Multi-Talented Musician YUKI Discusses His Debut Album, ‘Be Free,’ Working With Jayden Smith and More!
Get to know about the multi-talented artist, producer and recording artist Yuki! He recently released his first full-length album “Be Free” via all digital and streaming platforms. Most notably known for his work on Jaden Smith’s critically acclaimed sophomore album ERYS, the multi-talented 19-year-old from Hamilton, NZ, boasts a combination of alternative hip-hop production, intricate instrumentation, and deep emotional lyrics on the debut release. Fully embracing a DIY approach, “Be Free” has been in the works for over the last year and a half; and consists of 10 tracks all written, produced, and performed by Yuki, with contributions from Maxwell Young, recent collaborator with Clairo, and James Rim, producer and engineer for Jaden and Willow Smith.
“The project follows me coming to terms with growing up and freeing myself of the weight left on my shoulders” explained the on the rise and multi-faceted artist. “Achieving true freedom is arguably impossible, but I feel like the motivation and drive to achieve it, is what the album encapsulates, and I think reflects huge growth for me both personally and as a musician.”
In addition to Yuki’s work on Smith’s sophomore effort, he also contributed instrumentation for the album track NOIZE, featuring Tyler, the Creator. After receiving impressive placement as the official intro to last year’s NBA Playoffs, Yuki not only gained recognition from a slew of new fans, but high praise amongst his musical peers, setting the stage for what’s to come.
Born and raised in Hamilton, NZ, Yuki (also known as Hugo Chan) discovered music at a young age, which inspired him to leave school at 17 and travel to LA to pursue music. He spent most of 2018 in LA, working on Jaden Smith’s sophomore album ERYS (out in 2019) – including instrumentation for the track NOIZE, featuring Tyler, the Creator – which led to impressive placement as the official intro to last year’s NBA Playoffs. Yuki returned to Hamilton in 2019, and has been working on building his new album Be Free from the ground up since. Be Free represents Yuki’s growth as an individual and musician, through the extremely vulnerable lyrics and intricate instrumentation.
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Learn more about Yuki in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. So given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times?
That’s the frustrating thing with Covid – I don’t really have a typical day! It’s always changing. Sometimes I am super inspired and creatively active, and then other weeks I am in a complete block. I think I have adjusted my expectations of myself the most, not forcing myself to create or feel like I have to do more because of the free time.
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now?
I’m in New Zealand, and have been out of quarantine for a few weeks now! I think the quarantine mindset is still ingrained in me a little bit; and the hardest part has just been balancing music work and staying entertained during all the down time.
How did you come up with your artist name and why not just go by your own name, Hugo Chan?
I guess growing up I didn’t really like my name. I own it now, but being a half Asian kid, I had been picked on for just having the last name Chan. It makes it ironic now that I went with a super Japanese name, but it was inspired by a Mac Demarco video from 2016 as one of the characters/actors in the video was named Yuki.
I am curious what it was like quitting school in New Zealand and moving to LA at just 17-years-old?! How soon after were you able to find a job in the music industry?
It was super exciting for me. I really wasn’t liking school. In fact I ended up hating it towards my last year, and am so grateful to have had my parents support during that period. It was like living out a dream, and I was able to start my real journey in music. It took a while to hit something though. I always tell the story of reaching this super, super low point where I almost felt like giving up, but then a week later I met Jaden! Crazy!!
Let’s talk about your recently released debut album, Be Free. What was it like recording this collection? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting it altogether? Did it get finished before the quarantine began in March?
Making Be Free was the craziest experience I have had with music. I worked on it in so many different places with the best group of people, and wrote about my life during that stage. I think I was super surprised by the end product. When I started the album, it was very different, more conceptual and flashy; but then it transformed into something super personal and more mature, which I am super happy about! I am really proud of the growth it shows in me! I had 80% of the mixing finished before quarantine, but finished some last things before its release.
What was the inspiration for the songs on “Be Free”? Can you pick out a few of your favorites on the album and discuss how they written and got to be on this collection?
The songs were written as little windows into my life from 2018 – 2019. I made over 80 songs during that time, and these ones were the ones that really flowed best. My favorites right now on the album are; the intro “Be Free”, the outro “Darling”, and “Ok Baby!”. The intro was created pretty quickly actually. I made the first version of the beat and recorded my verse over it, which is pretty much the same take as the final version. I sent it out to all my close friends to see if they had any ideas, and they all came back with amazing responses, so it ended up being this super grand sounding posse cut track.
I wanted “Darling” to sound like the end credits, rather than a strict end to the record. “Darling” is written like a conversation or direct letter to freedom and to myself almost, sending away and summing up that although times that are hard and hurt you. You can always count that things will turn out okay eventually.
“Ok Baby!” to me is like the real outro. It’s the climax sonically on the record and is a break up song, but from the perspective of being fed up and over trying harder in the relationship. All I could really say was “okay” and move on. I definitely didn’t write it from a hateful stand point, more of a “Aghh damn this sucks but whatever” one.
Have you been able to make any music videos for any of these songs yet?
Not fully. I am sometimes too harsh on myself and that’s why I don’t have any videos out. I really want to get the first one perfect and up to standard with the music, but we shall see!! I have been planning and thinking a lot about ideas though!
What was it like working on Jaden Smith’s sophomore album “ERYS”? How did this opportunity come to you? Is there anyone that you are currently dying to get into a recording studio with?
I met Jaden through mutual friends and then officially at ComplexCon 2018. He’s the best. That’s my homie and working on ERYS with him really pushed me to make Be Free! I’m really trying to get in the studio with Chloe x Halle right now! I’ve been listening to them a lot! “Ungodly hour” is in my top 10 songs this year.
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US and even the world is going through now?
I’m not sure to be honest. I think as artists we NEED to be aware of the impact black culture has on music and how blessed we are to be able to make music that the growth of time has inspired!