Japanese singer-songwriter and model Rina Sawayama burst into the music world with her 2017 debut mini-album Rina, which gained critical acclaim. Last month, she released a music video for her new track Cherry, which offers the first glimpse of her highly-anticipated follow-up, due early next year.
Ahead of her first US tour, she spoke to Young Post by phone about the single, and the whirlwind ride of trying to balance two artistic careers.
“I was that annoying fame-hungry child from the get go!” laughs Sawayama, who has lived in London for more than 20 years.
“I remember being told off by different teachers at different schools for singing too loud at lunchtime! I wasn’t really exposed to Western music until I was about nine, so I grew up listening to J-pop like Utada Hikaru, Speed and BoA. But my dad loved [British blues musician] Eric Clapton and my mum loved [70s Japanese idol] Yamaguchi Momoe, so I absorbed all kinds of music early on.”
But Sawayama also cites London as having a major impact on her creations; in fact, it inspired her latest track.
“London has always been the coolest city in the world; I still find reasons to love it. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much history, diversity and the energy, and the people are just so real here. I really feel like I have a world perspective on things.”
Her debut record which was recorded on shoe-string budget in her bedroom. Sawayama had no expectations of how it would be received, so put no limits on what she recorded.
“I poured my heart and soul into that mini album, and it was everything I wanted it to sound like with no compromises and no politics,” she says.
“For that album to be received so well was quite emotional, and I’m still not over it.”
Her uncompromising approach to her craft has certainly helped her stand out from the crowd, a perspective that stems from her modelling career.
“I think fashion is the most fast-moving, forward-thinking industry in the creative world, so it makes sense to hire people from that world to work on musical projects,” Sawayama says.
“Visually, I like to keep it different every time and unpredictable; and while the [current trend in music is for] consistency and relatability, fashion is always bold and evolving, and so I like to stay in that world as much as possible, so it doesn’t get boring.”
When it comes to making music, Sawayama believes the best way to be progressive is to draw on your own life experiences as inspiration.
“There’s so much music out there that there’s no point trying to sound like someone else, because you’re already too late at that point,” she says.
“The best songwriters have the best personal stories to tell, and the best musicians have the most interesting inspirations to draw from. But being able to put your past traumas into words, and then making a song out of it can heal you and heal others.
“That’s the difference between artistry and just pure musical skill.”
Edited by Karly Cox