Soul Kitchen is a music sensation here on Maui. Each member is an award winning artist in their own right. Year 2011 the group formed on Mother Maui at a sing-along in the Sacred Garden. The three founding members are Tempa, her husband Naor Nave, and Michael Elam. Today, the group has grown into an eight piece band. Their music is described as acoustic-infused musical alchemy, both blending and transcending the traditional genres of Cajun, Zydeco, Soul, Funk, Blues, Jazz, Classic rock with Middle Eastern influences.
Soul Kitchen has a faithful fan base. My girlfriends watch them perform and are inspired to dance wherever they play on Maui. They invited me to one of their concerts several years ago and I joined in the festivities. Good times! Tempa refers to these ladies as her “Goddesses.” She goes on to say, “They are amazing goddess women that just show up and I love their energy. I have met some amazingly strong, independent women on Maui. I just love them, they make my heart sing.”
Soul Kitchen has performed at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC), Wailuku’s First Fridays, Casanova’s Italian Restaurant, and Fleetwood’s on Front Street. They play regularly at Mulligan’s on the Blue in Wailea. They are also available for corporate and private events.
I asked Tempa Nave for an interview to which she graciously agreed. Curious minds and fans want to know more about this special lady with the beautiful long flowing red hair and soulful voice. She has won the hearts and captured the attention of local Maui residents and visitors. Tempa is an award-winning lead vocalist for the Best Colorado Blues Band and honored with Best Soul Album Award.
Kathy: You have a natural gift. Were you born into a musical family?
Tempa: My mother played guitar and sang. She had a pretty good voice. My uncle was a professional Bluegrass player and performed for quite some time with Ralph Stanley (who was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry). My uncle toured for many, many years and when I would visit, he took me to his recording sessions and gigs. He was a huge influence on me musically. I grew up with Gospel music and Bluegrass.
Kathy: Tell us more about your childhood and the artistic influences that shaped you.
Tempa: My parents were total hippies and I grew up on a bus with no electricity from the age of 7 to about 16. We did not have a television or any modern conveniences. I had a lot of down time so I would sing, read, and farm. We had goats and chickens to take care of. We had dinners outdoors and cooked over a campfire that was our life.
Kathy: That sounds cool and very different. When you were a teenager did you think this kind of sucks living this way or did you think it was cool when all the other kids were living in a home with four walls and a roof? Do you look back on those days with fond memories?
Tempa: We were totally weird as far as society’s norms were. At times it was hard being a kid because I felt really different. My mom didn’t allow us to eat meat. Half the time I loved our life and half the time I hated it and wanted to eat at McDonald’s or have something sweet and sugary, things like that. Now as an adult I look back on those days and I am so happy I grew up the way I did. As a young kid, by the age of 10, I was reading Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird instead of watching cartoons. I recently watched a funny movie, Captain Fantastic, which reminded me of my childhood. It is a great movie and will give you an idea of how I lived.
Kathy: You really had to immerse yourself in nature to survive. If there was an end to our modern society and we had to survive by living off the land I would want you as my neighbor. I think I could learn a lot from you about how to survive off the aina (land).
Tempa: Sometimes when people talk about how crazy the world might get I do appreciate the fact that I know how to live off the land and could if I had to. I love leaving as small of a footprint as possible I would like to leave even a smaller footprint than I do but at the moment this is a struggle within me. Part of me would love to completely go off grid, not be on Facebook, not do social networking, and all that stuff but it is expected as a musician nowadays.
My big huge wish is that a couple of our songs that we have being reviewed right now will sell, and then maybe I can get closer to that lifestyle I want to live.
Kathy: When did your musical career begin?
Tempa: I was a chick singer in various bands with my former husband. We had recently gotten divorced and I took that time to start my own project at the end of 1999, with my new band Tempa and the Tantrums, which went on to win Colorado’s Best Blue’s Band. We won a lot of awards and toured a lot. I ended up playing at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Colorado. It was a great project. We did a lot of things in that band including touring Israel.
