We had the good fortune of connecting with Yoyo Nagase and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Yoyo, how has your background shaped the person you are today?

First of all, thanks so much for having me! In many ways, the story of my upbringing and my path into the music world is also the story of how my new project “i don’t care.” came to life. This song is written by artists pluto koi, a kid named rufus, pretty havoc., Yoyo Nagase (me), and produced by Axel Hejlsberg.

I grew up an hour’s bus ride from Seattle. Both my mom and my dad are immigrants. My mom grew up in Taipei, the biggest city in Taiwan. I loved going to the night markets where 蚵仔煎 (oyster omelets) and 油条 (Chinese donuts) would be sold on little food stands flashing with brilliant lights and banging woks. Growing up, my mom always taught me to “努力工作 努力玩”, or “work hard, play hard”. She constantly inspires me to never do anything less than one hundred percent.

On the other hand, my dad grew up in a rural village within the Toyama prefecture of Japan. Rice farms and the occasional vending machine dot the otherwise quiet neighborhood. When I visited, we stopped by the ramen shop that he used to work at, and through bits and pieces, I was able to construct an abbreviated version of his childhood. My dad has always been a quiet person, but he supports me whenever I need him to.

In the U.S., there has always a disconnect between my home life and the world outside. I went to a nearly all-white elementary school. At grocery stores, I was constantly tasked to translate for my family. Very few people could sing along to “童話” or “Tong Hua” , an instant crowd pleaser when played in Taiwan. As I grew more conscious of the world around me, I began to notice a lack of Asian representation in Western pop culture, specifically in pop music. I latched onto groups like Far East Movement, Nigahiga’s Boys Generally Asian, and 88rising. However, these groups were few and far between.

Feeling like an outsider looking into a genre that I am trying to thrive in has been an incredibly odd feeling. There are few role models that I feel like I can truly connect with: keshi, Alexx Brooke, lullaboy, and Emei have each played large roles in helping me grow into who I am today.

Now, showcasing Asian voices in pop is something that is incredibly important to me. That is how the song “i don’t care.” by pluto koi, a kid named rufus, pretty havoc., Yoyo Nagase (me) and produced by Axel Hejlsberg came about. Each one of these artists come from a very different Asian background:

pluto koi, born in the Philippines and now based in the bay area, has been releasing beautiful soft pop songs for years now. I particularly love his song “Always” with Louise May.

a kid named rufus, born in Kuala Lumpur and now based in NY, writes incredible projects featuring catchy vocal chops, and a unique sound that is currently taking pop by storm. “useless” is a great example of their incredible songwriting ability.

pretty havoc., born in Singapore, was raised by a Singaporean mother and American stepfather, in cities such as Singapore, Boston and Busan. He currently resides in LA and is a rare Asian voice in the alternative scene which sees a huge lack of Asian representation. He has been able to put his own spin on the genre with beautiful hits such as “goddess”.

Since we all have developed such different sounds over our careers, the collaboration process has been so interesting. The different ways that we have each taken ownership over our verses in the song, and yet, find ways to compromise to build one cohesive song has been incredible. The song is about three quarters of the way done now. We are in the process of layering vocals over each other’s parts, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think that the biggest lesson I have learned is to write music everyday. Mike Errico wrote an incredible book called “Music, Lyrics, and Life” that has really guided my writing process. Each morning, I start by journaling to help kick off my creative energy. The writing doesn’t always end up having to do with my music, but whenever I need inspiration, my journal is the first place I go. I have found that in many ways, working on music everyday helps avoid any writer’s block issues. There will always be a clean slate tomorrow!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I were to take someone out in LA, we would probably hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. The unique rock formations and the expansive ocean views are incredibly beautiful. For dinner, I’d probably go to the Grand Central Market. It’s pretty touristy, but I have a thing for neon signs, and the food is great of course. At the end of the day, I would definitely love to go to a Lakers game.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It’s tough to just have one opportunity to shoutout because so many people have had such a great impact on me. Axel Hejlsberg is an incredible and supportive producer, pushing me musically to places that I have never thought was possible. Kelly Butts-Spirito is constantly inspiring me to dream big and showing me what hard work can achieve. Alaman is leading the new wave of Yale artists, all of whom seem destined to make it big. The person that has helped me the most throughout the entire process though has been my brother, Toshihiro Nagase. He has been there from the beginning of my dream, and no one was more excited for my first release “City Lights” than he was. From helping me on my TikTok lives to giving me feedback on my song demos, he is involved at every step of my process. I am extremely lucky to have this kind of support, and I cannot ever thank him enough.

Website: https://www.yoyonagase.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yoyonagase/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc6blU4BP4hGudBoT3_q0BA

Other: TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@yoyonagasemusic

Image Credits
Ryan Fuentes, TJ Noel-Sullivan

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