day with Sabrina"

The northwest may not be known for it’s sunny weather, but with Portland’s Sabrina, we’re treated to a heavy dose of delightful sunshine in the form of melodic indie pop. Sabrina Velazquez was born and raised in Honolulu, which has had a huge impact on the music she’s currently creating.

After releasing her debut EP, The Anomaly, in 2009, Velazquez found herself at home in the studio and instantly went to recording her first full length. Using the experience of recording The Anomaly and some funds raised using Kickstarter, she teamed up with producer John Askew (The Dodos, Peggy Sue) and created The Hawk & The Hunter. “I liked what he had done with The Dodos albums and he was also a musician himself which is what I needed in a producer. You know when you listen to B-sides and you can hear a door creek or a bird singing in the background? I wanted elements of that in my album. In a song like “Dark Rider,” it was cold and pouring rain the day we recorded it and you can hear the rain in the background.”

The Hawk & The Hunter is a bipolar journey though Velazquez’s emotions. “The idea for the album was to make it sound as raw and personal as possible. I love so many types of music and wanted to make it like a mixtape. Thus, a rock song (“Drum Machine”), a pop song (“Right Time”), a folk song (“Hollow”) and even a dream pop song (“Places”). Somehow they all make sense together. The name, The Hawk & The Hunter came from what the core of the songs are about, desire. I am the hunter and everything I want is the hawk. That constant need. That is what the album is about for me.”

Sabrina recently toured with Cat Power, an experience that she called, “a dream come true.” Velazquez has also spent time performing with Sing the Body, Painted Highways, and House of Wolves. She’ll be hitting the studio this March, and doing some gigs on the West coast. Enjoy the free download above! - The Wild Honey Pie

"CD Reviews: Sabrina, and Hula Honeys"

It’s just a six-song EP, but this new collection of originals by Hawai‘i-born Sabrina Velazquez is ridiculously full of promise. With the songwriting chops to craft both hooky, pop-rock gems such as “Right Way” and moody torch songs like “Fast As I Can,” and a voice that makes them come alive, Velazquez sounds ready for the big time. Until we see a full-length release, The Anomaly is on repeat. - Honolulu Magazine

"Can-do indie rock: Sabrina Velazquez will bring"

"I can do this" should be the working mantra for Hawaii-born singer-songwriter Sabrina Velazquez.

Thanks to the inspiration of a former guitar-playing skater boyfriend from her college days, Velazquez has blossomed into an emerging indie rocker in her own right. Her self-released EP, "The Anomaly," has garnered her some buzz on the Internet since it came out in February, and Velazquez hopes to build on that locally with a solo showcase at Hank's Cafe downtown tomorrow. (She's also the featured artist June 20 on KTUH's "Songwriters Showcase" program; visit for more.)

Now in "the twilight of her 20s" (said with a humorous, pseudo-dramatic flourish), her musical journey has come a long way from wanting to impress a former beau when she was attending the University of Southern California. It was that can-do attitude that had her first learn "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" on "a cheap Epiphone guitar," to taking classes in pop-rock and jazz guitar while at USC.

"I found learning music to be really challenging, like solving a puzzle," she said.

Velazquez already had bit of a foundation, coming from a musical family background (dad was a Mexican mariachi player, mom a hula dancer with Auntie Maiki Aiu Lake), and she also learned piano and violin as a child. Several years ago she was even accepted to go to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, but later deferred.

As a member of the Oahu Songwriters Group, Velazquez was also a regular at "The Rising Melody," a singer-songwriter forum at thirtyninehotel, except for when she was in Portland, Ore., last fall to record "The Anomaly." The move to the Pacific Northwest only lasted about eight months, and now Velazquez is back home with a day job as Web project manager at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

She admits spending most of her workday lunch hours mulling over stray musical thoughts gathered from tape and digital recorders, even filling Post-It Notes with "words I like." But the best time for writing music, she said, is late at night.

VELAZQUEZ JOKINGLY calls what she does "emo girl music," but that's far from the truth.

Instead of confessional, heart-on-sleeve tomes, her songs run the gamut from early Neil Young (a rockin' "Rosalie," her most downloaded track on iTunes), the cool city folk sound of a Suzanne Vega ("Right Way") and channeling either the late British '60s folk cult figure Nick Drake on "Fast as I Can" or the intimacy of Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) on "Slowly."

