Flaunt Premiere | Jonah Yano: Tarmac

by Paulette Ely

Coming off of some killer collaboration highs, Jonah Yano is set to release his new EP shortly, and we are all sitting on the edge of our seats. We have the privilege to premiere one of my favorite songs from nervous, tarmac. tarmac is an essence of experimentation as it creates a deep journey into themes of the unknown with a piano plunging drop. Not only is Yano commendable on his truly never before heard sonic style, he also has a radical relationship with the music industry and his own self. Read our interview below to see what I mean, and be sure to stream Tarmac and all of the other beautiful songs via Innovation Leisure tomorrow!

You seem unapologetically yourself. When did you first realize that you identify with creativity?

I’m not sure that there was a Eureka moment. I kind of just identified with it for as long as I can remember. It varies in intensity over the course of my life, but I think being expressive and openly communicative in unique ways is something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing. Whether it’s singing songs for your family at dinner or playing drawing games with your friends, it’s always something I’ve been drawn to regardless of if it’s for “artistic practice.”

Tell me a little bit about your upcoming EP.

I think first and foremost, it’s not a project with one concise message. I’m working toward being able to do that in the future and making a concept album, but this is more of a mixtape or an EP with exploring the different sounds that I can and going in all of these different directions that I feel like I can go in musically in my life. As far as the concept goes, a lot of it is about being in love and all of the little nuances that come with that- kind of like finding a real adult relationship and expressing how that makes you feel. A couple of the other songs are a little introspective and self explorative, but for the most part it’s about new love and what comes along with that. 

You mentioned being self explorative, and I really pick up on the importance of your relationship with yourself as well. I really appreciated something you shared on social media about the under representation of asian people in music. Can you elaborate on that?

In the little screen capture on instagram, I talked about under representation of all people of color and minorities. In my specific case, there are not many asian people in popular music. It’s changing now with people like Joji, but growing up there weren’t many people to look up to. It’s hard to convince yourself that playing music and pursuing music is worth it when it doesn’t seem like anyone who looks like you is getting any success. There obviously have been asian people in North America making music and getting no coverage, and not getting propelled forward by the machine that is the music industry. It was hard growing up, and it made me step away from making music for a little while and from performing at large, and it kind of stopped me from pursuing any sort of career in performance or art or anything. I thought that it may be too hard if you’re not white. Now, I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities. I have people like Nina Lee helping me and have Innovate Leisure help me promote my record, but I also understand how rare it is. Even today, I can’t think of the last time I saw any press surrounding an Asian-American artist. Another thing that I understand is that if I was making music even 10 or 20 years ago, it would exponentially more difficult to get any attention based on the way that I look. I grew up in a place where 70 years ago, there were Japanese internment from World War ||. I guess I just feel fortunate to represent people who look like me. I see it happen a lot of times too with artists of color where a part of their identities is, in my case, “Japanese-Canadian,” in the press. It doesn’t happen for white people. Its going to be a part of me so I feel like I could ignore it, but why? I think it’s cool to talk about it and be able to talk about it on places like Flaunt. 

You mentioned the difference between Canada and America in terms of exposure. What about in terms of musical sound?

I think maybe pre-cell phone and pre-internet there was a lot of distinction in sound of music in different areas in general. I think music has been globalized in a way where I couldn’t tell the difference if I heard my music made in Canada or The States. I guess I personally don’t think there is any difference anymore.

Tarmac is your most experimental sounding song and the drop is so unexpected I got chills. How do you create such range in your sound?

In Toronto, there are a lot of people making a lot of different kinds of music. I work closely with people who make very different kinds of music and hang out with people who make very opposite sounds of music. That song in particular was made with the help of a trap producer that I know. The pairing is so weird on paper. His name is Joseph, and he helps Murda Beatz produce and has beats with Quavo and all of these big rappers and then me. He’s someone who understands music really well and has really great taste. We have a lot of similar tastes in a lot of ways, and I just love hanging out with him and making music with him. I really looked for a spot for him to contribute to this project to really give it a rounded and diverse sound, like opposite to songs prior. I really enjoy experimentation right now, and the value that that brings to an emerging artist. It would be easy for me record six guitar songs and six love songs and put them on an EP and be a rounded and concise vision and we can market it on this folk singer that knows about love songs, but I’m not sure I want to hold myself back like that just yet. I want a diverse, well rounded, body of work so that I don’t get caught having to make the same music over and over again. Slow and steady. There’s not just one side to an artist.

With the world about to hear your voice- what is the one thing that people should know about you as you are coming up?

Something I want to drive home for the duration of my career, no matter how long or short that is, is that everything that is being presented is genuinely me. These songs are about real things and the videos come form real life, and there’s no strong branding behind anything. My intention behind putting out music is using hindsight to my advantage. This is my first project, and threes not really content that this fits into because I’ve never put out music before. I won't be surprised if people are confused about what this music is and why it sounds the way it sounds. By the time I put out my next music, I hope people listen to that and use the comparison between my next work and this work and kind of start to build the picture that it’s just me. Everything that’s going on is a real expression of a person who is just alive, doing regular things and telling regular stories.

Interview by: Paulette Ely