Feature photo provided by Ayako

“There are always going to be insecurities and doubts, but this is all that I want.”


One rainy day in Los Angeles, Christina Higa, also known as AYAKO, was excited by her newfound excuse to do nothing all day. It doesn’t rain much in LA and no one seems to own an umbrella, so when it pours, lunch dates are cancelled, Netflix is switched on, and leftovers become the main meal of the day. “It’s weird saying this in quarantine,” she acknowledges over Zoom, “but I was so excited to have a lazy day, to have an excuse to do nothing and have fun and just be excited by little, simple things.” “Do it in the Rain,” her latest single in collaboration with producer SEROW, highlights these little moments as AYAKO sings about spending the day in with her lover. “It’s definitely a sexy song,” Higa says with a smile, “but rainy days are such a mood!”  


Inspired by r&b music Higa grew up listening to, “Do it in the Rain” is a stark contrast to her first single, the more house-inspired “You are the Damned.” Influenced by Ariana Grande and Xavier Omar’s “Blind Man” in particular, AYAKO blends a sense of nostalgia with the more contemporary r&b feel in her latest release. Emphasizing the importance of collaboration, Higa truly listens to and respects her producers’ styles and processes in a track’s creation, lending to different, unexpected results each time. With each new release, AYAKO embraces her own individuality through a unique mixture of pop, R&B, house, and electronic influences, alchemized with her Japanese American background. 

Growing up with a love of 90s and early 2000s pop and r&b, Higa had always been passionate about music, but becoming a singer always seemed a distant dream as Higa aspirationally watched Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera performances on MTV (“Back when it was good,” she adds cheekily). Though Higa started to learn the piano when she was three years old, she follows this with a laugh, “I never got into the piano though. I would always want to sing as my piano teacher was teaching me, so piano definitely helped me find my voice as a singer.” It never occured to Higa that she too could pursue music professionally as a career, but even so, she began her journey when she auditioned  for a Japanese girl group.


“I think I sang Adele’s ‘Someone Like You,’” Higa recalls. “There were a bunch of auditions and they started developing me as an artist, as part of a English-speaking girl group to market internationally.” In between vocal and dance lessons after school, Higa began to realize the possibilities of pursuing her dream. “When I was 17 there [were] six months of hardcore auditions to be officially signed to a girl group, and I got in,” she explains. But there was something holding her back: all her friends were applying to school in the US, another dream of Higa’s, and she had always wanted to sing her own music rather than someone else’s. Realizing that signing with a music label wasn’t the right choice for her, she declined the offer and decided upon USC for college.  

It wasn’t until Higa arrived in Los Angeles that she truly began to realize that she was able pursue music the way she wanted to. As a self-professed city girl, Higa slowly allowed the creative and artistic community in Los Angeles to convince her of her grounding. “All of my friends were artists or creatives, and coming from Japan where the idol industry was super intense, I felt a lot of pressure,” Higa reminisces, “Everyone was so talented, they knew so many instruments, and most importantly, everyone was doing it.”  

After a year of fighting her insecurities, Higa finally committed to music, meeting all kinds of producers in Los Angeles, Japan, and around the world. Despite her resolve, it was still a gradual process to break down her fears and anxieties to fully embrace this path. “Just do it, you know?” Higa replies, “There are always going to be insecurities and doubts, but this is all that I want.” While she admits she’s still figuring out her style and voice, her desire to learn and expand her musical abilities and vocabulary continues to add to her ever-changing identity.


It was also here in LA that she learned how to DJ and became further exposed into the house and electronic music scene, and, combining these influences with her love for r&b and pop, continued to build as AYAKO. “I feel like I’m changing every minute, every hour, but I definitely go with feeling,” she says. “I’m aware of my feelings and emotions, where that is coming from, and I really try to channel and see where it goes. It’s a journey-- like what’s gonna happen now?”

As Higa speaks, it feels as though you can hear her inner voice, calm and unwavering. They are the words of someone who has contemplated their thoughts and actions deeply, of someone who has sharpened her sense of how she wants to exist in the world. Higa never uses the word intuition, but the way she speaks of approaching writing and creating is intuitive and honest. Knowing yourself is crucial when it comes to this, as Higa adds, “when you write music, lyrics especially, you definitely need to do inner work. You need to think and get your feelings out, so you need a lot of awareness internally and externally.” This lends it way into collaboration, as Higa notes her passion for collaboration as well: “knowing your strengths and weaknesses and highlighting other people’s strengths makes a complete piece.” She doesn’t always know where the piece will end up, but many times they pleasantly surprise her. 

AYAKO’s openness to collaboration and possibility will likely snowball into many more goals and unexpected results. 

Determined to bridge Japanese and American cultures, AYAKO hopes to continue to represent Japan and Japanese culture on a global scale while embracing and exploring her own individuality as a Japanese American. Looking back at her long musical journey, whether it’s her childhood piano lessons or idol training, each of her experiences has only informed her next move. One goal is to sing more in Japanese, but AYAKO’s openness to collaboration and possibility will likely snowball into many more goals and unexpected results. Rather than trying to fit into a genre or a certain identity, what AYAKO really represents is just herself: her particular experiences of different influences, cultures and experiences. “Just to be a Japanese American artist, and to be myself! That’s what I want to convey,” Higa sweetly concludes. She reiterates that she’s still figuring it out, but with AYAKO, the journey is surely just as exciting as the destination. 

AYAKO’s latest single, “Do it in the Rain,” will be released on March 12, 2021. 

Learn more about AYAKO here