As evident on the EP, with solid musical backing from co-producer Rob Stroup and friends, Velazquez would like to front a band someday but admits it's hard to find like-minded musicians here in the islands and make a career of it.

"That's why I have to work full time, and my next album will be mostly me overdubbing myself on a home recording," she said.

In the meantime she said she's for hire -- she's done weddings and played at previous "Family Sunday" events at the Academy of Arts.

"I like the organic process of writing music," said Velazquez, "and it would be great to find people who could help support and realize the sounds that are in my head."

In the meantime she's going it alone.

- Gary Chun - Star Bulletin

""The Anomaly""

Hawaii-born Sabrina Velasquez checks in from the Pacific Northwest with a six-song CD that sounds ready for national airplay. The title song has a strong reggae-style rhythm -- bait, perhaps, for Hawaii's self-styled "island music" radio stations -- but the others are smooth, modern rock. The arrangements provide accompaniment for her soft and seductive voice. Her delivery emphasizes the wit and poetic flow of her lyrics. Memorable melodic hooks add all-important commercial appeal.

Velasquez mentions Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young among her musical inspirations, but the influence of Taylor Swift is heard when she taunts and dismisses a fool who apparently tried to cheat on her but didn't get what he was after. "I bet she brought you down to your knees," she croons with venomous sweetness. Serves the guy right!

Velasquez completes her sampler with several entrancing love songs. This first extended-play release should be the precursor of a full-length album.

- John Berger - Star Bulletin

"Sabrina - The Anomaly"

Release date: March 2009
Max Rookie Music

When I heard Sabrina's mother is a hula dancer and her dad a mariachi, I was expecting something way different from her debut EP release. Not that I was expecting an ukulele and guitarron, but this is something much different. Full of multilayerd textures and harmonies, Sabrina's versatile voice weaves and flows delicately over a wide range of indie alt rock and folk back drops. Sabrina's voice seems to settle down and sound most natural on the darker more somber tracks of "Dark Rider" and "Slowly". The six track EP has me longing for a full length that leans more towards the melancholy side of Sabrina. - Contrast Magazine

"Music Lesson"

one of my favorite discoveries since finding my way to twitter is h|h reader and kaneohe singer/songwriter sabrina velazquez who captures that quiet, lovely indie sound that always makes me swoon ("dark rider", a tune penned in three minutes, i speak of you). after studying at usc and punching in at an ad agency following graduation, sabrina decided to return home to oahu to focus on her first love before leaving for portland to immerse herself in music making 24/7.

a 6-song ep soon followed (have a listen over on lala), and, now back home in hawaii, sabrina is one of the first local musicians testing out the crowdfunding waters via kickstarter which matches up fans with a few dollars to spare with artists needing a financial hookup. the goal? to raise enough money to head back into the studio to record a full-length album.

in exchange for pledges of $5 and up, you get a little shout out for your support and, the deeper your pockets, potential perks like free downloads or the chance to commission a song. as of today, the project goal of $5000 is 23% funded with only 41 days to go to the nov 30th deadline to acquire full funding (pledges are held by amazon until the goal is met so your donation is only charged when enough people back the project).

intrigued? click over to kickstarter to get the scoop on how to be a mini music mogul on sabrina's lp project.

p.s. hard copies of sabrina's the anomaly ep is currently sold out so click over to itunes or amazon to download to your playlist. -

"Kickstart a Revolution: Sabrina Velazquez takes a virtual path to the big time"

Sabrina Velazquez is a do-it-yourself singer-songwriter based in Honolulu. She doesn’t have an agent, a manager or a record label, and she records on a shoestring budget. Other than her folksy guitar playing and sultry vocals, a demo she recorded last year featured Velazquez and her producer “stomping on cardboard and using spoons and change in our pockets, really anything we could get our hands on.” When The Anomaly, a six-song EP, was released this March, Velazquez didn’t pop champagne or throw a release party. Instead, she sent out a tweet.

“I put a little mention on Twitter, with a link to iTunes,” said Velazquez in a phone interview from New York City. Within minutes she received feedback from fans, some located as far as Europe and Australia, who had become enamored with her soothing blend of country-tinged, alternative-rock.

