Akemi Fox is back, and she brought backup. Akemi first rose to pop prominence in 2019 after a slew of sultry singles, including ‘Disposable’ ‘Fallin’ and ‘Time’, established her as a forward-thinking daydreamer – crafting watery reminiscings over retro riddims. Since her arrival on the scene, Akemi has garnered unprecedented appreciation for her abstract approach to R&B, deconstructing the genre’s fundamentals and stitching them together in never-before-seen patterns to create patchwork percussions that ooze originality and effortless elegance. Her debut EP, ‘Colour You In’, was exactly the first footing required to launch headfirst into a lengthy career, showcasing both the breadth of beats and balance in her vocals – establishing her as a must-watch practitioner of progressive and patient production.
Despite having a relatively quiet 2021, Akemi’s cornerstone tunes like ‘Lemon Tea and ‘Virginia’ continued to induce nostalgia glazed imaginings with every listen, keeping her firmly fixed and the front of Manchester bubbling cultural underbelly. Now, she has returned flanked and cosigned by one of the biggest producers in the industry for a sunny Sunday morning anthem guaranteed to get you grinning. ‘See You Soon’ is a crowning track of Akemi’s rapidly growing catalogue, matching her honey-dipped vocals with the production prowess of Swindle to forge an unforgettably smooth single.
We caught up with Akemi ahead of tomorrow’s release (March 31st) of ‘See You Soon’ to reflect on her experience working with Swindle, break down the creative spirit of her hometown of Manchester, and discuss the details of working with some of the biggest artists in the industry today.
Your latest single ‘See You Soon’, is a joy-filled love song that feels like a sunny Sunday morning bottled up into a track. Where did this track begin? What was the concept behind it and did the track evolve out of a certain sample or lyric?
I didn’t really have the idea before I came, I rarely do. I was inspired by the guitar line Moyses Dos Santos played in the session, it was just very fun and happy and these lyrics started to come to me. I guess I was longing for the summer and was missing a few people in my life so I wanted to put that feeling into a song.
You worked with the legendary producer Swindle on ‘See You Soon’, what was the biggest lesson you learnt from getting to watch a veteran of the scene like Swindle work up close? What is it about his style of production you particularly like?
Ahh, it was great, so nice to have the chance to work with him. I tend to be quite shy with new people when it comes to music but from the get-go it was comfortable and there were just good vibes in the studio and I guess that’s how we got this song out of it!
I would love to get your thoughts on working with one of my favourite artists in the scene right now, KinKai. How did you guys end up jumping on ‘Worth 1000’ together?
Ahh in Manchester I feel like everyone knows each other in the music scene, I think we must have met at a gig or something. I had been a big fan of KinKai even before I began releasing music, so it was so nice to get to work with him. Kinkai just messaged me about this track and wondered if I’d like to be a part of it. I thought it was amazing so of course, I accepted. I actually recorded it back in university so I never actually got to be in the studio for this track but I was so happy with how it turned out.
Similarly, you shone brightly on one of the biggest albums of last year, Balance by Children of Zeus, appearing as one of the only features on the project. Does your approach change when working on features than on your own tracks? Was it at all a surprise when they asked you to be a part of the project?
Yes, that was definitely a surprise, again I’ve been listening to Children of Zeus forever and I can’t believe they invited me on their project. Konny gave me a call one day and said that he and Tyler would like me to be a part of the album’s title track. I had listened and of course, I agreed the song was insane and then I got writing some ideas. We then sent them back and forth until we got something we both loved. When they first sent me the song they did say it was called ‘balance’ and that the word didn’t need to be in the chorus but that would be great if it could and then I found a way to fit it in haha!
I think I found it a bit easier because it’s not just my track, I can try different things and not overthink as much. But also I am quite shy working with new people so it is character building for me and I learnt a lot working with them as they are so talented.
Your single ‘Lemon Tea’ has been on constant rotation for us since it dropped back in 2020, I think it perfectly demonstrates your ability to build whole moods and create an atmosphere for your listener. How do you approach the writing process, partially on this track? Do you start with a general vibe, do you start with a lyric concept or is it different every time?
Aww, thank you so much! It really depends, I have quite a few different ways to write, I will either come up with an idea, I’ll start with melodies, use random words or freestyle sometimes. For ‘Lemon Tea’ I was in my second year at uni in Teo’s uni room where we managed to record quite a few tunes and there was an empty lemon tea carton on the side and I thought let me make this into a song. It was so nice because this session came so naturally and was so quick, Teo made the beat and we got the hook almost instantly. I then used some lyrics I had written from when I was 16/17, I remember trying to get to sleep and ‘I colour you in deep into the creases in your skin’ and ‘I wondered if I was still the colour blue’ came to my head and I had to write it down. I thought to myself maybe I can use these lyrics one day and Lemon Tea just felt like the perfect song for them. I wanted this song to represent being in love explaining their love is soothing like lemon tea and it’s all they need.
How would you say your sound has evolved from the release of ‘Disposable’ back in 2019 to ‘See You Soon’ today? Do you view your sound as constantly shifting and evolving or are you on a quest to perfect and hone a specific style?
Disposable is such an old song I had initially written it to a beat on Soundcloud back in 2016 before even meeting Teo. I was always so proud of it because the original clip I put on my Instagram was a freestyle. That song was a bit sad I will say, and it wasn’t about anyone in particular but was more about a feeling that I described as heartbreak. I guess my sound has changed a little bit, I am experimenting with some slightly lighter, happier topics and some more uptempo beats. I am always evolving as I gain more life experiences and my emotions are always changing which will affect the music I am making. I think there are lots of avenues to express in the R&B genre so why not try and experiment.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being an up-and-coming artist in today’s industry? Is it the social media side? Trying to find your sound? Press? Or maybe something different.
I often doubt myself a lot of the time. I overthink every life decision and that goes for my music too. So I found it hard to step back and finish things or praise myself when I am always second-guessing everything. But I am working on it, I’ve got some new hobbies and started to do yoga which helps me switch off. Social media is difficult at times because you can compare yourself a lot to what other creatives are doing but I guess I have to tell myself everyone’s timings are different and all I can do is my best!
If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, Frank by Amy Winehouse & Dangerously in Love by Beyonce. These albums got me so obsessed with music and are such inspirations for what I am doing today.
Finish the sentence: “When my career is over I hope I am remembered for….”
For being authentic, for writing songs that are nostalgic to individuals and for making people smile!
Lastly, as a proud Mancunian, where would you take someone if you wanted to show them the real heart of your hometown? 1) Somewhere to get some good food 2) Somewhere to dance and see some dope music?
I’d probably take them around the Northern Quarter, it’s always fun around there for shopping, drinks, nights out and food! My favourite spot for food is Kool Runnings, there is a truck in Old Trafford and it’s just really good Caribbean food. Blues Kitchen & Band on the Wall are cool spots for some good live music. I enjoy a little bar hop around the northern quarter bars for some good R&B music.
‘See You Soon’ drops tomorrow (March 31st) on all streaming platforms so show some love and tune in tomorrow to hear the latest Akemi Fox anthem.
More on CULTED
See also: CULTED SOUNDS: CARISS AUBURN TALKS CREATIVE INFLUENCES, PRODUCING ON GARAGEBAND & HER DREAM PROJECT
See also: CULTED SOUNDS Q&A WITH FRANKIE STEW: TOUR LIFE & ARSENAL WOES