Not much is known about Jonah Yano yet, but he’s slowly becoming one of our favorite soulful singers. The Japanese-Canadian grew up with a grandmother who introduced him to the piano at a young age, which he still considers to be one of the most impactful moments in his musical career. Pulling inspiration from Leslie Feist, MONEYPHONE, and Earl Sweatshirt, Yano has finally unveiled his incredible debut EP, nervous.
Although most of his debut EP is laidback, there are also subtle elements of hip hop, electronic, and jazz drizzled throughout the six-track collection. While the title track, “cold,” and “older” are smooth and stripped down, Yano showcases his versatility with more heavily produced songs like “perfume,” “sails,” and “tarmac,” which fuse hip hop and electronic soundscapes. Yano seized the opportunity to accept his debut EP as a learning experience, which sharpened his ability to express his complex emotions through music.
Familiarize yourself with the rising soulful singer’s nervous EP below:
To celebrate the release of his fantastic new EP, we recently chatted with Jonah Yano about his dream venue, favorite meal, and of course, nervous.
OTW: How did you first get into music?
Yano: My grandmother introduced me to the piano when I was like six or seven years old. She would teach me little bits, and pieces every time I went to her house back then. I eventually got a beginner’s guitar for Christmas one year and my fascination with that instrument continues to this day!
OTW: Which musical artists influence your dynamic sound?
Yano: Holy moly. I think I could answer this question in different ways until the end of time. However, I’m going to limit myself to three people who inform my music in very fundamental ways. Leslie Feist - my admiration for this person as an artist is never ending. She has the same way with words as all the great Canadian songwriters before her. When I listen to her songs, I feel like I’m learning from Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gord Downie, and Feist herself all at once. MONEYPHONE - these two guys are some of my best pals in this scary world and also two of the most inspiring and talented people I have the pleasure of knowing. They introduced me to autotune and so many other elements of music making that allow me to expand beyond a guitar and a voice. Thanks guys. Love you! Earl Sweatshirt - like a lot of young artists today, I grew up as an Odd Future fan. That broad interest has since narrowed itself onto Earl in particular. The way he can use the English language is on a level of literary genius. He’s also an incredible producer and his sound is so emotive before he even says anything. That’s something I strive for.
OTW: Why is your Instagram handle @pianosolos?
Yano: Because I love listening to solo piano music.
OTW: Describe your new EP in five words.
Yano: I can finally make rent!
OTW: What’s the writing process for your new EP like?
Yano: On a writing level, this EP was all about learning how to write in a different way. So a couple of the songs on the EP are written in a classic guitar-at-home kind of way, which is the way I’ve always written and felt most comfortable. However, four out of the six songs on this EP were written by me standing in front of the microphone and making noises over an instrumental until something came out. It’s something I’m finally beginning to feel confident in doing.
OTW: “nervous” showcases your ability to transform everyday moments in the most emotive lyrics. Why is this an important part of your music?
Yano: I think it’s an important part of my music because it’s an important part of my life to be able to express the way people and places and things make me feel. Songwriting allows me to fully express these things beyond the words themselves.
OTW: “perfume” reflects on the feeling of being hopelessly captivated by someone special. Have you ever played a show to a crowd that left you feeling speechless?
Yano: I recently got to sing a couple songs with BADBADNOTGOOD onstage in Vancouver to a crowd of many friends and family. That was a wild feeling. Definitely didn’t do much talking for a minute after that one.
OTW: If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would you pick? Who would be your openers?
Yano: I think I’d perform on Miyajima Island off the coast of Hiroshima in Japan. The audience would mainly be some wild deer and a couple tourists. The opener would be Hiroshi Yoshimura, and he would play his ambient album Music for Nine Postcards in full.
OTW: You recently tweeted, “I sometimes just eat a family size bag of salt and vinegar chips instead of dinner.” What’s your favorite meal?
Yano: Probably a tie between chicken on fries from the shawarma spot down the street and the red dragon ramen from the spot across the street from the shawarma spot.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?
Yano: MONEYPHONE and monsune.