Shawn Garnett is a big deal, but many people may not be familiar with him... yet.
Fans of the hit CBS series, ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ may recognize the talented, tattooed Hawaiian as the ‘Shrimp Truck’ owner, Kamekona’s, cousin, Flippa.
But acting isn’t Garnett’s main gig.
What you may not know is that the Island native spends most of his days creating beautiful, soulful music to share with anyone who’ll take a moment to listen (and I promise you- It’s worth more than just a moment!).
He’s a singer/songwriter mainstay at some of Hawaii’s popular hotspots, regularly performing shows at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Waikiki, and at MonkeyPod Kitchen in Ko Olina.
“Ever since I was a kid, I've listened to music. All kinds, from Hawaiian [to] Weird Al. I've been going at it now for the past fourteen-ish years. Other than ‘[Five]-0’, [it’s the] greatest job in the world, and it's like therapy for me, too. So blessed and thankful I get to use my music to take care of my family. Awesome.”
His musical journey really kicked off in 2006 when he relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. He admits, he wanted to “get off the island and ‘see the world!’”
During his Vegas stint, he “hooked up with this ska band called ‘One Pin Short.’ They were looking for a singer, I met up with them, sang for them, [and] I got the gig. So, a couple years into gigging all around Vegas, I kind of brought a new vibe to the band and gave it a ska/reggae trip. We were fortunate enough to hook up with some managers [and] promoters, and they gave us some tours all over the mainland. [Let me] tell ya, it was so so cool to travel around! Also, from being on the road and our managers knowing people, we hooked up with seminal ska band, 'Reel Big Fish.' I can safely say I've toured around with these dudes and had a few ‘Shawnweisers’ with them. We are total bro status. I'm planning on going on the road some time in the very near future, and maybe attend SXSW one of these years. Hey, it could happen, right?”
Now, you may be wondering how he ended up on one of the highest-rated shows on television, right?
He explains, “Well, my Uncle Tim played a dead guy on ‘[Five]-0’. He told me to go check the ‘[Five]’-0 casting website and apply to be an extra [because] they're always looking for dudes with tattoos and especially local people! Figured, what the hell, why not me?! So, I did the whole applying thing, then two months after, I got an extras meet and greet e-mail. [It was] basically telling us the jobs of being an extra, what to do and what not to do. Needless to say, I was super duper ecstatic just to be there. A month after the meet and greet, I got a call from ‘[Five]-0’ casting to audition for the ‘Cousin Flippa’ character. It was probably the happiest news I've ever received... well, other than my wife being pregnant. [That] was pretty cool, too! At that time, my wife and I just moved back home to Hawaii from Vegas, and for that year, I couldn't find work or gigs. Times were pretty low, but that phone call was such a blessing. Long story short, I went down to the casting office, auditioned, waited another week (longest week ever), and got the part... Which goes to show you, anybody can do this. If you got what they're looking for and you’re willing to do what it takes, then go out there and do it! Go out and be the best in the world (CM Punk reference).”
Needless to say, he’s also a huge WWE fan.
So, was he a fan of the original series?
“Like everybody my age, we watched the old ‘Hawaii [Five-O]’ re-runs. So yeah, I was totally a fan. When the new version came out, I watched a few episodes but lost track of the show times and whatnot. True story, after watching the first episodes of the new ‘[Five-0]’ and [seeing] Taylor Wily (Kamekona) on the TV, I joked around with my wife and said, ‘Hey, babe, I could totally play that guy's brother or cousin!’ Fast forward about three years, and I'm part of the cast. True story bro!”
He’s since become really close with his on-screen ohana member, sharing most of his scenes with Wily… but the ‘Shave Ice’ proprietor isn’t the only one he enjoys working next to.
“I gotta give it up to my on-screen cousin, Taylor Wily. He's such a good braddah. Good family man. Yeah dude. Big T rules! For sure, being surrounded by the main cast is always a treat and an honor, but coming in at a close second, I would have to say Grace Park, [because] all [of] my friends get jealous when they see me in a scene with her, and dude, she's like really super pretty and stuff.”
