1) Japan isn’t usually associated with soul and gospel music. How did you get into that genre?
Yes, that’s right. I was very lucky to have my sister who is a big fan of music from all around the world. She always played artists like Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige and that’s how I got in to R&B and Soul music. Also, the movie “Sister Act” was a big hit in Japan so that was when I first started listening to gospel music.
One of the biggest reasons that I fell in love with soul music was when I moved to New York at 21 years old. During my teens, I was having bouts of depression. My parents were going through a divorce and I was having problems at school. The negative situations surrounding me caused me to stop singing for 2 years and I felt that I was losing my way. It was the darkest period of my life, but music was the only hope I had, so that’s why I decided to move to New York to change my life.
When I was in New York, I encountered a lot of amazing music. Music like, “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. Every time I sang that song, the words really encouraged me and helped lift me from that dark place. “A Change Is Gonna Come” made me feel that I shouldn’t give up, it made me believe that I had to continue on in order to achieve my dream. Also at that moment I realized how music could be so powerful and could can change lives, and save people from their struggles. I’m singing soul music because I was someone who was saved by soul music.
2) Who are your biggest musical influences?
That’s a very difficult question! In my teens Aretha Franklin had the biggest influence on me. I’m from Osaka so I loved blues music and I loved how she sang with a little bit of blues style. When I moved to New York as a student it was Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, and especially Gregory Porter who influenced me. Every Thursday Gregory had a show in Harlem and from his show I learned so much. Also gospel music influenced me a lot. I would sing Yolanda Adams songs and just sing them over and over.
When I got back to Tokyo, I started to work with SWEET SOUL RECORDS and that’s when I started to love Neo-soul and got inspired by artists like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Ledisi, D’Angelo. Every genre of music is very important for me to tell who I am and my albums consist of a mix of all these genres.
3) How do you stay connected to your Japanese roots when building a career here in the United States?
When I released my debut album I would always tell people that my dream is to become an international artist not just a Japanese artist. That’s why I only sing in English and all of my songs and albums are in English. In the beginning people didn’t understand my vision for my music but as I continued to share my vision with people they began to understand and support my dreams. Even when I announced that I moved to the States to start my career they were happy and super supportive of my decision. Now I feel like when they see me it brings them hope to chase their dreams.
4) What is the hardest part about breaking into the American market as a foreigner?
I used to feel I have a lot of weak points like English is my second language and I’m too different than everyone. But after performing in the United States at different festivals and shows, I saw how the crowd reacted and realized that music has the power to overcome any of my weaknesses. I was born and raised in Japan but a lot of amazing American music reached my soul, saved me and encouraged me when I needed help.
5) Can you compare your experience being a musician in America and in Japan? For example, are Japanese and American audiences similar or different? Do you change the way you perform at all? Is your music different when you are in a different country?
I think the biggest difference between being an American musician and a Japanese musician is how to they feel and perform the music. American musicians are more about feeling the music and reacting to your band and its more about improvisations. But Japanese music is a lot of layers and specific hits and harmony to express our feelings. So musicians usually play off reading music and not so much improvisations.
How audiences enjoy music is also a big difference. American audiences are very active and gave us big reactions. If they enjoy the music they express how they feel. Japanese audiences are usually very quiet. Some American artists get worried because Japanese audiences are very quiet while they perform but thats just how we show respect to the artist. I become more lively and high-energy when I perform in the United Sates because of the audience and musicians. But I like to perform in both countries for sure!
6) Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes! I’m super excited about my album release “The Truth! It’s my 3rd album and it’s coming out on September 14th! I collaborated with amazing artists and producers from all over the world on “The Truth”!
The inspiration for this album came after my first album “The Light” in 2015. It was a dream come true! The album release party was held at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York and a lot of people showed up. What really made me feel great was that the audience was so diverse and full of all different ages, races, and cultures—including my band members! When we started to play, there was a moment where we all just felt the music. There were no boarders or barriers, there was just music.
Even though we speak different languages or are of different races, when it comes to music we’re all the same… just humans. That night the music united us all as one.
While I was singing, some people were actually crying. It was very special and emotional moment in my life. That’s when I realized music unites us as one and that is the truth.
That night, and that release party inspired this upcoming album “The Truth”.
I’m so excited to share it with the world!
Biography: SoulTracks’ 2015 New Artist of the Year, who combines a powerful voice and New York-styled delivery to create a modern taste still deeply rooted in the history of soul. Since her single “Make the Change” was released by SWEET SOUL RECORDS in 2012, she has received praise from a number of soul music veterans including Grammy-winning Gordon Chambers and Grammy-nominated Eric Roberson.
NY仕込みのパワフルなヴォイスと表現力、ヒストリーに根ざしながらもレイドバックとは異なるモダンなテイストを兼ね備えた現在進行形ソウル・シンガー。2013年の1st『The Light』はスマッシュヒットを記録し2015年には全米でもリリース。日本では同年2nd『Rising』でメジャーデビューを果たした。更に2016年にはアメリカの「Capital Jazz Fest」で2万人規模のメインステージに出演し、同年9月リリースの3rd『The Truth』ではアリシア・キーズらを支えた名プロデューサー／ライターたちと共作するなど世界を股にかけ活躍している。