Recently, I’ve caught up with Yutaka, a Japanese singer-songwriter based in Malaysia. In this exclusive interview, he talks about his journey to the music industry, his latest song Sakura, as well as the challenges of being a Japanese singer-songwriter in the heavily competitive Malaysian music scene.
Editor’s Note: The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
1. Tell us about your journey so far: from your humble beginnings to being a renowned singer-songwriter in Malaysia.
My journey in the music industry kick-started about a year ago. Back then, I was just doing music for fun and I wasn’t serious or totally focused on it. I even didn’t know how to sing well. Prior to the release of my song “Falling In Love”, I met Alan, who’s part of Mass Music, in a bar. He even appears in the music videos of my songs, namely “Falling In Love”, “Hitomi” and “Coco”. When he got to know me, he invited me to drop by his studio to figure something out. The next day, I went to his studio and the rest was history. In the series of events that made me who I am right now, I’m actually immensely grateful for the opportunities that came forth in order for me to chase my dreams and also, for the support given up ’till now, and even in the future, by everyone who’s been involved in my journey.
2. Being a singer and songwriter is definitely very challenging, especially considering the fact that you’re a Japanese thriving in the Malaysian music industry. What were some challenges that you’ve faced in the music industry and how did you overcome them?
It is definitely challenging being a singer and songwriter in the Malaysian music industry especially, as a foreign artist. This is mainly due to the fact that in mainstream Malaysian music, there’s always the presence of the Malay language in it. This highly resonates with the Malaysian audience. However, my songs have an aura of uniqueness to it and this mainly comes from the inclusion of Japanese. To overcome this challenge, we’re producing music for the long-term and to make sure we’re not another one-hit-wonder. I’m pretty sure our fan-base is growing every day and it’ll probably take quite some time for us to gain more recognition. But, I believe that we’ll just have to be consistent, and eventually, we’ll reach the pinnacle of our journey. I love being a singer-songwriter and it’s my dream so, it really doesn’t matter where I come from. As long as I love what I’m doing and I could reach out to people with my music, I’m happy and grateful for everything.
3. Who or what was your greatest inspiration to become a singer-songwriter?
As for my greatest inspiration, it’s Russ, a renowned artist. I actually have his book, It’s All In Your Head and it was about how he became successful from being an independent artist. He was making music for over 10 years, with 11 albums to be precise. He didn’t give up when he didn’t receive recognition and look at where he is right now! He always inspired me right from the start and whenever I’ve felt down in the dumps, reading his book has always helped me out a lot. His music is amazing as well.
4. Behind every song, there’s usually a story that weaves the song into a beautiful masterpiece. Tell us more about the inspiration behind your latest song, “Sakura”.
“Sakura” is a timeless metaphor for the tragically-beautiful existence of love, blossoming once in a lifetime with intoxicating grasp and beauty. It is a fleeting love, the one that passes. Tragically-short and painful, but the essence of this love lasts forever. “Sakura” is a story to embrace fleeting love and enjoy every moment of this precious time, knowing the uncertainty of the next seasons’ blossom.
5. Your past releases, namely “Chloe”, “Crazy In Love”, “Fall In Love”, “Hitomi”, and Coco” have gained a high number of listeners and due to the consequent success of those songs, you’ve also gained a wide fanbase. What inspired you to write such soulful songs?
Honestly, it all depends on the song. For “Crazy In Love” and “Falling In Love” it’s based on a true incident that happened to me and I transformed it into a song. However, for songs like “Coco” and “Hitomi”, I was fantasizing about it so, it was all in my imagination. It could be something pretty random that popped in my mind while I was doing something. For instance, it could be me just showering and all of a sudden, I’m inspired to write about showering. For “Chloe”, that song is super deep. It actually came from a true story but part of it was just a mere imagination. It’s just like a movie but in the form of music. I’ve written more songs that are personal and they’ll be out soon.
6. Bits and pieces of the Japanese language were incorporated into all of your songs, but this was most notable in “Coco” and “Hitomi”. Tell us more about the thought process that went into incorporating such elements and its significance to you.
When it comes to the music industry, you should aspire to be an icon. That means, one should be themselves, believe in themself, and also be unique at the same time. The Japanese elements incorporated into my songs are a true representation of myself. I’m Japanese but I also grew up in different countries. My roots are basically what makes up my songs. Not many artists globally, as I know of incorporate both English and Japanese elements into their songs. Also, the fact that it’s immensely rare for a Japanese to be doing genres like Dancehall and R&B, makes it super unique and new too. I would like to bring my own way of sound in this world and I hope more people would appreciate the songs I create.
7. Describe what music is for you in 3 words.
Love. Freedom. Mystery
8. Looking at the present scenario, namely COVID-19, how has it impacted the music industry?
The way COVID-19 impacted not only the music industry but also the whole world, is quite interesting, to be honest. It has definitely impacted the lifestyle of people from different walks of life. But in my opinion, to look into a positive light into the current situation, COVID-19 has impacted me in a good way. I honestly think that it has made me learn more.
Prior to the pandemic, I’ve always lacked time in producing my own beats due to the fact that I’m always busy with shootings, writing, and coming out with a melody. COVID-19 has given me more opportunities to become all-rounded both as a singer-songwriter and as a human being. I’ve learned how to produce my own beats and songs, improve my writing, as well as my way of singing. Also, I’m trying to learn to rap. I believe, that my newly-acquired rapping skills, would be a new unique selling point as my listeners would definitely feel shocked that I could rap too.
Just a quick teaser here: in my latest song “Sakura”, you could hear me rap. There are also a few more songs in the nearest future to come, that involves me rapping. As a whole, COVID-19 has made me into a better person.
9. So, where do you see yourself in 10 years? Any future projects that you’re working on right now?
In the next 10 years, I have tons of goals that I would like to achieve. Most of my goals revolve around me touring all around the world with a proper team (cameraman, crew, manager etc.) and with the people who’ve supported me and who love me. I would like to travel with all of them together whilst performing nationwide. Hopefully, those goals will happen in a few years’ time and would not take as long as 10 years.
Besides that, I’d like to learn more about different types of music and produce different types of songs instead of just sticking to a singular genre. Another important goal that I’d also like to achieve is to do many collaborations featuring various artists from around the globe. However, my priority to collaborate right now is with Russ, the person who inspired me to reach for my dreams.
10. What would your advice be to aspiring people who would like to create a future for themselves in the music industry?
My first advice is that there are no excuses for being unable to pursue your passion. This applies to everyone in general but for those aspiring to achieve in the music industry, they should have the drive to do the things that they love doing. Financial issues, family issues, relationship issues, or even lack of talent shouldn’t be an issue for those with the drive to succeed in this industry. For instance, if you’re bad at singing, just go to classes and work on it. If you’re unable to write a song, start slowly, and eventually, you’ll get better at it. Even if all hell breaks loose and you’re unable to find means to improve yourself, just ask people or industry experts for advice.
These days, with the internet being the epitome of the world, there’s literally no excuse for being unable to pursue your dreams and achieve in them. If you’re really broke, just record a video of yourself showcasing your talent and putting it out on the internet. Take every day as a learning opportunity to try to make yourselves better than the previous day. As the popular saying goes: the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday. Keep creating and never give up, even in dire times, when you feel that your work isn’t really good. Practice makes perfect and eventually, you’ll feel good about it even though if you’re insecure. You just have to be strong and push yourself. That’s it.
Listen to Yutaka’s new song release, “Sakura” HERE!
Featured Image courtesy of Yutaka