LIHUE — For 20 years, singer-songwriter Stuart Hollinger didn’t perform.
He worked a “real job,” as he puts it, while his music remained buried inside, but certainly not forgotten.
But last year, after a decades-long hiatus, the Kilauea resident made his comeback with the release of a brand new album, “Dangerous Crossing.” The name refers to the challenges of re-entering the world of music, the dangers of crossing from the old to the new, and the importance of keeping one’s life balanced.
“Life is too short,” he said. “You don’t want to have no regrets.”
His hard work and dedication paid off in a big way. “Dangerous Crossing” won Rock Album of the Year at the 37th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Music Awards in Honolulu. In other words, he’s batting 1,000 since his return.
Hollinger had a tough time putting his feelings about the award into words.
“It’s such a high,” he said, “to be honored by your peers.”
A few minutes with Hollinger and you’ll quickly learn he is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. When he sat down for an interview with The Garden Island, he brought with him a giant smile and donned a matching shirt that read, “Smile. Be nice.”
The reason Hollinger decided to get back into music, his true passion, was purely for the love, he said. Just talking about it makes him smile.
Hollinger first became interested in music around age 12. At that time, he couldn’t afford a guitar. Instead, he sang, often to the annoyance of his brothers. At age 16, he got his first guitar and later learned bass. He played regularly for 20 years before he took his extended break to work as a landscaper.
Now, he says he is back for good, following his dreams. And it feels awesome.
“No more resting,” he said. “It’s a flood happening right now.”
As for “Dangerous Crossing,” Hollinger calls it happy and diverse. There are nine tracks, four originals and five cover songs, all done in Hollinger’s style — “with attitude.”
“They’re kind of sophisticated rock songs,” he said.
His originals, which have been rolling around in his head for years, include the album’s title track, “Dangerous Crossing;” “Ocean Friend,” with lyrics written by his wife about her sailing days; a country tune called “Home in Georgia,” about Hollinger’s visit to the south and his love of southern hospitality; and “Let It Be Known,” about traveling and breaking out of the mold.
For the cover tracks, Hollinger chose wisely. There are renditions of Mickey Ioane’s “Hawaii 78,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Dave Mason’s “Maybe,” Toto’s “Hold the Line,” and last but not least, The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash.”
Above all, Hollinger said he made the album so that other people could enjoy and dance to it.
“It’s the most wonderful feeling to be able to give it away to the people,” he said.
In addition to wearing his heart on his sleeve, Hollinger has nearly covered himself in Polynesian-style tattoos, which tell his life’s story and lend strength to his music.
“I have my wife, my kids and my grandkids with me in this art,” he writes in his biography. “My wife is a large sun placed over my heart. My family members are symbolized as animals. I have a honu (Hawaiian sea turtle), a pueo (owl), makani (the wind), pohaku (stones), manu (shark) and little geckos for my grandchildren. On my fingers are body art of fresh waters, wind, strength and the awa plant.”
Hollinger jokes that he is somewhat of an endangered species.
“A Polynesian man playing something other than Hawaiian,” he laughed.
Although unexpected, Hollinger said winning the Na Hoku Hanohano award is all about representing and honoring his island home of Kauai. And if he has one message for the younger generation out there, it’s this:
“You can do anything you want,” he said. “Follow your dreams.”
For more information about Stuart Hollinger, visit stuarthollinger.com. His new album “Dangerous Crossing” can be purchased on island at Hawaiian Music Store Kiosk’s (Princeville Shopping Center and Coconut MarketPlace Center), Kauai Music store Kapaa and online at Mele.com, CDBaby.com and Amazon.com.