Exclusive: 5 minutes with Rina Sawayama

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The pop world has been venturing into left of center fields, with eccentric pop starlets like Grimes gaining the attention from the mainstream world and selling out massive venues. With this in mind, there’s something absolutely incredible occurring in the realm of pop, and artist Rina Sawayama is an up-and-coming singer that is gearing up to add to this legacy.

The Cambridge-student turned model/artist recently chatted with us and caught up with us for our ‘5 Minutes with’ series.

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?

Hi. Well actually I got sexually and racially harassed on the street today by a catcaller so yea it started off pretty shady BUT then I reached out to my friends online and got the police involved so felt much better. I realised the power of the internet and also the importance of intersectional feminism #topicalsegway

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

Cute R&B – my EP is a mix of Mariah, The Cardigans, Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah, Sheena Ringo and NERD.


Can you the name albums and artists that have influenced you the most?

First Love by Utada Hikaru
Shoso Strip by Shiina Ringo
Dangerously in Love by Beyonce
Fly or Die by NERD

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?

I’m soooo into new Ariana, Justin, and Zayn!! Love that pop writing is getting more structured again, cos I was losing hope for a minute. Grimes new album has been on repeat since I saw her in Stockholm, and cos Kill V Maim is the bestest pop track thats come out in recent history.


What would you say some of the challenges electronic artists face today in the music industry today?

I think its translating the sound from url to irl. I’ve seen a lot of artists fall flat live because their set sounds like a louder version of the mp3. Without real instruments, and with keeping costs down, its really hard to make the live experience something special. Thats why I’m focusing a lot on the theatrics and story-telling side of it and making something incredible visually thats also cost-effective.


Where do you gather song writing inspiration?

The honest answer is I don’t know – it just rains down from the heavens when it wants to but when it doesnt come there’s a real dry patch for weeks, months even. It often starts with a hook and then develops outwards, so usually the chorus is formed first. Its different with every track, which is the beauty of songwriting I suppose.

Take us through your production process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

I demo the track in garageband, then start listening to loads of music that I want it to sound like, write down the sounds that particularly inspire me, then take it into Ableton. I usually collaborate with others to finish the track, but I do produce my vocals because I get the best take when I’m on my own on Logic.

What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?

I havent really played many gigs on my own, but the best gigs I did were with my previous band Lazy Lion (with Theo from Wolf Alice and Jelani Blackman) cos we werent taking it seriously at all so there was no pressure.

And the worst?

The worst was hands down the showcase I did by myself at a big famous studio. Showcases are terrifying and there is like, no vibe. No one claps.


If you weren’t a musician what would you be?

omg so many things. I was really serious about becoming a nail technician because I love sculpting acrylic on people’s fingers but its such an underpaid/unregulated industry which put me off. I still want to be a TV chef, a political activist/writer/commentator/advocate, a documentary maker, a psychotherapist, an academic lol the list goes on. I mean, you’re old when you’re dead so who knows?

Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?

I would love to play Fuji Rock Festival as its my favourite ever, and also just playing abroad will be such a trip. I just wanna play big gigs like, now.

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

Well I haven’t announced it yet but I’m really excited for the salute remix of “Where U Are” to come out in April. I’m prepping my next release, which is my favourite song I’ve written so far called “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome,” which will be part of the Alone Together EP. I’m just so excited for people to hear my songs!