From Teacher to Full-Time Musician

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‘Bright gloom’ indie music makes lasting impression

Meet the Artist: Isabeau Waia’u Walker
By Dennis McNabb, Staff Writer | Photo by Mary Putulin


Isabeau Waia’u Walker is all of those things and so much more, all wrapped up in one perfectly imperfect package. Born in California and raised in Hawaii as a Kanaka Maoli wahine (Native Hawaiian woman), where her family returned to shortly after she was born. She moved “temporarily” to Oregon to attend Warner Pacific University, but fell so deeply in love with the local community she never left. It’s a fortunate turn of events for us, because after a lifetime of considering her talents to be avocational, she recently retired from teaching to commit full-time to the pursuit of her passion: music.

A ubiquitous presence in her life since childhood, music was, and is, simply an integral part of Isabeau’s identity. It’s a key aspect of her culture. It’s in her blood. Her entire family sings and/or plays an instrument, and those songs that they “performed” during family gatherings not only planted the seeds of her inspiration, but also helped to inform and develop her unique sound. Make no mistake, Isabeau has “arrived.” One listen to her most recent output will quell any doubts about that. Much like the legendary “Road to Hana,” it has been a long and windy road.

Tentative steps were initially taken in the early 2000s. Isabeau recorded an EP, but the songs were experimental, a little rough by her current standards, and she had yet to find her voice. A second EP followed a few years later. That one was better, but still more of a learning experience than an actual representation of who she is as an artist. It wasn’t until 2020, when she put out her 3rd EP and first official release, entitled “Better Metric,” that she discovered her sound. To announce her arrival in grand fashion, her track, “Woman” from that EP made OPB’s list of top songs in 2020.

Of course, COVID hit at the same time and all of her plans to tour and promote the album were instantly scrapped. That could have derailed a lesser creative, but instead she utilized that time to write and record her “first full length, “The Body,” which came out in May of 2022. A highly personal and emotional album, the songs on this one delve deep into what it means to be a woman, to reconnect with the physical body as well as the spiritual and to embrace every facet of what that entails. Taken directly from her journal, her lyrics provide a window into the soul of an incredible woman and an amazing artist.

To paraphrase from her website, Isabeau is “bright gloom.” Her songs are “soothing and soft while powerful.” They are “accessible while complex,” “sweet [while] aching.” There is a duality that reverberates through the layers of her music which brings such tension and depth that it invites repeated listenings for full digestion. Beautiful and devastating, her haunting and ethereal voice makes a lasting impression, no small feat in today’s musical landscape. And this is just the beginning. With the support of her producer, Ryan Oxford, and manager, Dan Cable, Isabeau has returned to the studio and began recording her second full-length album. She also has a crowdfunding campaign—to support paying the artists involved—launching next month.

Do yourself a favor and seek out this local rising star. You can stream her music on Spotify, follow her on Instagram @beaubeaubarina, or watch her amazing collection of videos on Youtube. If you want to support the cause, you can find her on\Isabeau. And don’t forget to watch her live shows! She performs both as a solo act and also with the band, Y La Bamba.