I was blown away when I came across MASUMI's youtube video of her singing the original song, Sinking Boat. Her naturally soulful voice immediately pulled me in and I had goose bumps by end of the song. Of course, I had to learn more about this talented lady to the point where I caught up with her still in Japan working on her album. MASUMI took the time to grant us an exclusive interview. So, do listen to the undeniably heartwarming Sinking Boat, and continue below to discover more about this awesome artist:
Tell us a bit about yourself and when you realized music was your true passion. “I was born in Los Angeles and moved to Japan with my family when I was five years old. I had a vocal palate when I was in seventh or eight grade, and I was waiting for my surgery. I remember the hospital bed and I was lying there. And I was praying to God saying, “I’d give up anything if you give me another chance to sing, if I could have my voice back again. Before that, I had like maybe six months or more where I was just not talking. I couldn’t utter, I couldn’t make a sound. I just had to stay silent and I had to go to school like that. And that was a long long time where I just had to write to communicate with people, and I kind of grew distant with a lot of my friends but when I was praying to God, singing was the only thing that came to mind that I wanted back. My voice was the only thing, and that’s when I realized that singing was my passion. That I had to do it, that I wanted to do it.”
You played Wadaiko, Japanese drums and toured with the band Kocho-ran while living in Japan. How challenging was it to transition from a band to a solo artist? It wasn’t that hard, I would say. I loved playing with the group. It’s really different playing with a group and playing solo. When I was with the group I felt like it was more about connecting, being tight as a group, feeling the same thing as a group. But being solo I feel like I get to connect with the audience more. I get more chances to connect with the audience more, and I get to play my own material. I get those moments where I can connect with them and I enjoy that more.
I’ve read that some of your musical influences range from Tracy Chapman to India Arie, but describe your sound and how you separate yourself from the rest? When I write my music, I always write like I’m writing a letter to somebody really close to me. It could be my best friend, it could be my boyfriend or my mother. But somebody that doesn’t judge me. Somebody that is always there for me, is always there to listen. Somebody that I’m comfortable telling everything to. So naturally, the sound becomes genuine and honest. I see that kind of vibe in Tracy Chapman or India. Arie’s music. And I want to keep my music as real as possible, and that is to be honest to myself and to my feelings in life. That’s something I practice. Not sure if that separates me from other artists but that’s what’s important to me.
What inspired the song “Sinking Boat?” Sinking Boat is a breakup song. I broke up with somebody I was with ever since I came back to LA so it was a big deal. I remember that night I literally crawled to my guitar and I was playing, I was in tears. My guitar was wet. I was just venting. After a while I just realized that I had a song. I said ‘wow, I think I just made a song.’ That’s how I write a lot of my songs. Yea, it just kind of came out like that. It was inspired by my breakup.
Are you going in the same direction with your album in terms of lyrics and sound? That is yes and no. I think, a lot of my songs that’s going to be on the album is going to be love related. I try to make it intimate as possible, but the one thing that is hugely different is that I recorded the album with a band. So, a lot of listeners that know me as a solo acoustic singer is going to get a different impression because I’m playing with a band. But I wanted people to listen to that album and think “okay, so she’s this kind of sound.” And they come to my live and feel more intimate to me because I’m most likely going to playing solo, or the people that know me solo are going to listen to the album and say, “wow she sounds different, this album”. But I want everybody to hear the different MASUMI sound.
When can we expect the release of your debut album? My album is hopefully coming out in mid-August.
How have you evolved over the years since traveling with a band to working on your own music now? Any life changing experiences along the way? Actually, I came to Japan not to do music. I had to come to take care of some stuff, and I came and had a show, and that’s when I met my producer. He went and produced my EP album, and so, we decided to do that. Then we decided to use it. Bam! So, everything kind of just happened when I came to Japan and I didn’t plan on anything to happen. So, I’m really blessed and happy. The reason why I came back to Japan is to withdraw from the university here in deciding to stick with music in America for a while. So all that decision making definitely changed the direction of my life. I’m grateful. I feel like I’m getting more opportunities, more attention, and more support ever since I decided this. My life is slowly but surely changing.
Outside of music, I also learned that you traveled to other countries in Asia volunteering to help underprivileged and poverty stricken communities. Can you tell us about your decision to get involve, and are you working with any causes now that you’d like to share with us? When I was in university this professor inspired me when I was taking a lot of her classes. She was involved with sex slavery and trafficking in Asia. And taking her classes made me really want to go to the third world country and do volunteer work, learn things I didn’t know yet, feel the things I’ve never felt, see things I’ve never seen. And that was definitely one of the reasons. Another big reason why I really went the first time is because my best friend died on accident when I was in high school, and I felt like the sadness was still there and I was still dragging that sadness and I felt like I wasn’t able to move on from it. Like I was trapped. It was kind of like a soul searching thing I would say. The reason why I kept doing it was because I felt like every time I went to the third world country, most of the people there were poor but they were happy. I felt like a lot of the people I met were very happy and energetic. They were fulfilled, although they were poor and struggling. I was in Tokyo. I was in one of the wealthiest countries and I was still unhappy. And I wanted to know why, and I wanted to be happy. I felt like I could find the answer. I felt like I was coming close to finding the answer by doing volunteer work. Now, I’m not doing it anymore. But one of my goals is to be involved, especially with the womens rights in the trafficking area through music one day.
Back to your music. What do you hope listeners will take from it? I would say hope. Songs like Sinking Boat is a really sad song, but I don’t want to just make everybody sad by listening to it. But I’m saying ‘hey, I’ve been there’. I feel like all girls has had a painful relationship before. I’ve had one, and I know how that feels. I’ve had bad ones but I’m still singing. You know, I want everybody to feel that sense of hope in my songs when they listen to it. I want them to relate to me and I want them to know that I can relate to them. That’s how I feel about my music 🙂
Are you working on any other projects? What’s next after the album is released? I just finished my recording. Still in Japan, so I’m flying back to LA and meeting some people and hopefully from there, I can get some things started. But right now, I don’t know. I don’t know what my plan is. It’s kind of scary but exciting at the same time. But I think everything is going to start revolving when I get back to LA.
Thank you so much for taking the time. Please leave a message for your fans. Thank you so much to everybody that’s listening to my music, supporting me. I’m so grateful that somebody is listening to my songs out there. It’s a crazy feeling. I couldn’t have imagined this happening three years ago so thank you so much. Please keep listening to my songs. I’ll get better and I’ll keep writing more inspiring songs.
Find more at: masumi.bandpage.com/
Image Credit: MASUMI Tsunoda