It was also through Twitter that Velazquez discovered [], a Brooklyn-based start-up that gives artists a chance to fund projects through monetary “pledges” from fans. Since its inception in April, Kickstarter has successfully funded projects like “Tiny Fabric Houses Want to Take Over the World!” (which raised $691, surpassing a goal of $250), a line of tiny, hand-sewn felt houses for stashing paperclips and safety pins, as well as “Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis,” (which raised $8,648, well beyond its $2,000 goal), a reinterpretation of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue via “chiptunes,” or Nintendo-like sound effects.

Velazquez’s project, “The LP Project: Sabrina Makes An Album,” has raised (at the time of this writing) $1,170 toward its $5,000 goal. She has until 10:46pm on Monday, November 30 to raise the rest. Incentives and mementos, all created by Velazquez to bring her closer to her fans, are featured on her Kickstarter page. Five dollars will get you exclusive updates and videos of the recording process. “Connecting one-on-one is really important to me,” she said. Pledge $1,000 and Velazquez will write a song on a topic of your choice, record it, and send it to you via email or snail mail.

“I really want someone to pledge $500 so I can commission an artist to draw their name on my guitar!” she exclaimed. “How cool would that be?”

If she succeeds, Velazquez will use the $5,000 to record her first full-length album–which she envisions having “a kind of upbeat, Tom Waits-y sound.” If she receives anything short of $5,000, she’ll get nothing (and pledgers, who submit their credit card information via Amazon accounts, won’t get charged).

In a way, Velazquez, who graduated from Kalani High School before attending the University of Southern California, is already a winner. Or at least that’s how she feels. “Just the fact that I’ve even gone over $1,000–I’m stoked!” she said. When she pitched her project to Kickstarter– the founders of the company handpick projects that stand out as particularly inventive or unique–she was the 640th project waiting to be considered.

What set Velazquez apart, besides raw talent and an unrelenting drive, were her island ties.

“I just told them, because, living in Hawaii, we’re so physically remote, we have to rely on our recorded music a lot more than other artists, because we can’t just pack up our van and travel and go on tour,” she said. “So I really, really wanted to record a full-length album…I want to reach audiences beyond Oahu.”

The interface of the Web has provided the perfect platform for someone like Velazquez, who lacks the sort of self-promotional braggadocio most artists use as a crutch. Instead, she’s the type of singer-songwriter who’d rather let her music do the talking. Although she maintains a blog ([]), a Myspace page and a Twitter account, she admits that she’s never caught onto the YouTube craze.

“I tried it once and it seemed really odd,” she said. “That’s one thing I have to do more of though, is take videos of myself. It always just feels so awkward!”

At first, Velazquez even had qualms about starting her Kickstarter account.

“I was so nervous, I thought, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe I did that! I’m going out there and asking people for money!’” she said.

“But then I thought, ‘OK,’ I really wanted people to be apart of the process and this is one way to do it. I want to see where my music can go.” - Honolulu Weekly

"Web helps isle singer reach goal"

Donate to Sabrina Velazquez's next LP at

By Gary C.W. Chun

Sabrina Velazquez isn't about to beg, but she would like some financial support and she's getting closer to her goal with the help of, a New York-based Web site that helps creative people across the country collect pledge money for their respective projects.

Velazquez's is an LP project, and to date she's been pledged $1,955 by 34 backers toward the $5,000 she's hoping to raise for the recording. The catch is, she must raise the remaining 72 percent by Nov. 30, or she gets nothing.

The 30-year-old singer-songwriter is doing her part to save up money for the project, as well. The Web project manager at the Honolulu Academy of Arts is augmenting her income with a weekend waitressing job at the Contemporary Museum.

Velazquez -- whose music is all independent rock -- heard about through a Twitter user who follows independent music.

"I looked at similar Web sites to see what is being done in other cities," she said, and decided to pitch the relatively new site that launched in April.

Site co-founder Yancey Stickler said he and his two friends launched Kickstarter out of simple necessity. With the company taking a 5 percent fee out of the money raised from successfully funded projects, "we feel very good about our growth and our path," Stickler said via e-mail.

Some of the site's recent successes include getting art supplies and books to an Indigo youth movement in South Africa; funding a folk architecture tour that goes from Washington state to Texas, and a documentary about the nation's public schools; and helping a New York fashion designer fund a mural that, when complete, will be cut into clutch-size pieces to make into one-of-a-kind handbags.

A former Hawaii resident who used Kickstarter before Velazquez also vouched for the site's usefulness.

Erin Westfall, originally from Paia, Maui, and residing in Washington, D.C., was introduced to the Web site by her brother.

