Brittni Paiva: “I really wanted to take my sound of the ukulele into uncharted territory.”

Photo by Laurie Smith
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022

Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Brittni Paiva’s musical palette is as colorful as a rainbow. Hailing from Hawaii, she has not only cemented her legacy as a brilliant ukulele player, but she has also established herself as a skilled guitarist, bassist, composer, and more. Her exceptional articulation and melodic phrasing have landed her on stages with the likes of Carlos Santana, Tommy Emmanuel, and in the studio with GRAMMY winner Tom Scott. Paiva’s newest collaborative project with award-winning songwriter Jasmine Crowe, BLVCKBOW, is a genre-bending crossover of pop, Reggae, funk, and rock. We met up with Paiva to get a closer look at her musical journey. 

What inspired you to start playing music?

I showed an interest in music when I was barely a year old. When I was three years old, my parents enrolled me in classical piano lessons. When I was 11 years old, my grandfather (who is half Native Hawaiian) gave me my first ukulele, and it was at that moment that I knew it would be my go-to instrument and that I wanted to pursue it as far as I possibly could. I convinced my parents to let me stop taking piano lessons and focus solely on the ukulele. I learned to play the guitar, bass, and drums shortly after that and then got into music production in 2013.

How has your sound evolved over the years? 

At first, my sound was very stereotypical Hawaiian ukulele music, but as the years went on and I took interest in many other genres of music, I really wanted to take my sound of the ukulele into uncharted territory and started treating it musically as if it wasn’t an ukulele at all. The ukulele can be played in every genre. It’s just a matter of how creative you are and how you’re going to execute it on a four-stringed instrument.

What guitars, ukuleles, and other gear are you currently using the most?

For electric guitar, I use a PRS SE Custom 24. For my acoustics, I use a Taylor 314ce V-class and an ANueNue M200. For ukulele, I use my 100 percent custom-built Kamaka tenor, an ANueNue UT3K, and ANueNue UT5K. My electric guitar on-stage gear setup consists of the Line 6 Helix board and Mogami cables, and my acoustic guitar and ukulele stage setups consist of the LR Baggs Venue DI, BOSS ME-70 (which I use for looping only), and Analysis-Plus cables.

Do you have a specific songwriting process or routine that you follow? 

My songwriting process depends on whether I’m writing solo or writing with another artist and if there are vocals involved. If I’m working solo, then I usually have a melody in mind first and then create the chord progression around it. If I’m working with another artist and there are lyrics for the song, I’ll have them send me the lyrics to read first, and I’ll be able to draw a progression, feel, and instrumentation idea that compliments the lyrics’ story.

How would you describe your newest project with Jasmine Crowe, BLVCKBOW?

Musically, BLVCKBOW and working with Jasmine has been one of the highlights of my career so far. With Jasmine’s pop background and my music theory and production background, together we formed a sound that hasn’t really ever been created before. It’s honestly pretty hard to categorize BLVCKBOW into a single genre!

How did the songs “Memorize U” and “Second Nature” come together?

“Memorize U” was the first song that Jasmine and I wrote together. She sent me some lyrics that she wrote in her phone a while back, and as I was reading them, I had an idea for a beat that could work with it. We worked on it for a few days and realized that this sound isn’t like anything neither of us has written before. “Second Nature” is the second song we wrote. Reggae is a massive part of the music industry in Hawaii, and being that we both were born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, we wanted to pay homage to the sound that we grew up listening to.

Photo by Sequoia Emmanuelle

Is there anything you are looking forward to this year? (New releases, shows, etc.)

I’m definitely looking forward to touring again! That’s something I truly missed over the past two years. I’m also planning some solo ukulele releases, in addition to more BLVCKBOW releases as well. It’s going to be a great year!

What advice do you have for other like-minded artists?

Music can be a difficult thing sometimes. No matter how long you have been an artist, you will run into roadblocks along the way. The key to getting through it is to remember why you’re playing music in the first place. As long as you do it purely because you love doing it and it’s your passion, you’ll be okay! Success and rewards will come as long as you persevere and never give up!

Brittni Paiva and Jasmine Crowe – BLVCKBOW

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