My life changed dramatically year 2008 at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with Lupus. I was hospitalized a lot and still trying to work full-time in a traveling touring band. We often worked 5 to 6 nights a week. I became really ill and during this time, I was in my second bad marriage. I was pretty lost at that time and ended up divorcing again.
Kathy: You have had Lupus for a long time. You are a survivor! Share with us the trials and tribulations you discovered on the road to healing. Was this a setback in your life or did it make you stronger?
Tempa: I was constantly getting sick with bronchitis and I was given antibiotics and in three weeks I would be sick again. I was weak and kept getting sicker and sicker and that is when I had heart surgery for Pericarditis that was caused by my Lupus. I was 28 at the time. This condition is caused when the lining of your heart becomes inflamed and fills with fluid and starts compressing your heart so that when you do any normal activities it feels like you had just run a marathon. I was told by my doctors that I shouldn’t have any more children. Then I had my second son two years later. I have two kids today. I have a daughter Shayna who is 27 and my son Isaac who is 20. I lost my first son Sethan when he was 17. He was gay. He was Mr. Gay Pride Junior in Colorado. He was in love with a boy that had some addiction issues and that boy killed himself and three weeks later, my son committed suicide. He had come out finally when he was 15. It was a hard road for him. Gay kids are usually bullied and made fun of. He was really involved in the movement and was a peer counselor for the LGBT community at a place called the Rainbow Alley which was a safe house in Denver, Colorado for gay and lesbian transgender kids who got kicked out of their home.
Lupus made me learn to embrace my wolf. I had to realize that some parts of having Lupus are probably good because my body tells me when I am stressed. Other people don’t know that they are stressed constantly and then one day, they end up falling dead from a heart attack. When I get stressed I get so sick it is immediate my body just shuts down. I have learned to really change my lifestyle. I avoid stress and do certain exercises. Lupus reminds me when I’m not doing something that is not good or healthy. It will let me know very quickly. In a way that is kind of a positive thing. I think Lupus has taught me a lot on a physical level and definitely on a spiritual level.
Kathy: When did you meet your soulmate?
Tempa: I brought my band to Israel. This is where I met my third husband Naor Nave when I was at my sickest. He is Israeli and when we first met he was a finalist for the Israeli Idol which is much like the American Idol. We became involved and had a long distance relationship for about two years. We were both working really hard in our individual music careers. My health had actually gotten better since I was with my new husband Naor, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.
I had lived in Colorado for over 20 years and that was where my band was based out of. Naor eventually moved back to Colorado to be with me. We played our music at mid-national band level and did the touring thing. Being in a local band got to be difficult, it was hard to juggle it all. I was burnt out. I was working so hard in the music business simply to maintain a financial level of being alright that it took away my creativity. You just don’t have time to keep that outlet flowing when you’re constantly worried about the money.
Kathy: What brought you to Maui?
Tempa: My friend Elizabeth hired me as her personal assistant. I had been working for her for a year. She went to Maui for a vacation. We have a mutual friend that is Hawaiian who lived there. Elizabeth returned and said she wanted to move to Maui. I said Man I’m sure everyone wants to move to Maui. She replied I want you to move to Maui with me. I told her I can’t move to Maui.
I told my husband about Elizabeth’s invitation to move with her and I didn’t think we could do it. Naor gave me his advice, first, why couldn’t we? Second, if we didn’t would we regret it? My answer to that question was I might. I was never a Colorado girl I was originally from Florida and I have always loved the ocean.
After spending a month in Israel playing music, doing gigs, teaching Blues and American music, Naor and I arrived to Maui on December 31st, 2011. We celebrated by watching the sunrise January 1st at the top of Mount Haleakala.
Kathy: So you came to Maui with your husband Naor to take a chance and start a new life. What inspired the formation of Soul Kitchen your new music group?
