10 Questions with | Masaki Araya
The Midwestern-born and bred Asian-American Masaki Araya loves to wear many hats when it comes to professionally creative works. The EMMY® Award-nominee has solely and collaboratively involved behind the scenes in various media including but not limited to: Music, TV, film, theatre, live sound, radio, audio documentary, podcast, and an array of written and artistic publications. He continues building a creative legacy people could look back on. Indie Boulevard was able to talk to Mr. Araya about his music, creative process, goals and future plans.
IB: Mr. Araya good evening! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and we're honored to talk with you. You worked on films, TV, theater, radio, audio documentaries, podcasts, and arrangements for other artists. You seem to be bursting with creativity. Is music everything to you? Could you live without it?
MASAKI: Music is one aspect of who I am as an overall person. Aside from songwriting, beat making, composing, arranging, and producing music, I also am a recording and mixing engineer— Both of which are not exclusive to music— as well as a sound designer and editor. To someone else, staying in one lane or one spot may be their cup of tea. No disrespect but I cannot do that. While I can’t live without music, I can’t be engulfed in any one aspect of music, whether it is writing, arranging, producing, business, or anything of the sort, for a long time. I have to switch lanes or I will get bored doing the same thing. That boredom is a reason why I move to work on sound for films, TV, theater, etc. temporarily.
IB: Let's go back in time. Can you remember the defining moment in your life when you realized that music is the meaning of your life?
MASAKI: Music was always been there from the beginning from my parents' relatively small vinyl collection to both of my brothers’ stockpile of music but to pinpoint exactly where the defining moment is a tough one! I had a good music teacher in high school and a music professor in college. I also went to college for music/ audio production where I met many talented individuals, both faculty and students. I also met many creators in my travels. They all bring something different to the table. In the end, I am happy to experience music in many different ways and at different moments.
IB: How do you go about creating worlds in your music? Do you always have the same starting point when you make music?
MASAKI: I guess it goes back to being bored of doing the same thing over and over. It also depends on the work situation. Does it involve vocals or is it just a purely instrumental piece? What genre is it? Is it solo work or collaborative? If collaborative, then who starts writing first? I love to go through the creation of music from various directions rather than the same exact way each and every time. On one, it may be chordal. On another, it could be rhythm or a melody. Most ideas are universal but if possible, then I like to work with ideas that are road less traveled to see if a product can be completed. All and all, whatever sparks an idea and then fleshing out those ideas to a finished product is the goal and however, it gets there from any starting point is fine with me as long as all of them lead to the end goal.
IB: You've been nominated for an EMMY! Can you tell us more about your nomination and your first impressions when you heard about it?
MASAKI: I worked with the amazing recording engineer, Andrew Twiss on the sound recording of Angela Ingersoll’s one-woman EMMY-nominated performance as Judy Garland in Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland. Her husband, Michael Ingersoll, a 2006 Original U.S. tour cast member of Jersey Boys as Nick Massi as well as the creator and member of Under The Streetlamp, was the co-founder of Artists Lounge Live with his wife and co-produced the Judy Garland production. It was simultaneously for stage, a live CD, and a television special on public television. When my name was announced by the illustrious, Dean Richards, I’m not going to lie… I screamed like a school girl and I’m okay with that. I mean, who wouldn’t scream like that if your name is announced for a big award? I would never have imagined having a nomination for any of the EGOTs. I am blessed to have an EMMY nomination under my belt that will forever be with me even after I am dead! If I could get nominated for the rest, then would be awesome.
IB: In addition to TV and music, you've also worked in theater, films, and documentaries. Do all your different projects influence each other?
MASAKI: At first, I thought no because they are different lines of work but after thinking thoroughly, it is a definite yes! When I listen to previous works of mine whether it was the best or the worst I’ve done to date, I constantly think of ways to better myself. There is always room for improvement in either direction but we all want to improve on what we did our best at rather than the alternative. Whether it is in the composition, the mixing, the recording, the arrangement, the sound design, the voice editing, or whatever the work calls for, I'd like to make sure it is the very best it can be. I try not to miss but none of us are perfect.
IB: Do you have any favorite works that you've composed?
MASAKI: That would have to be Love Theme (Original Soundtrack). I had someone special I care about deep in my heart, who will always remain special until the end of time when I composed the piece. It is deeply a personal piece that I get compliments on. It’s also a favorite on Smooth Jazz radio. I was also inspired by the instrumental work of Quincy Jones, especially the ones during the 70s!
IB: If you could only use three instruments to compose a piece, which ones would you choose and why?
MASAKI: Piano because it is a very versatile instrument that can go very high and very low in both directions. An acoustic guitar because so many interesting sounds can be made with it. A voice because it is technically an instrument.
IB: What projects have you currently worked on and are working on?
MASAKI: I worked on three songs with three different artists that are currently being promoted on the radio. I started working with Maymie, a female pop artist, on a song, “What I’ve Got Today (Sometimes)”, around the last quarter of 2022. It has more of a 90s type of feel with a dash of current tones. Aside from myself and the vocalist, the song was also co-written with DJ STACKTRACE, who was one of the producers involved in Logic's #1 Billboard album, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, on both Billboard 200 and Top R&B/ Hip Hop Albums in 2019. She was the last of the three to be released, sometime in June 2023. “In My Nature” by Beth Joy has more of a James Bond theme type of vibe. lilFeely’s “I Want It All” is more of a current Pop/ R&B sound. The latter two will be released at the end of April and the beginning of May, respectively. All three songs are a combination of songwriting, production, arrangement, and/ or mixing. Aside from that, I’ve got several tunes still in the works with a couple of artists and a sound design/ editing/ mixing work for an audio theater play.
IB: Have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve as a musician?
MASAKI: Nope. I like to think I still have far to go but it is if time allows me to go further not just in music but in any endeavor I get my hands on. I am very grateful for what I was able to achieve thus far, especially in teaching others about the art of not just music but the music business as well. They go hand in hand. I tell them that not knowing the music business side is like watching yourself burn alive from an out-of-body experience. This is how artists get themselves in a heap of trouble because they never learned the various process of what paperwork goes into putting a song out and reading the fine print.
IB: And the last question. You've been nominated for an EMMY® Award and have contributed to TV, film, theater, live sound, radio, audio documentary, podcast, and a number of written and artistic publications. Is it challenging to tell someone else's story through your work?
MASAKI: No, because oftentimes, it is always a collaborative effort to get to the finished product no matter what medium it is. No man or woman is an island. No matter if it's in film, TV, music, commercial, or whatever the case may be, people in various departments in a given medium all work together to accomplish the project together. That's the only way.
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