“Maybe you shouldn’t use the term ‘black music’ since we call it ‘urban music’ here.in the US”
Nao nodded to the suggestion by her publicist. They were in the lobby of the Hilton New York. In any minute, this urban music radio station in DC was going to call her for a live interview.
She says, despite the fact that she has lost most of her Japanese accent in her singing, she’s not a fluent English speaker.
“I only lived here for 2 and half years. But without that experience in New York City, I wouldn’t have been where I am now.”
That may be true. Since she lived here, she had a chance to sing at the Apollo Amateur Night and won second place. She was also invited to sing before an audience of 20,000 at the McDonald’s Gospel Fest.
“It may sound like a pretty good Cinderella story but I was always frustrated.”
She was a child who loved singing. Discovered in her teens, she was naturally pursuing a professional singing career. However, despite her devoted hard work, her chance didn’t come along easily.
“I started questioning myself. ‘Why am I singing?’ Then I quit.” In the midst of disappointment, she heard her inner voice whispering “go to New York.“
“No money, no friend, no support. But I managed to get myself to the Big Apple. “
First things first, she knocked on the door of a singing instructor.
“ He was the toughest one. As soon as I started singing a word, he would shut me up with NO! NO! NO! I only heard GOOD every 3 months.”
“ I learned a lot. Even though I think I’m putting my feeling into the song, you can’t quite deliver without techniques. “
“Singing each word clean and clear means respecting the audience.”
Between the lessons, she just kept practicing.
“ My neighbor started complaining. So I went to city parks and sang against the walls.
“Without such experiences, I would have taken music much more lightly. I would have been a very selfish singer.”
However, she was still frustrated by her own slow progress.
One day, she bumped into the song ”A Change Is Gonna Come“ by Sam Cooke.
“When I sang this phrase, I felt courage was coming up to my whole body.”
It was a rude awakening.
“That was the moment. I believed that a change is really going to come to me. I also believed that I could overcome any negative thing as long as I am singing.”
“This is the reason why I’m singing. I wanted to sing the songs that had saved me. When you listen to soul music you can feel the real power of music. So I want to keep singing Soul Music.”
Ultimately, she went back to her homeland. Fortunately enough, that move opened up a new door for her. She signed to a unique soul music label Sweet Soul Records as their very first Japanese singer. Now her US debut album came out from Purpose Records, American independent label known for its quality neo soul releases followed by her successful New York debut live performance at the B. B. King Blues Club.
It still sounds like a pretty good Cinderella Story. “But I know there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” she smiled, “ Great things only comes from your own hard work and solid personal relationship built on love and respect.