1. What is your name and your profession(s)? My name is Natasha Remi Suzuki. My stage name for all singing/music-related gigs is Natasha Remi and for acting, I go by Natasha Suzuki. My main profession is freelance musician, but I do a little bit of everything!
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am a US native, born and raised in Los Angeles County. I am half-Japanese and half-Punjabi.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My parents are not musicians or involved in the music industry, but my aunt was a jazz singer and my grandparents were both actors.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. Because I grew up in a predominantly Asian community, I never really thought much about being an AAPI. It wasn’t until I started attending college in Orange County and then in Boston, MA, that I really noticed being treated or looked at differently. At first, it didn’t bother me much, but the more time passes, the more bold and inappropriate it all seems to be getting and the more uncomfortable I feel.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel very connected to both of my heritages and cultures! More so on the Japanese side because it has always been more present in my life, but I love being Punjabi and am trying to learn more about that part of myself. I spent several summers in Japan doing home-stays growing up and attended Japanese school on weekends. I’ve also been to India a few times and have been part of many Indian wedding ceremonies.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I started music lessons at a very young age and music just continued being a part of my life. I don’t think I ever did not have something music-related going on and although I was a bit aloof about college, I ended up going to Berklee College of Music and majoring in Professional Music, which basically means getting to take lots of classes in whatever I wanted to learn about! It was perfect because I love the process of things and so understanding a little bit of everything allows me to be more aware of the various aspects in music.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I don’t think I ever made a decision like “I’m doing music” - it was already happening on so many levels that I just went with the flow of things. My parents have always been supportive of my pursuit in a music career. They both love it and are definitely my hardest critics, but I am super grateful for that because I don’t think I’d be where I am if they weren’t honest with me.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? I sang back-up vocals for Junko Yagami and ANRI for a special concert here in Los Angeles and it was just such an incredible experience to work with so many established music professionals, but also getting to sing in Japanese was so much fun! I was featured in a commercial for America Airlines Master Card in 2018 and that was also enlightening as I got to dig a little into the acting side of entertainment, while still getting to sing. It encouraged me to keep dabbling in acting. More recently, I sang as part of the gospel choir backing Mavis Staples and Leon Bridges at the MusiCares Foundation Dolly Parton Tribute Concert preceding the Grammy Awards and it honestly saved me. I was on the verge of calling it quits, but it made me feel very close to where I want to be and I am so grateful for that!
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Fresh out of college, one of my songs was featured in a family film called “Doggie Boogie” and I also sang several tracks on an album in Japan called “Miss REducation,” released by River City Music. One of my newer tracks was featured in a commercial in Japan for Tateyama Sake and I was an actor/dancer in Yerin Baek’s most recent music video.
8. Describe to me your dream project. I actually have an incredibly long list of all the music goals I’d like to accomplish here in LA. One of my biggest goals though is to open for a well-known artist. I just think playing my own tunes for a crowd that is already stoked for a show would be such a gratifying emotional experience.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I feel like it’s more challenging when it comes to live performances and what people think is appropriate to say to someone. I would also love to pretend that being a minority doesn’t effect me potentially getting hired on a gig, but I am fairly confident that is does matter if I don’t look like the rest of the group. As an AAPI in general, again, it’s the things people say that are really disheartening and uncomfortable. Not only do people ask me awkward questions about where I’m “from,” but then commenting on my appearance as well.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Actually, the most inspirational AAPI in entertainment for me is actress Tamlyn Tomita because she is extremely vocal about protecting the AAPI community from injustices and I admire her commitment so much. I also adore Junko Yagami because she literally does everything and works so hard!!
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I would love to see much more representation in music. Especially now, when it seems like it’s just the same few artists in the last decade always making waves. Just as much as representation is important in film and TV, it’s important for people to see how amazingly talented the AAPI community is musically. In general, the country (and the world) need to stop finding scapegoats in minorities. Enough is enough and blaming marginalized groups because of one’s own insecurity and fear is becoming its own pandemic.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? SLOW DOWN! I was in such a rush to grow up that I feel like I missed chances to just exist. Also, eat healthier so it’s easier to eat healthy as an adult!
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I’m working on an EP for release mid-summer and I’m so so excited for it. The sound is new (for me), but I’m also incorporating some elements of Japanese and Punjabi music. It’s extremely subtle, but nodding to my roots is important to me and so I’m glad to be able to do it here. I also have another 5-7 projects on my docket, but my timeline is looser on those. I did release a holiday song last year that I’m planning to re-record in several languages for release this December. The song is currently available online in both English and Japanese.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I’m going to be an auntie and I honestly am so stoked about it!!! As a music teacher, I spend a lot of time with kids, but getting to have a little nugget to spoil is the highlight of my year. I am passionate about a lot of things, but my priority is self-awareness. I listen to a lot of podcasts and attend online seminars and read about ways to be a better person. I think it’s super important to understand why you are the way you are and why others are the way they are, and then how to bridge that gap so we can unite on the important issues.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? The Asian hate going on globally is overwhelming. I struggle between wanting to scream at the top of my lungs about it and wanting to curl into a ball and sleep away the feelings. I think the AAPI music community has their work cut out for them as we spread awareness while still trying to recover after this pandemic from a career perspective . I’m sending y’all all the positive vibes!!
Photos provided by Natasha Remi