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Ke Ola: Drew Daniels: Fertility from Fire

“Our New Life” cover art by Harry Durgin (inset). Drew Daniels performing with Tsunami Rising. photo courtesy of Drew Daniels

By Mālielani Larish

Everything is perfect; everything is aligning, Drew Daniels thought to himself. Gazing at soft morning clouds framing a gold-dazzled ocean, he gently rocked his baby girl to the rhythm of cane grass dancing in the wind. Two years prior, he had liquidated his assets to realize a long-sought dream of moving to Hawai‘i with his soulmate. They purchased a piece of land within an intentional farming community where Drew built an off-grid cabin with the help of a close friend. Working with his farming hui (community), Drew cultivated a food forest and was just starting to enjoy the ample rewards of his labors.

The peaceful oasis where Drew spent many happy hours playing in the garden with his daughter transformed irreversibly during the summer of 2018. As Kīlauea’s Fissure Eight eruption advanced towards his backyard, days began to feel like weeks as fumes, gas explosions, and lava curtains ravaged the surrounding landscape.

The loss, distress, and resilient hopefulness experienced by his community during the eruption ignited a creative flow within Drew that has culminated in his first solo album, Fertility from Fire, which is due out in early 2020. As the former lead singer for East Coast reggae rockers Tsunami Rising, Drew Daniels is a seasoned musician whose meaningful lyrics reverberate through fusions of punk, folk, reggae, hip hop, blues, and soul.

Our New Life

To help him process the surreal drama overwhelming his senses, Drew wrote a song of hope entitled “Our New Life.” “I wrote it as therapy, really,” Drew reflects.

Many Puna residents affected by the lava found a message of inspiration and healing within Drew’s lyrics. “If we go with the flow, I know we’re going to be alright,” Drew sings in “Our New Life.”

Camping in Hawi after Kohala ‘Āina Fest. photo courtesy of Drew Daniels

Camping in Hawi after Kohala ‘Āina Fest. photo courtesy of Drew Daniels

No longer eating or sleeping, with gas masks at the ready, Drew prepared to evacuate his family. His mother graciously offered to pay for a hotel room in Kona that would accept their pets, and soon the family found themselves scrolling through social media next to a sun-dappled pool, anxiously checking for updates.

The fresh air and Kona sunshine could not lift the gloom weighing on Drew’s family. Hiding in their hotel room, the family passed the time crying together, ordering take-out, and constantly wondering, “Did our house get taken yet?”

At the time, Drew was recording a song for his cousin’s wedding with producer Michael Surprenant of Mana Music Studio. He was also helping co-write the album of fellow Puna resident Sarah Bethany. After hearing Drew perform “Our New Life,” Michael insisted on recording it. The day after Drew recorded the song, on May 31, 2018, Drew received the news: his beautiful two-story home was entombed under 30 feet of lava. The lava flow claimed one-third of the intentional community where Drew had envisioned living a sustainable and serene life.

The trauma of witnessing his community transform dramatically within just a few months engulfed Drew’s heart with anger, sadness, fear, and confusion. At one point he wondered if he should leave the island altogether. However, after checking in with his intuition and talking to an uncle about it, he realized that he still felt welcome here.

Paralleling and intertwining these exhausting feelings, Drew experienced extreme gratitude, ambition, and hope. Friends in Philadelphia and New Jersey organized fundraising events to help support Drew financially, and more than 250 people contributed to the family’s GoFundMe campaign.

Drew building his home in lower Puna. photo courtesy of Drew Daniels
Drew building his home in lower Puna. photo courtesy of Drew Daniels