Music is a cure, both for those who listen and those who produce it. Mina Okabe is just 21 years old, but she clearly knows how to use melody to understand and act out her most personal feelings. That’s why she is able to connect with listeners every time she releases a new song. This Danish-Japanese singer-songwriter was born in London, then lived in New York and Manila, before moving to Denmark when she was 15 years old. Okabe has published her first complete album Better Days. Today, she is an artist from head to toe, "I just focus on making and playing music which is all I want to do!", she says.
How long have you been in contact with music? You have a harmonious voice; I wonder if it is an inherent quality or if you took endless singing lessons in the past.
I have always loved to sing! I have been a member of choirs at my schools and taken part in school shows and musicals, but I have not really taken many singing lessons. My grandmother used to be a classical singer and my parents have also played instruments, so music has always been a big part of my life.
You are based in Copenhagen, but you have spent time living in London, Manila and New York as well, and you are just in your twenties! Would you say moving so much has been decisive for your artistic career?
I am sure moving around has had a great influence on my style and taste because I have been exposed to so many different types and genres of music. My family and I would listen to the music that was popular in the different places we lived, so I grew up listening to songs by Oasis, Amy Winehouse, The Cure, The Kooks and Coldplay. I still love to listen to and explore new sounds and music.
Your debut record Better Days came out last August, almost a year after your first single I’m Done. How did you experience this first year of actively releasing music and working on your debut album?
That past year [2021] was really busy but so much fun. The responses I have been getting on the album mean so much to me and make me very happy. I have learnt a lot this past year. I have learnt about the process of releasing music and also so much about myself and how important it is to trust my own opinions. I have also been lucky to be able to play my first live shows this year, and I played my first sold-out headliner show in Copenhagen! It was the best feeling to hear people sing along to my songs – now I can't wait to play live again.
Your lyrics are quite introspective, I’m Done reminds me of first love problems, while I associate Give A Little Less with teenage friendship stuff. They are mostly accompanied by upbeat production and warm melodies. Do they truly come from a personal place?
My lyrics are always based on my personal thoughts and feelings and therefore come from a very personal place. When I first started making my own songs at around 16 years old it was very hard for me to show my songs to others because of how personal they were. Since my songs are often about things I am sad or frustrated about, I sometimes like to add upbeat production to these lyrics to make the situations a little easier for myself.
You said, ”I write all my songs about personal experiences and feelings. I write music to let out my thoughts and frustrations and feel it is the best way for me to express myself.” Tell me about your latest single Miss Those Days. Why did the release overlap with your first album?
Miss Those Days felt like the best opening for the album because it is one of the songs on the album with the most upbeat production.
What is Better Days about, then?
Better Days is about love, worries and frustrations. Whenever I feel like I can’t put my feelings into words, I pick up my guitar and sing about them instead of trying to make sense of them in my head. So the songs on Better Days are reflections of some of my thoughts and frustrations before turning 21.
I’ve noticed you are deeply involved in your music, in fact, you wrote all the tracks from Better Days. How was the process from ideating the lyrics until you made them come true in the studio?
I probably have more than 200 songs that I have made just on my guitar. When I was about 17 years old, I started working with producers, and it did take me some time to figure out how I wanted my songs to sound with production. I now feel I have found some amazing producers who really understand my style. Often, when I am in the studio, I play a song to the producer that I have made on my guitar and then we work on a production from there. The songs can sometimes go through big changes in the process, but I always write the lyrics myself. In that way, I feel the songs stay personal and true to me.
How was the experience of giving form to your songs with such producers as MadsKoch?
I am so happy to have found an amazing group of producers who understand my music style and what I want to express with each song. All the producers who I worked with on the songs for the album are super talented and always come up with great ideas when we are together in the studio.
I’ve heard you’d love to collaborate with Mark Ronson. Could you reveal a bit more about this goal?
Mark Ronson is just super good at what he does, and I love the music and sound he created with Amy Winehouse. Just meeting him would be a big deal to me.
And lastly, what can we expect from you next? Will we be lucky enough to see some new work from you soon?
I have been working on a lot of new songs and can't wait to share them! I am so thankful to everyone who has been listening to my music, I truly look forward to this coming year of releasing new music.