Tempa: Myself, Naor, and my friend Elizabeth arrived to Maui. We had only lived on island for two weeks when my friend Chrissy and I went to Makawao to walk the labyrinth at the Sacred Garden. I was burnt out on music before I arrived to Maui. I had stopped writing and I wasn’t being really creative anymore. While sitting in the garden, I looked up to the heavens and said, look higher power if you want me to continue music you’re just gonna have to give me a sign you need to let me know if I should stay in this. This is all I’ve ever wanted to be in my life was a musician, singer and songwriter.
As we continued sitting in the beautiful space of this garden, I heard a sing-along just around the corner from where I was sitting. I recognized a song they were singing and joined in. They all turned to look and asked me to sit with them, and so I did. They passed a songbook around and we all went in order. I thought it was cool so I sang and it just so happens that a couple of the guys were radio DJs from Mana’o Radio. One of the DJs is the President of the radio station, Michael Elam. He is our piano player in Soul Kitchen. He asked me to do a radio show and that was my sign from the universe. Music immediately found me and I had only been on the island for two weeks. The group Soul Kitchen formed at the Sacred Garden sing-along. It was really quick and soon Michael Elam, Naor and I started jamming, just the three of us. We started the Soul Kitchen Trio. We kept growing and adding new band members. We did more gigs and have grown into an eight piece group and changed our name to Soul Kitchen.
Kathy: What are Soul Kitchen’s future plans and opportunities?
Tempa: We will have our first music video coming out next week. This will be our first single with the band.
The people in the band are amazing. We are family and we all love each other so much:
- Sue Wescott is our violin and fiddle player from Alabama. From 1967-1977 she landed her first professional job with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. She studied with Ivan Galamian and Sally Thomas and has played with every major tour and major artist you can possibly think of. She attended Juilliard at the age of 12. She is classically trained.
- Bruce Boege is our sax player; he has been nominated for a Grammy. He is a great jazz guy, songwriter and sound engineer.
- Michael Elam is our keyboardist and President of Mana’o Radio. He volunteers his time all over the island. This is his first big music project. He just turned 65 and is really excited.
- Kevin Garland our drummer plays the Cajon. He is in his thirties and the youngest in our band. He is also from Colorado and went to school for recording and engineering
- Kerry Sofaly is our other drummer and plays Cajon, washboard and percussion. He also performs with the Haiku Hillbillies.
- We are heading in the genre of Zydeco, New Orleans funk and soul we are making that are main sound that is why we added Marcus Johnson our main bass player. He has played with everybody and is an amazing jazz player.
- Tempa Nave lead vocals and songwriter
- Naor Nave guitar, vocals, and songwriter
Kathy: Will Soul Kitchen release an album soon and when?
Naor and I probably have at least thirty songs in our catalog right now. We are releasing singles this is the way to go. After you have six singles you can then create an EP.
The second release will be given to a publicist who has some connections with influential people. They seem to think the song is a hit. I did vocals on that ballad. We will release one more single before that as the band Soul Kitchen. This second release I wrote and sing lead vocals is a mushy love song called “Kiss Me” It is written for my husband Naor and inspired by a really good friend. The lyrics tell a story of finally finding that love after thinking it wasn’t really possible.
Kathy: How is your health nowadays?
Tempa: My health is pretty good today I would say I am in remission and have completely got myself off of methotrexate. This is an anticancer medication for Lupus patients. I am healthier than I have been for quite some time.
Kathy: Would you say that living here on Maui is instrumental in your healing? I have heard from other people that Maui has improved their health. Their lifestyle is different or perhaps there is good mana here?
Tempa: Maui definitely has beautiful energy to it. I just don’t do well in high elevations or cold climates. My body doesn’t hurt like it used to when I was living in Colorado. I would say I am pretty damn good.
To learn more about Soul Kitchen and where you can see them perform visit the following sites:
Soul Kitchen You Tube Channel
Tempa You Tube Channel