AYAKO Takes Us Through Her Breakout Year



From Tokyo to Los Angeles, the Japanese-American Singer/Songwriter AYAKO truly gave us projects to remember this past year.


Most notably, her intricate music video for her hit, "You Are The Damned." Striving to pursue her career as a global Pop sensation, AYAKO saw her 2020 track "You Are The Damned" reach international audiences. As this was her breakout year, AYAKO is continuously garnering fans through her music's natural energy and passion.


Having teamed up with Producers like Shinichiro Yokota and Pleasure Cruiser, we can hear AYOKO's sound blur the lines between Pop and Electronic House Music. She's also released a song in collaboration with EXTREME MUSIC, a production arm of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. That being said, AYOKO's greatest achievement this year was by far the release of her single and music video for "You Are The Damned."


When speaking about the single, AYAKO mentioned that the song is about unapologetically embracing both the light and dark side of ourselves. AYAKO felt inspired to create this song merely due to specific experiences where she felt judged and wildly misunderstood. While the song started as a response to those who doubted AYAKO, it evolved into an anthem for anyone in need of an inspiring message.

When listening to her latest single, "You Are The Damned," we couldn't help but hit the repeat button as AYAKO offers all the grooves for us to forget the distress 2020 brought. Be sure to check out AYAKO on any streaming platform and experience her sweet sounds as she gears up for more releases in 2021.



Hello Ayako, and welcome back to BuzzMusic. Seeing as this year brought quite different and unnerving events, what would you say you took away from 2020 (artistically or personally)?


My main takeaway from 2020 was to remind myself to take a step back and breathe when things aren’t going as smoothly or quickly as expected. Although this year was especially difficult for many of us, there are always going to be obstacles to overcome and I learned the importance of being flexible and coming from a place of gratitude rather than stress and anxiety.


Speaking on your sweetest release of the year, "You Are The Damned," how did the single help your debut breakout?


“You Are The Damned” is about unapologetically being yourself regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. This message has helped me in times of doubt and is a big part of what makes me who I am today. It is a message I hope to continue to share with people in everything that I do. This release authentically introduced me to the world and I am excited to continue sharing more of who I am.


When the global pandemic started and quarantine was set into place, how did you spend your time? Were you inspired to create music?


Besides working on my single and music video release, I spent my time decorating my new apartment, setting up my studio, cooking, and taking long walks around the neighborhood. I definitely had a lot more time to write new music, but the inspiration came in waves. Some days I felt blocked and anxious about the state of the world; and other days, I was super inspired to channel my emotions and thoughts into my music.


Regarding the music video for your single "You Are The Damned," we're truly impressed with the video's depth and intricacy. How long did this process take? Which month did you begin creating the video?


Overall, the process took 11 months! It’s crazy! My creative director, Paige Strabala, and I worked really hard to plan and prep for the music video, which we shot in December 2019. I was originally planning to release it in early 2020 but I actually ended up booking my first lead in a feature film called “Ike Boys”. I was shooting from January to March right before quarantine began. So the post-production for the music video started in April. Lots of back and forth with my editor and good friend, Eisuke Ohga. I also learned PremierePro so I can help with the editing, which took some time but learning a new skill was well worth it. Then we went into color correction, which was done by Adam Scott. It was really fun to work with him and watch him bring the video to life and make it what it is today.


Did you work with any other artists or producers this year? Which was your favorite collaboration?


I have been working with my boyfriend, Jackson Englund, who is an incredible musician and producer. During quarantine, we started a new project called “The Why Nots” and released our first single, “One Heart”, which was written during quarantine about quarantine. I am also working with my friend Z on a project called ESQ APE. These tracks were all recorded with live instruments including guitar, keys, flute, sound bowls, gongs, and even a harp player! Each project brings out a different side of me so it's hard to say which collaboration is my favorite.


Besides the release of your single "You Are the Damned" and the following music video, what else have you been creatively up to this year?


I have been working on the releases of my new music with SEROW, The Why Nots, and ESQ APE. Besides music, I'm also shooting a web series called "My Roommate Is A Shinigami" written by my friends Emma Peet and Vasan Arul.


Are you currently creating anything in particular? Should we expect more original songs and collaborations from you in 2021?


I am currently working on the music video for my next single with SEROW. There will be new music releases for all my projects top of 2021!


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