John Cruz in concert

Summer is in full swing, and July wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of music.

The Kauai Music Festival returns in full form, and caps off a week of workshops with a pair of evening concerts at the Kauai Beach Resort this weekend.

Like during previous festivals, tonight’s Poalima Concert features off-island artists, while Saturday’s Pau Hana Concert features homegrown favorites.

Hawaiian singer/songwriter and Grammy Award winner John Cruz will be performing during tonight’s concert, alongside Haley Reinhart (third place finisher during season 10 of “American Idol”), Robert Schwartzman of the band Rooney, David Pack of Ambrosia and Jeff Dayton.

Cruz, who is also a KMF board member and has been involved with the festival since day one, has also spent this week teaching others the ins and outs of songwriting.

“I do songwriting workshops, I do one-on-ones, and sometimes I help facilitate the open mics,” Cruz said during a phone interview Tuesday. “I can see in the attendees’ eyes and I can feel it in their hearts that they are really trying to answer these mysteries about songwriting, and if I can help in any way, I’m happy to, because when I was growing up, I wish I had more people I could call onto to ask questions and help me with things.”

The Kauai Music Festival Songwriter Conference is a four-day celebration of the art and craft of songwriting.

What makes this conference unique is the fact organizers pair songwriters with industry leaders, who offer guidance and feedback.

 “What always happens during the festival is there are other people on the faculty that I want to sit in on their workshops, but I can’t because I’m busy conducting my own,” Cruz said, laughing. “Hopefully, this year I can experience a lot of staff members’ workshops. Over the years, we’ve had some fabulous people.”

Those people have featured music industry leaders, including songwriters, record company executives, producers and sound engineers.

“We are all the way out here,” Cruz said. “To have these legendary people is amazing. You would never get these people together, and then have them listening to your song or co-write a song with them — it’s an amazing opportunity. Especially on Kauai. Even for a musician on Oahu, it’s a huge, huge experience.”

What has kept Cruz excited about the festival is his personal mission to elevate the level of songwriting coming out of Hawaii.

“That is partly why I have been so enthusiastic about the festival and remain a board member,” Cruz said. “I totally believe that music in Hawaii will become better because of this festival.”

Cruz will have a surprise for those who attend tonight’s concert — he will be performing new songs featured in his upcoming album, which is “close” to being finished.

“I’ve been recording it in Nashville, Tenn.,” Cruz said. “It’s going to be a slight departure as far as the production goes, because this is the first time I’ve let the reins go, so to speak. … At the same time, it still has the same blueprint. There are some songs that are just acoustic guitar, there’s a Hawaiian song, there’s some slack key guitar on it, yet at the same time, there are a lot of new elements that I haven’t used before.”

Treble steel guitar, lap steel guitar, keyboards, and an ukulele performance from a Russian instrumentalist are among those new elements. As for what Cruz will sample during tonight’s concert, we’ll have to wait and see. Saturday’s concert features Raiatea Helm, Meleuhane, Kenneth Makuakane and Charles Michael Brotman. Visit for more information.

What: Kauai Music Festival Poalima and Pau Hana Concerts

When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday

Where: Kauai Beach Resort

Cost: $25 each night/$30 at the door; $40 for both nights

Ticket outlets: Magic Dragon Toy & Art (Princeville); Hawaiian Music Kiosk (Princeville and Coconut MarketPlace); Kauai Music & Sound (Kapaa); Scotty’s Music (Kalaheo); Island Soap & Candle Works (Koloa)


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