Introducing: Japan-born pop singer Grace Aimi talks channelling island vibes and sunshine in her debut EP, PICNIC

Introducing: Japan-born pop singer Grace Aimi talks channelling island vibes and sunshine in her debut EP, PICNIC

Grace Aimi has a way of melding two worlds together. Whether it’s her American and Japanese background, or the genres of indie-pop and R&B, the singer-songwriter has a knack for putting together drastically different pieces and making them seem like they were always meant to be. 

You see it clearly in her debut EP, PICNIC. Recounting tales of heartbreak and pain yet still beaming with hope, Grace depicts an authentic journey of moving onwards and forward all encased in a soundscape of retro style music. 

My EP is my first lil baby. All the songs on the EP feel like a sunny day and each song gives me such a rush of joy,” says Grace. “It talks about warm and deep love, feeling alone and a bunch of different emotions that I think are very relatable.”

Grace hails from Okinawa, a Southern Japanese island full of culture and character. The singer owes a lot to her hometown, citing it as one of her greatest inspirations. “Being from Okinawa is easily my biggest strength. My island is my biggest strength and flex throughout everything in my life,” she says.

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She also owes a lot to her online community. With a deep-rooted love for music and songwriting, the 21-year-old kickstarted her musical journey on Youtube in 2017. Making covers of popular Japanese songs, Grace and her brother, Gabe gained a following, not just for their incredible talents but also for their genuine personalities. 

“We have the nicest and most loving fans ever and it’s taught me that I should always be truly genuine to myself and to keep a light heart in life. I never want to lose who I am and our channel has shown me that more than the content itself, it’s the personality and vibe that matters most,” says Grace.

Bandwagon caught up with Grace Aimi to talk to her about her musical inspirations, living in Okinawa, and how she pieced PICNIC together.

When and how did you first know you wanted to do music? What pushed you to pursue it as a career?

My whole life I’ve been obsessed with music but the first time I knew that I wanted to start this journey was in my first year of high school. I was writing in my diary while listening to 'Tadow' by FKJ and Masego and out of nowhere, a melody floated into my head.

I started singing and rearranging words that I wrote down to fit the sound and it felt so natural. Ever since then I can’t stop writing and making music. I’m so happy and lucky to have found my passion at such a young age.

You first started on YouTube posting covers with your brother, how do you feel that background has helped you become the artist you are today?

My brother and I have a very laid back and random YouTube channel, we mess up lyrics and chords all the time and we never take anything too seriously. We didn’t think our channel would gain popularity because our videos are nowhere near perfect but the people that support and watch our channel now always tell us that it’s the realness of our content that makes them love it so much. 

How would you describe the music that you make?

I think my music is a melancholic feeling that you can enjoy. Like my actual personality, my music is happy, playful but sad all at the same time. I would hope my music makes people feel like they’re not alone and I hope that it puts a smile on their face when they’re feeling low.

What do you think is your biggest strength as a musician?

Being from Okinawa. Thanks to my island, the people, and the culture here I have a sound that is my own. I don’t fit into one genre. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many different sounds and energies. I think it keeps my soul and my music very authentic and real.

Island gyals just hit different haha. I mean look at Rihanna, she came from a tiny island and now she’s the successful woman that we all have grown to love and cherish.

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Congratulations on the release of PICNIC! Can you tell us more about the EP, what story does it tell? What was the production process of the EP like?

Thank you very much! I actually wrote half of the songs on the EP in my high school years, 'Friend zone', 'My Eyes' and 'True Feelings'. I write all of my own music by myself and it’s so fun to turn my words and melodies into a full song with the help of my producer Chaki Zulu.

He and I have very different personalities but we understand, love, and appreciate each other as true friends. I’ll either write a hook or a whole song, take it to him and he’ll make a beat to match or we start thinking of a concept and vibe for a song right there in the studio. I’ve only been doing music for not even a year yet but I know in my heart that what I’m making is good and it can help people. Being in the studio makes me feel like a powerful wizard haha.

Is there a specific song off of the EP that you’re particularly proud of? If so, why?

I love every song on the EP but the song that I hold very deeply to my soul is 'True Feelings'. This was the first song that I ever got really vulnerable on about my own mental state and inner problems. The day I wrote the song was one of the most emotional and stressful days of my life and the thing that made it worse for me was knowing that it was my own mind making me even more depressed.

It’s so easy to get lost in a busy mind that won’t stop talking but after writing this song I had a really good cry and instantly I felt lighter and happier. This song is one of the reasons I was able to get out of a dangerous mindset. I’m deeply grateful for this song.

 In five years, what do you see yourself doing?

I will have made a community of like-minded people that want to make the world a better place. I have a lot of goals with music, but one of my main life goals is to create a world that is a little more loving and to inspire more people to spread a positive message. It’s hard to change the world with just one person but everyone working together can make the biggest difference.

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Coming from different cultures, how do you feel your different identities play out in your everyday life and music?

My island, Okinawa has so many people from completely different backgrounds and cultures. I feel like I can enjoy life through three different perspectives, my Okinawan side, my American side and my Japanese side. Sometimes I have a hard time in my everyday life because sarcasm isn’t a thing in Japan and for someone who is very sarcastic, it’ll get you into a lot of awkward situations. Trying to explain what sarcasm is, is like trying to explain why humans exist. Impossible.

But musically it keeps me creative and finding new and different ways to express myself. I’m used to being different so I think it automatically creates my own lane and style in music. I have songs in Japanese on the way too so look forward to that.

Outside of music, what do you enjoy doing?

I love, love, love arts and crafts. Before I started pursuing music I wanted to go to art school. I didn’t have the best grades in school but I was a master in music and art class haha.

Also recently I’ve been getting into gardening with my family. We started growing some sunflowers, bougainvillaea, hibiscus, and a papaya tree. It’s my cute little paradise garden.

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What are some upcoming plans you have, in regards to music?

This year I’m going to be releasing more music videos, singles and I have an album coming up after the summer, so I’m super duper excited for that. I hope you all are excited about my journey too!

Listen to Grace Aimi's PICNIC here!