The acting singer is multi-talented, stating that he not only plays guitar, but that he’s also delved into brass, having been a trumpeter since seventh grade, admitting, “I was pretty good at it. Not Dizzy Gilespie good, but I could hold my own. I was taught by my first music teacher, Mr. Ferrante. I still keep in touch with him. Really cool guy. He was then followed by Mr. Sugimoto (Mr. S.). Just like Mr. Ferrante, Mr. S. gave me the confidence I needed to pursue music, and I owe much gratitude and respect to them. I can also play the bass guitar, ukulele, and a ‘little bit’ of drums.”
Garnett’s debut EP, “Slowly but Surely,” hit the major digital media market in December of 2013, and has been a huge success, acquiring superb reviews. His songs obviously have a strong island influence, with simple structure and smooth, soothing, yet powerful vocals, accompanied by mellow, pop vibes, comparable to the music of the legendary Bob Marley.
“I had these songs looming around my head and space and wanted to get [them] recorded. My inspiration for these songs comes from falling in love with my wife, basically. Falling in love can bring out the best in you, and for me, it came out in these songs, with the exception of ‘This Life’ and ‘Warm Embrace.’ I was somewhere else in my head while writing those songs. I like writing ups and downs kind of songs, and ‘This Life’ was one of them. ‘Warm Embrace,’ I [don’t know], it just came out that way, I wrote it in five minutes and it made sense, so I stuck with it.”
Although his wife may inspire many of his songs, he does credit others as well.
“Firstly, from my family, I have a few ohana members who sing. I could remember every holiday, the family would throw parties and we would bust out the karaoke machine and just get it on ‘til the break of dawn! Such good memories. Then, when I got older and discovered other music and artists in the world, I got really into Sublime. They really hit me in a way where, every day, I would listen to them. Their late singer, Bradley Nowell, was and still is my biggest inspiration. In Sublime, I found my niche, my groove, and how I wanted to carry that same vibe through my writing. I believe inspiration is everywhere! If you got an open mind, some paper, and a pen, write it down! It could be the best thing you ever did! Some of my songs come from personal experience as well, like I said, falling in love with my wife. I can't express how awesome the feel is to write about somebody who fills that void.”
While he’s focusing mainly on harvesting the sweet fruits of his music career, he wouldn’t be opposed to furthering his acting career either.
“Season four is almost done, and I have a few episodes left [that] I'm in near the end of the season. As for Season five, I [don’t know]. I hope so! If it happens, great! I look at ‘[Five]-0’ and any other ‘acting gigs’ as extra for me. My music is my primary as of now. If acting takes me to another level, that's totally cool beans! I can honestly say I fell into acting. Just like music and getting gigs, somebody in casting gave me a chance, and for that, I am grateful. If my acting ‘career’ ever goes farther, cool! All I wanna do is take care [of] my family with the gifts I got.”
Garnett shares that he'll soon begin working on a full length album, more than likely with his good friend, Demitri, at Artemis Audio.
“‘[Five]-0’ will be coming back in four or five months, so who knows what's in store for ‘Cousin Flippa.’ The horizon looks limitless.”
You can catch Shawn Garnett at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at the BeachComber in Waikiki every Wednesday and Thursday from 7:00PM to 9:30PM, and every Saturday from 12PM to 2PM at MonkeyPod Kitchen in Ko Olina, across from the Disney Aulani resort.
For more information and future tour dates, visit www.shawngarnett.com, ‘like’ his official page on Facebook at Shawn Garnett Music, and follow him on Twitter at @HawaiianDude77. His EP, "Slowly but Surely," can be purchased on iTunes and CDBaby.com.
Hawaii Five-0, starring Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Michelle Borth, Chi McBride, and Masi Oka, airs Fridays at 9/8c on CBS.