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California Dreamin’

Island-born talent Kirby Ai seeks his rising star in L.A.

Local boy Kirby Ai has fans in SoCal and Hawai‘i listening.

Kirby Ai’s got the look. Guitar in hand, the 21-year-old singer/songwriter invokes that folk-rock chic that one would expect from an aspiring performer storming the SoCal scene. But Ai’s got the talent to back it up. Case in point: his first single, “Other Side,” a breezy, romantic tune that showcases his silky vocals. Already, his laid-back sound has earned him comparisons to indie icons like Jack Johnson and John Mayer, a compliment he humbly accepts.

With the loyal following that Ai’s gathered, it’s a wonder that this Cal Lutheran undergrad started strumming his guitar just a few years ago. But music’s been a part of this rising star’s life for some time. Back at Kamehameha—an incubator for many a Hawai‘i artist—this island wonder enjoyed complete immersion in the world of melody. But it’s his father, who exposed him to different artists and musical styles, that Ai credits as one of the major influences of his music.

Fast-forward to the present, and Ai is the definition of industrious. He’s working on his first EP, all the while finishing his bachelor’s in music production and performing all over Southern California. Between gigs, Ai pens his own songs, many of which are influenced by his move to the Golden State. His cool confidence is infectious: “If you’re working hard, meeting the right people and keeping a good head on your shoulders, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.”

While this talent doesn’t plan to move back home to the islands immediately following graduation—he’s adamant about capitalizing on L.A.’s endless opportunities—he’s looking forward to performing at home and beyond. “Whether I’m [playing] for five people or hundreds of people, I love to get out and play live!” he says. “It’s what I love most.”