Sean Cleland is a two-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist based out of Honolulu, Hawai'i. Described as an "innovative singer-songwriter and prolific performer who plays pop, rock, and soul" by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, his music can in one moment be introspective and refined, and in the next, fiery and emotional. Blending together a hooky pop-songwriting aesthetic with the raw emotion of his electric guitar, Sean traverses and synthesizes the frenetic passion of rock and blues with the sultry sounds of r&b, jazz, and soul.
Artists as diverse as John Mayer, Tom Misch, Gary Clark Jr., Ryan Adams, Hozier, and James Bay may come to mind when listening to Sean. Sean's guitar playing sits on top of his compositions as a dazzling electric blend of Mayer, Misch, Eric Krasno, and Mateus Asato.
Sean's most recent album, "Chroma (vol. 1)", won the state-wide 2021 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for 'Alternative Album of the Year' (awarded by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts) (produced by multiple Na Hoku Award-winning and Grammy-nominated producer Imua Garza). It features the previously released 2020 singles "Comfort Kills" (feat. ATOM), "Able (Break The Clock)", "Aim Higher", "Sleepless", "Cheap Thrills", and "Chroma", as well as 3 additional songs. The singles have been featured on multiple blogs and Spotify playlists, and have received regular airplay on 90.1 FM KTUH college radio, appearing on their NACC charts for multiple weeks.
"Chroma (vol. 2)" will be available December 10.
The latest single from the upcoming album, “Three (For You)”, is a meditative look at the past. Acoustic guitars and piano intertwine on a perpetually moving figure, while harmony vocals shimmer behind the confessional lead vocal. The narrator speaks to the parental love that we often take for granted: “There was love before I knew it’s name, but I felt it just the same. Maybe I can give back some of what you gave. I owe everything I’ve become to you”. And reflects on the regrets of the past: “Hold on, because that wasn’t me. I see now your love was given for free. I was wrong for most of the time, a love absentee”. The song is grounded in it’s acoustic simplicity, but is ethereal as well, drawing comparisons to artists like Fleet Foxes and Iron & Wine. “Can I take a moment to retrieve the single syllable that we all need? A parent’s love is the only reason I’m me. I miss how things used to be. When it was just us three.”
The five other recent singles off of "Chroma (vol. 2)" are “Ego” (an effortless groove, blending elements of ambient pop, rock, and jamband styles into a soulful mix perfect for a chill Sunday), "White Noise" (evoking the ambient textures of Boards of Canada and late-era Radiohead), “No Ceiling Above” (a rocker that bursts with blues-rock swagger in the same vein as Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, or The Black Keys), " Misfit" (a funky track in the musical neighborhood of Lettuce, Soulive, or Jamiroquai) and "Wake" (shades of Mayer Hawthorne or a jazzier John Mayer).
All tracks and albums are available to stream at the links above or for purchase in the store.
Sean's 2018 album, “The Process Of”, won the state-wide 2019 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for 'Alternative Album of the Year' (awarded by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts) (produced by multiple Na Hoku Award-winning and Grammy-nominated producer Imua Garza). He accompanied the album with two acclaimed music videos for the songs "Salary Man" and "Curl". Sean has also self-produced three albums, "Wanderlust", "Silence Speaks Louder", and "The Winter Room". He is a relentless performer, and has played at the 2020 NAMM Show, opened for acts like Iron & Wine, Houndmouth, and Henry Kapono and performed at world-class venues like Blue Note Hawaii. He has also had music placed on NBC and Freeform. Currently Sean performs live in two basic configurations: 1) a solo act featuring a completely live (zero pre-recorded material) looping performance of vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, and sampled drums or 2) a full band format (trio, quartet, or quintet). For a more detailed bio, please head to either the Electronic Press Kit or History.
Sean was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, but was raised for most of his life in the northern California wine country. He is Hawaiian-Chinese and Scots-Irish/English. Sean began playing music at the age of 13, and has never looked back. He attended college in southern California earning a degree in philosophy and anthropology, all the while playing and honing what he knew to be his primary passion - music. After a life-changing backpacking trip across Europe and parts of north Africa, he returned to the islands in 2009 and immediately felt a deep connection to his Hawaiian heritage as he began to develop his music career in earnest.
Sean currently lives in Honolulu with his wife Chelsea and their two cats, Toasty and Oslo. They are both avid travelers, and have satisfied their wanderlust in places like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, China, Japan, Norway, Ireland, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England, Scotland, and Switzerland.
Every part of his history informs his art today.