"I had the idea to write a Hawaiian (food) cookbook in Japanese back in May when I had just graduated from college," she said via e-mail. "I didn't have a job yet and knew I wouldn't have much money to buy ingredients to test the recipes and such."

The response Westfall got from Kickstarter was that "most of my backers would have to be from my own networks," she said. "I initially thought people would browse through the projects (on the Web site) and donate to ones that they liked. It turned out to be more of me spreading the word through social networks and through my family for donations."

THAT'S WHAT Velazquez has done herself by utilizing her Twitter, MySpace, Virb and Facebook sites.

"I also sent e-mails to all my friends here and in California. On Twitter, while some people tweeted back that they couldn't give me any money, they were willing to re-tweet my message to other friends who might help.

"I like Kickstarter's clean interface and the interactivity. ... Through this project, I've learned about the generosity of people," Velazquez said.

But, as Westfall said, "Kickstarter isn't free money. Because you promise your backers rewards for donating to you, you must finish your project." For instance, Westfall sent out homemade cookies with each $10 contribution, and promises a free copy of her cookbook (when it's done) for a $25 gift.

If and when Velazquez gets the funding for her project, she's already committed to e-mailing supporters either a single track or a digital copy of the album a week before its release, and listing her $100 contributors in the liner notes.

(No one, so far, has pledged $5,000 or more to get the deluxe treatment of additionally getting a personal thank-you phone call from Velazquez, her singing a song of the contributor's choice for their answering machine or voice mail, getting their name drawn on her guitar, writing and recording a song on a topic of their choice and singing that song to that person while delivering homemade cookies, plus playing a private show for that person and his or her friends.)

VELAZQUEZ ADMITS that she's a tried-and-true starving artist, but with a can-do attitude.

"Even though I'm not a person to ask for money, I just loved the whole idea of having people discover my music with the help of this site and, for as little as $5, get involved in the whole process of helping make my album."

Thanks to the February release of her debut EP, "The Anomaly," she's gotten a bit of a buzz both here and on the Internet music landscape. Velazquez plans to record early next year, whether she gets the financial help or not.

"I will do it, only it will be a lot harder. It's going to take eating a lot of Top Ramen to save up the money," she added with a laugh.

While her work can't be called "island music," Hawaii figures into her lyrics.

"My songs pretty much reflect my experiences here. My life has always been part of the 50th state." Velazquez is part Hawaiian, Caucasian and Mexican.

"I live in Kaneohe and my family's from Punaluu. I write on the uke, piano and guitar. I grew up listening to mariachi and Spanish ballads. At the age of 5, I learned to play piano with Ellen Masaki, and from the age of 7 through 17, I played the violin. At 19, I picked up the guitar while I was a student at the University of Southern California.

"Being from Hawaii, it's not easy to tour and play my music for others outside of the state, so that's why I rely on recording music," she said. "What I showcase is a different kind of music from Hawaii."

Check out Velazquez's music at or read her blog at You can find her Kickstarter LP project page at

Link for this article: - Star Bulletin


The Fight (Single) - Released 2011
The Hawk & The Hunter (LP) - Released 2010
The Anomaly (EP) - Released 2009



Coming from an unconventional childhood, steeped in Hawaiian and Mexican culture (her father a mariachi singer and her mother a hula dancer), Sabrina stamps her personal experiences and musical innovations into her songs. The result is a singular, intimate sound that attracts audiences and listeners across the country and by those who have discovered her online.

After releasing her debut EP "The Anomaly," in 2009, Sabrina completed a successful 60-day project that helped fund the recording of her first full-length album, “The Hawk & The Hunter.” Produced by John Askew (The Dodos, Richmond Fontaine, Peggy Sue), with special guest musicians including Brent Knopf (Menomena, Ramona Falls) and Brian Wright (Grand Hallway, Carcrashlander),“The Hawk & The Hunter” is a raw and intimate album that explores Sabrina’s personal journey of self-realization, love and desire. Stand-out tracks include the spare-sounding ballad like “Dark Rider,” the heavily percussive “Repeat Offender”, and up-tempo song “The Sea.”

Vocally, fans have compared Sabrina to Norah Jones and Mazzy Star, and stylistically to Cat Power and Feist. She credits much of her musical influences to artists like Neil Young, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell.

With already a large fanbase in her hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii, she travels often between home and her current base of Portland, OR.