Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Kiyomi Hawley and I’m a singer/songwriter based in NY. I’ve been doing music my whole life and released my latest EP, Meet You There, in late Sept 2018.
How did you get your start in music?
I’ve known I wanted to do music since I could remember. My mother was a opera voice/piano major at one of the top conservatories in Japan, and my father’s mother went there for piano as well, so I’ve always been surrounded by music.
How would you describe your musical style?
I would say pop, but not bubblegum, more folky? I write from my life experiences, and like to try to have cool chord progressions and vocal harmonies.
You were raised within the Unification Church. How did this affect you as a musician and as a person in general?
Musically it was great because I was always being put in front of large audiences and performing. I also got many chances to be in very nice recording studios, so being in one feels natural to me.
As a person in general, there were pros and cons to being in the church. I was able to grow up in a tight knit community with people I shared many deep experiences with. We were all like family. But on the other hand, we weren’t really allowed to have our own opinions, and if we didn’t follow what the cult leader told us to do, we were considered bad. That was hard, especially during times when I knew I was trying to be what I thought was a good person.
7 years ago you pulled away from music. What led to you getting away from something you’re so passionate about?
When you love something so much, it has that much more capacity to cause pain. I love music and wouldn’t change being born with the ability for it, but it’s also a very hard path to pursue. At the point I quit, it was just getting too much for me, I felt like no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t win with it. But I realized that being away from it was even worse.
You have a new EP out called “Meet You There”. What can audiences expect from this EP?
This EP deals with many issues such as trying to be your best self, the Sandy Hook school shooting, my love song to music as if it were a person, and about wanting to be accepted for who I am. Also the song “Meet You There” was inspired by the Rumi quote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
You also have a new video out for the title track. Take us through that video and the inspiration behind it.
The music video is for the song “Meet You There”. It was shot in nature because as I said earlier, it was inspired by the Rumi quote about meeting in a field.
What was it like working with NYC filmmaker Matthew Cobb on the video?
It was wonderful. He found the location – a park that spans across Westchester, NY to the Bronx. It was beautiful, but it was an extremely hot day – around 96 degrees! We were out there for around 6 hours, shooting. We were sweating bullets and being bitten by bugs all day but it was a good time, and was worth it. Matt went above and beyond to plan the spots to film and to get the shots and I was very grateful.
Might we see a full-length album on the horizon?
There most likely won’t be a full length album, but definitely more music! Possibly a single out in 2019 – a new song I wrote called “The Blessing” – about the arranged marriage ceremony I had to be a part of when I was in the cult.
What can audiences expect when they see you live?
Well, I often find myself being my true self when I’m on stage – I find it easier to be more vulnerable and real when I’m in front of an audience. For some reason I find it harder to be that way in person. I’m pretty shy and tend to be introverted so maybe that’s why. Although I’ve also been called the life of the party as well, so I guess it depends! I can say that when I perform I give it my all because music is sacred to me and that may come through when I perform.
What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?
Hmm, I guess that it’s a path for people who truly feel it’s their calling. Like they have no other choice. Otherwise it’s too hard a path, haha! Although, maybe if we just have fun with it always and don’t take it too seriously, that may be a good attitude
What’s life like when you’re not writing and performing?
As I said I can be pretty introverted so I spend a whole lot of time reading and journaling. I also teach private lessons and singing groups. And one of my favorite things to do is spend time with my 3 nephews, they make me so happy!
Let the readers know where to find you online.
Kiyomimusic.com. All of my social media links are on there, as well as my music links.