This story starts about 20 years ago, back in 2000, at a time when our music career was doing pretty good. We had a few popular songs on the radio as we toured internationally through the states, Asia, and the South Pacific.
As our tour ended, we were ready to return to the studio and start a new project. I already had enough money in my budget to fund our next album, which would be our third. Except, this time, it would be under our own label—which was a big deal to us.
Our original songs had been successful, so we planned to do more originals. We just needed to put in the work—and there was a lot of work to do. To help us, my brother-in-law, Roger Tetuanui, flew in from Tahiti. He and I recorded all the musical instruments for Vaihi, the album.
Well, one night, we were tracking and hanging out with everyone in the studio. In walks the studio’s owner along with a producer from the mainland. He introduces himself all nice and friendly and proceeds to offer us songs that he had written.
Of course, we had already written all the songs for that album, so we kindly declined. And with that gentle rejection, his demeanor completely changed. He tells us that “the problem with Hawaiian music is that you’re too busy writing songs about slippers, plate lunches, and crabs.”
Mind you, we did have songs like “Fish and Poi” and “Ama Ama Crab.” And there was one about slippers, too. So, I’m sitting in awe, wondering why he thought that insensitive comment was something he should say in a room full of Polynesians.
Anyway, I turned to Masi, our live sound guy, and asked him to grab our second album, Can You Imagine. I gave it to the producer and told him to go home and listen to it. Then, tell me if we’re just writing songs about slippers, crabs, and plate lunches.
Three days later, I received a letter from that producer. He apologized for being rude and said that the songs were solid. Then, he invited me to collaborate with him on a few songs.
I brushed his offer to the side for a while—until he challenged me to write a country song. He went on about how the writers in Nashville are some of the best songwriters of all time. So, I took on his challenge, and I began to study country music and country songwriting. I developed a chord progression and melody. And from there, I just wrote.
And that’s how I came to write “Maybe.”
With no real idea of what I wanted to do, I just wrote whatever came to mind. I put it all down on paper until I came up with a line that I felt had something to it.
That line was the very first one in the song “Maybe.”
“Every time your heart beats, are you thinking of me? Will I be the one you love tonight?”
Those words were the kindle that sparked the direction of the song. I began to think about all the relationships I had watched growing up, and I wondered how it would be to love someone, not knowing if they felt the same about you.
These experiences largely shaped my relationship with my wife. I had witnessed that pain upfront. And I had always wished that I could fix it somehow, but I was too young.
The next line was originally meant to be the chorus:
“Am I fool to think that we could ever be? Was it really love we made, or did I fill a need? Or am I a fool to believe in you…? Maybe.”
Twenty years later, though, I changed this line to the pre-chorus. This is the line that led me to title the song Maybe.
I had always wondered why someone would stay in a relationship that clearly wasn’t going anywhere. When I imagined myself in their shoes, my reasoning would probably be that I hoped maybe things would get better.
When I was old enough to understand, someone else told me that maybe that was all they had, so they clung to it. Fear of being alone outweighed the need to move on.
Later in life, I would be the one begging for someone to stay—a loved one who I wanted to live with my wife and me. But my cries were to no avail.
Even though Maybe was written twenty years ago, I didn’t finalize it and record it until recently.
All of these emotions from my life went into the song when I recorded.
Why record Maybe now? Well, it came up in conversation once. Then, my youngest son began to sing it at his solo gigs. He’d ask me about it more and more, always curious. So, I decided to finish it for good and record it.
Even though the song was pretty much done, I sat with a friend and went over the song's structure. He asked me if I wanted to finish it on a more positive note. Instead of leaving the main character stuck in a depressing situation, why not write it with an ending where the individual can move on?
So, the song ends:
“every time your heart beats, are you thinking of me? I won’t be the one you love tonight.”
When I think about it, that single line allowed me so much closure. What I had viewed as a sad ending was really a moment of acceptance and release.