I have been speaking with MASUMI…
about her latest single, Run Baby, Run, and what its story is. She talks about life in Los Angeles and what comes next for her; what sort of music she grew up around; whether there are tour dates coming up - she reveals what she hopes to achieve by the end of the year.
MASUMI tells me how an earthquake in Japan changed her world and ambitions; which rising artist we should get behind; the three albums that are important to her – she ends the interview by selecting a great track.
Hi, MASUMI. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! My week has been amazing! The release of my single - that I’ve been working on for so long - was nerve-wrecking but then, having so many positive reactions from it after the release made it all the work worth it. I’m on the plane to Japan as I am writing this and I’m headed to Tokyo to release the song as well. So, the excitement continues!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. My name is Masumi! I came from Tokyo, Japan to pursue my dream of being a singer/songwriter and I’m now based in Los Angeles! I play acoustic guitar and write songs that are in the genre of Indie/Folk/Pop. My mission is to bring hope and empowerment through the art of music!
Run Baby, Run is your track. What is the story behind the song?
Thank you for asking! The music and lyrics are written by me - and Marko Fazio is the producer of this song. He relentlessly worked on it with me for a year to really bring the emotion and the message I wanted to convey through this song. In 2016, I received a life-changing offer to be managed by a prestigious management team in Japan. I decided to walk away from this career-defining moment and chose to remain in the States to explore possibilities that were more aligned with the artist I wanted to grow into. But, that brought a dark period of depression and self-doubt. I was confused if I made the right choice.
A stranger popped into my life during that time and left me a message to “live with urgency” because “time is running out”. It slapped me awake. It was my second awakening - and helped me get back into motion again. Run Baby, Run is a fight song and it tells the story of finding the warrior within us and letting our strength guide us to our authentic selves. The Astronaut in this music video represents the stranger who blew life back into me.
I was incredibly fortunate to have Loic Zimmerman, who worked in films like Ghost in the Shell, Guardians of the Galaxy; Harry Potter, True Grit and Prisoners, to work for my music video. He beautifully captured the visions I had using The Astronaut and the story I wanted to tell. Marko brought the emotion of the song to the ears and Loic brought the emotion of the message to the eyes and, together, it creates a visceral experience. I can’t be more grateful for the people who were involved with the making.
Is it true the 2011 Tohoku earthquake inspired you to get into music?! Was that a seismic moment that opened your eyes?!
Absolutely. I always felt like there was something else that I really wanted to pursue other than going to university and study Anthropology. But, I didn’t realize how much music and singing meant to me until that moment where I was standing in the middle of the earthquake. I saw my entire life flash by my eyes and all I could think of was how cowardly I was to never pursue that one thing that meant so much to me. And that was music!
You moved to Los Angeles. How important is the music scene there? Did you settle into the city quite quickly?
I was born in Palos Verdes, CA and moved to Japan when I was three-years-old. So, it felt like coming home in a sense. But, of course, entering the music scene didn’t feel that way. I constantly felt overwhelmed by the amount of talent that I was surrounded by - and talented musicians are everywhere in Los Angeles! It’s inspiring, motivating but terrifying at the same time. I’ve definitely grown as a musician being in such a competitive market.
Which artists did you grow up around? Were you hooked on music from a young age?
Yes. I loved American mainstream Pop growing up! But, J-Pop artist like Utada Hikaru and Shiina Ringo were my favorite artists to listen to and I was also in a Punk-Rock band in junior-high-school; so I would listen to a lot of U.K. Punk-Rock music as well. My brother, who is ten years older than me, would always play R&B like D’Angelo and Brian McNight on a loudspeaker at the house, so I was exposed to a variety of different music as a young age.
You have appeared in some big music videos and enjoyed a lot of success. Is it a bit of a blur looking back on it all?!
Oh. You are so kind for saying that! Haha, a little bit! I definitely had been blessed with opportunities to be a part of exciting things recently and I can’t wait for more to come!
Might we see more material next year at some point?
Yes! I’m working on my new single that I’ll be releasing at the beginning of next year! I’m really excited for this song and to get back into creative mode in the studio.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
This year was full of transformations for me. Personally and musically as an artist, so much growth took place this year. The launch of my single, Run Baby, Run, marked the new beginning for me as MASUMI. My tangible goal for the year will be to definitely have the new single wrapped and also to elevate my live performance style to better communicate the artist that I am.
But, most importantly, my biggest focus for the rest of this year is to achieve a solid foundation and clarity about my identity as an artist. I’m starting to finally understand what message I want to carry out after writing many different songs. Now is the time to zoom in on what exactly I stand for and build myself on that solid ground.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
I have to say, going to Japan with my acoustic trio - MASUMI Trio - was one of my fondest memories! Having musicians that I grew to call family and play with them in my own hometown; feeling the support from everybody every show we played was truly fulfilling! Opening for Moby at the NAMM Show 2015 was also incredibly humbling as well.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
All of Nina Simone
Jeff Buckley - Live at Sin-é
It changed the way I looked at singing. He expresses himself so authentically with his voice without having second doubts or fear. It gives me chills every time I listen to it.
India Arie - Acoustic Soul
I listened to this album so many times and I never get bored of it. It makes me feel like I'm having conversations with an older sister or something. So much wisdom and love in this album.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I love Bishop Briggs!
Will there be some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
I’ll be back in Los Angeles to play a show in October (date T.B.D.). I’ll make an announcement through my social media as well!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Trust in your greatness and the warrior within you!
IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Maeson
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Matt Maeson (Cringe – Stripped)
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
This is something I had to work on: to nurture myself away from music to keep balance. My favorite way to unwind when I have the time is to do ahinrin-yoku (bathing of the forest) and go hiking or walking around the forest.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I LOVE Jeff Buckley’s cover of Be Your Husband. It gives me chills every time. Please play this song! (Smiles). Thank you for your time in reading this xx