Three years ago, Japanese singer Gille had all but given up on making a career out of her voice, when she received an unexpected call from a friend in Spain.
"Hey, you should check out this Asian girl on YouTube. She's an amazing singer," said the friend, who had no idea that the singer in the video was actually the person she's speaking to.
Having grown up on her father's farm in Miyazaki, on the island of Kyushu, Gille taught herself to sing by practising wherever she went. "We lived at the top of the mountains, and I would sing The Sound of Music," says the 28-year-old. When her parents tired of her booming voice, she still had 8,000 cows as her audience.
In university, she found praise wherever she went. "I was naïve at that time. I thought, these people are from Hokkaido, Osaka, Nagoya, and they all say I am a good singer. So maybe, all of Japan thinks I'm a good singer," she says. Confident, she left school and bought a ticket to Los Angeles. Using the stage name Tasha Gee, she sang at pubs and jazz bars, but nobody took her seriously.
So she returned to Japan, where she spent years busking and playing small gigs. "One Christmas, I sang in Tokyo Bay. It was freezing," she recalls, shuddering. "I was singing for two hours, in a dress without sleeves. And it was a cheap gig, the pay was just 4,000 yen (HK$260). I tried and tried, but producers never approached me."
Gille's English may not be native, but her intonation is very American. Realising this was her strength, she began posting videos in which she sang popular Japanese songs in English. It was going to be her last musical endeavour before giving up the dream to go back home to help at the family farm.
To put her Tasha Gee image behind, she started a new YouTube channel under the name Gille and recorded herself singing in silhouette. She didn't even share the videos on social media. "I was afraid to go on YouTube the first week," she admits. "I was afraid. What if the view count was zero?"
Within a month, though, her videos had garnered two million views. Most popular was her rendition of AKB48's Flying Get, in which she added an English intro. Suddenly all the hard work was paying off. Labels flocked to sign her.
She's just released her fourth studio album, I Am Gille. 4 - Anime Song Anthems, and two weeks ago, she swept three prizes at the Hong Kong Asian-Pop Music Festival 2015 Super Nova Contest. Travelling around Asia has inspired her to host a music festival at her family farm. "Of course you should come, and sleep with the cows," she jokes. "My cows are super sweet."