Island Girl

Tia Carrere returns to her musical roots with "Hawaiiana," which she recorded with Grammy-Award winning artist Daniel Ho. Photo by Sam Wakelin

Actress Tia Carrere returns to her musical roots.

By Kim Devore / Staff Writer

She may be known to some as the “schwing”-inducing rock-and-roll babe from “Wayne’s World,” but these days Topanga resident Tia Carrere is singing a different tune-one accompanied by Hawaiian musician Daniel Ho’s ‘ukulele and slack key guitar. With names like “Ku’u Ipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One,” “Ku’u Lei ‘Awapuhi” and “Pupu Hinuhinu,” the tracks on her new CD are a dyslexic’s worst nightmare. But as complicated as the titles may sound, what you hear is light and delicate.

“Every little kid in Hawaii knows these songs,” Carrere said as we met for a high protein breakfast with Ho. “They are hulas and lullabies-all very simple and easy to learn.”

On “Hawaiiana,” Carrere teams up with her one of her oldest friends.

“Daniel and I have known each other since we were 14, when we were growing up in Waikiki. He was at the all-boys school down the street and I was at the academy up the street,” Carrere said. “We’ve stayed in touch all these years.”

Making an album had been a dream for the two from the time they were very young.

“We had been talking about doing an album together for years,” Carrere said. “We thought it would be really fun to do the songs from our childhood. These are songs that all the kids in Hawaii know.”

Grammy-award winning Ho said laying down the instrumental part was easy. “Tia’s vocals are beautiful,” he said, “every breath, every word. My job was to just stay out of the way.”

Although she’s made a name for herself on screen, music has always been Carrere’s first love. “I never thought of being an actress,” she said. “I always wanted to be a singer in a nightclub or a hotel lobby.”

She may have wowed the pants off of Mike Myers with her hard rocking ways, but Carrere said her musical tastes are a far cry from Cassandra Wong in “Wayne’s World.” “That’s not me,” she said. “I prefer more melodic, pure round tones; that’s where my heart lies.”

In fact, Carrere’s musical hero wasn’t Mick Jagger, but of all people, Karen Carpenter. She even does her own rendition of the Carpenter hit “Song,” one of the few English language tracks on the release.

“I’m very happy with “Song.” It’s a very positive lyric and deceptively simple, but as you listen to it and absorb it, those are words to live by,” she said.

Carrere has come a long way since she was discovered in a food mart in Hawaii. After “Wayne’s World,” she went on to star along with then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies” as well as in various other movies. She more recently appeared on the hit reality show “Dancing with the Stars.” She’s also in the process of writing a Hawaiian-themed surf movie and is busy promoting her new CD. Between the movie and the music it’s easy to see why Carrere is having a blast as she reconnects with her Hawaiian roots.

“I think what we successfully captured on the record is that feeling you have when you are in Hawaii,” she said. “You just breath differently. You just sit and allow.”

Although the day-to-day schedule for this actress/singer/mom is nonstop, Carrere said eventually she’d like to chill out and enjoy the beauty of her home state. “I really want to start spending part of the year there,” she said. “I swam upstream for 20 years. I think I’d like to float for a while.”