Our next Swag Spotlight Kirby Ai is a native of Oahu, Hawaii and just released two new songs that we know you’ll love. Growing up on the southeast shore of Oahu, Ai’s father was a radio DJ for classic rock and he always had music on around the house. Back then, country music wasn’t at all popular on the island and the first time he recalls hearing something remotely related to the genre, he says it was a specific song that Sting put on one of his albums, his father telling him that the song he loved had a country sound. He tells us that James Taylor and John Mayer are two of his biggest influences as a singer-songwriter.
He picked up a guitar when he was a sophomore in high school. “At first, I was playing my dads guitar, I would practice at home and my parents saw that I loved learning it so for Christmas they bought me my own guitar and I brought it to school every day,” Ai explains. “My junior and senior year, we would all hang out in one corner and I always brought my guitar to school, I would leave it in one corner and everyone would come back and play it and then leave it, it was like a community guitar.”
When he went to college at California Lutheran University is when he finally was immersed in the country music genre, even attending a bar that had country line dancing with his roommate. He recalls hearing Brett Eldredge’s song “Don’t Ya” and loving everything about it and then discovering Billy Currington who loves to surf and the island life, further piquing his interest in the music.
Towards the end of his college career, he realized that music was something he really wanted to pursue, taking classes in music production and eventually making his way to LA to intern at a studio. “I learned a lot and it opened doors for me to do music full time and I started playing my music and gigging and booking gigs up and down the coast.” When it comes to his own music, he identifies that the lifestyle he knew growing up in Hawaii is not so different from the values that country music teaches. “I think the music is great, country itself, and Hawaii are different but I do think they are a lot more similar than people would think at first glance,” he explains. “They are both laid back, family oriented, and teach you to appreciate the simple things. It’s about enjoying life and the little things and what really matters and I think I really gravitate towards those messages.”
He is currently on his Finding Latitude Tour which started May 31st and continues touring the west coast and beyond until the end of August. What we found most interesting is that Ai is doing it all, booking his own gigs, handling his pitch emails and promoting his new music. “I know I have my best interest at heart, I want it so I am going to work hard every single day,” he says. Hearing his determination and how hard he works to get his music to his fans is refreshing. “It’s great to be able to have your hand in everything and get to understand it, from a business side its beneficial to see how everything works together and hopefully one day when we hand those things off to other people, it gives you a perspective of how hard they are working.”
He tells us about “Keep My Distance” which was released last month and tells the story of falling for someone but timing preventing it from being a forever love. Just last Thursday he released another track, “Just Like A Girl Like You” which further showcases his ability to create catchy melodies and tell relatable stories. “Music Row that was just so cool to get all of these country musicians who are so talented, to sit in the room and all I had to do was sing, they are all playing and doing what they do best, to get to see the song come to life, was really a beautiful thing,” Ai says of recording these tracks in Nashville.
“Keep My Distance” and “Just Like a Girl Like You” are now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
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