With a foundation of music running through his family, the songwriter is already thriving.
by Joey Lopez
Japanese-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jonah Yano can’t believe the shape his life is taking. He went from being unknown and working at a small cafe to having future-jazz innovators BADBADNOTGOOD on his gorgeous new single, “Nervous” from his debut EP of the same name.
Listening Yano’s smooth voice has a tempered sound that oozes confidence and soul, sounding like the lovechild of James Blake and Norah Jones. Yano was born in Hiroshima and moved to Port Coquitlam when he was four. “Half of my family are musicians or have musical history,” he says. “My grandma did a royal conservatory and my father is a folk songwriter in Japan.”
After playing music throughout high school in Port Coquitlam, BC, Yano gave up on the idea of pursuing it entirely.“I thought it was so unrealistic. It was a self doubt thing. I went to university and dropped out, did some travelling to ‘find myself’ and then moved to Toronto and got back into music three years ago.”
Being in Toronto proved fruitful for Yano after he befriended BADBADNOTGOOD drummer Alex Sowinski at a show for T-dot duo MONEYPHONE. Yano says the scenario feels like a scene straight out of a biopic.
“Isn’t it crazy? Like, what the fuck is going on? Alex and I developed a friendship naturally. Obviously the conversation of music was going to come up eventually. I played him the demo for ‘Promise’ and he said, ‘Cool, let me show this to the guys and we’ll play on it.’ Like, sure man, I’m not even freaking out at all right now. Sure, send it to the rest of BADBADNOTGOOD — that’s normal and within the realm of reality.”
Yano released his debut EP, Nervous, with LA-based label Innovative Leisure, who caught wind of his release right before he self-published it online, stopping him just in time so that they could give the project the proper professional treatment it deserves.
Although he plans on continuing his creative relationship with BADBADNOTGOOD, Yano has bigger goals in mind.“My biggest goal is to go to Japan and write songs with my dad. I haven’t seen him since I was 10 years old and that will be my magnum opus. How fucking cool would that be?”