NAMM interview with Tokyo-based singer songwriter CJ Li
Born and raised in Vancouver, singer songwriter CJ Li is creating a buzz around the world. She’s living in Japan where she has released 3 major albums and toured the island with over 200 shows.
Hello Vancity caught up with her in LA, fresh off her performance at the largest music industry conference in the world – NAMM.
HV: Hi CJ. Congratulations on all of your recent successes. The last interview we had was a three years ago. What have you been up to since?
CJ: Thanks, it’s good to be back on Hello Vancity. The last three years have been crazy in the most wonderful ways. I’ve had the opportunity to perform all over Japan, I’ve partnered with Taylor Guitars, and my latest major album has been doing well.
HV: Amazing! Tell me about your latest album.
CJ: It’s called “Arigatou” and its mostly in Japanese with a Japanese title track. But there’s also something for my international fans – “Rocket to the Moon” and “Without You”.
HV: You are born and raised in Vancouver. What made you decide to move to Japan?
CJ: I had just graduated from the Jazz Studies program at Capilano University, and I was ready for the next chapter in my life. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music, and I was intrigued by Japanese culture and Japanese music. Next thing I know I’m holding a one way ticket to Tokyo ready to take on the scariest and most exciting challenge of my life.
HV: What’s the biggest difference between playing for a Japanese audience versus one here in Canada?
CJ: In Japan, the audience is very aware of the performer so they are quiet and attentive. It’s how they show respect. Sometimes between songs, the crowd is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. During those silent times, I learned to embrace it and start talking about myself or my songs. It was strange at first, but I’m used to the silence now. Actually, I’m so used to it that now I’m not used to loud, rowdy crowds anymore.
HV: That’s funny! Last week you played at NAMM 2018 on the Taylor Guitars stage. What was that like?
CJ: It’s been a while since I’ve performed in North America. Also, it was my first time at NAMM, so I didn’t know what to expect. I met a lot of incredible people from all parts of the music industry, and I also got a chance to meet amazing artists – stay tuned for some interesting collaborations.
HV: You mentioned you were performing on the Taylor Guitars stage.
CJ: Yes. Taylor Guitars decided to fly out 3 artists from Japan to share their music and their experiences. Definitely one of the highlights of my career so far.
HV: We caught the show on Facebook Live and it looked awesome.
CJ: It was seriously such a blast. I tried not to overthink it and just play my music, both English and Japanese. The funny thing was that I was getting both languages mixed up in my head. Over the course of the event some Japanese words accidentally slipped out during my English conversations. (laughs)
HV: That must have been some reverse culture shock for you! Any plans from now on, moving forward?
CJ: Yes, my next headlining concert is happening this summer in Tokyo. We’re expecting about 600 fans to come. Also, I’ll be working closely with Taylor Guitars and collaborating with different amazing artists this year. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram @cjlimusic.
Also, my latest album Arigato is on Apple Music and Spotify and you can check it out right now. For your readers I especially recommend “Rocket to the Moon” and “Wanna Be Loved”.
CJ: Thanks so much for always encouraging me, listening to my music and following my adventures on social media. Hope to meet and talk to all of you soon.
HV: Thanks, CJ, for taking the time to talk to us. We’re looking forward to your next big thing.