Forget Headspace, Akemi Fox’s distinctive voice, seductive lyrical ability and 90s/00s nostalgic sound has everything needed to soothe the mind. Her first single is solemn to its core with a name that only speaks volumes about the type of person Akemi is. Her single, Lemon Tea, is about the Japanese tea drink. When we meet up in Kings Cross in London, Akemi describes how the song is about how love can feel, sweet, warm and comforting. Since the release of the 2020 single, Akemi has found herself on her own unique path of success, refining her style and expressing her love for music. This month she’ll play two headline shows in Manchester and London.
Describing her sound as alternative R&B, Akemi exudes a potent combination of independence and innovation using her knowledge in music and culture to her benefit. The Manchester-based artist has firmly cemented her position in the UK music scene as one of the most fearless and gifted songstresses. Citing Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Frank Ocean and Beyoncé as her influences, the Mancunian praises the many soulful artists from the 90s and early 2000s who inspired her to stay true to herself and her artistry.
It seems clear that the DIY scene in music is recirculating from the punk days of the 70s into today and unsigned artists are coming through the music industry independently and more confident than ever before. The unique sounds produced in small studios deep within the concrete walls of cities and towns are becoming recognised because technology allows us to circulate our work from the comfort of our own homes.
There’s always been a zealous attitude to music within the North West. From the birth of Factory Records in Manchester, the Beatles born further down the river Mersey, to more recent times with the likes Atich or Children of Zeus, the positivity and friendliness that stems from communities in the north is a potent force and one that keeps creating musicians that hit hard every time.
Akemi praises her multicultural city for its supportive creative scene and has always felt like there was a place for her within it all. With the opportunity to play at deeply ingrained city centre venues like Manchester Academy and Night & Day, Manchester is a place that appreciates its musical talent.
Talk me through how you got into music?
I loved to sing and write songs when I was younger, it was just a fun hobby to me. I have always been a creative person wanting to pursue acting, music or dance. I used to make little freestyle clips that I’d share on Instagram and that's as far as I thought my career would go. I met my producer Teo and it opened my eyes up to how I could take it further. It felt it was something that I was always meant to do. I love it, I’ve had so much fun opportunities and I’m excited to see what awaits me.
Was acting or dancing ever an option?
I had studied them both at high school but kinda lost my love for dancing by the end. I carried on acting in college and was doing a few plays and was enjoying it a lot. I wanted to do an English & Drama course in London and decided against it. I felt drama school was gonna be too much for me because I was so unsure. Music just felt like an immediate fit even though it still scared me.
Do you feel Manchester is a city that supports artists + why?
Yeah, the music scene is crazy. Manchester is small in a way, so I feel like everyone knows each other and always helps each other out. Everyone is so friendly, that you can ask them anything, I always wanna help someone in any way I can. We just want to know the kind of music we are making in Manchester right, cos I think it’s a total vibe.
Agreed, Manchester is a friendly place. Almost perfect for starting a music career or any creative career for that matter. What advice would you give to anyone looking to start out as a musician in Manchester?
Oh definitely! I would say go to music events, they are always so good for networking and meeting like-minded people. Message people to collaborate or just to even meet up and go for coffee. I think it’s important to have friends in music because it can get lonely if you’re working on your own a lot. Look for live events and message organisers if you could play your music there. Also if you know any artists who are coming to Manchester you can cheekily ask them if they need a support slot, they may say yes. I think it’s just great to reach out to people, you never know what opportunities might arise from it. Make the first move!
What places do you like to go and watch music and what’s your favourite music to go and see live?
Band On The Wall is a very cool venue with tons of different kind of artists playing. I really like YES as a venue too, I’m so excited to be playing there because it’s got a cool, quirky vibe. Albert Hall is also a beautiful venue too! My favourite music to see live has gotta be R&B - it keeps me inspired and reminds me why I love making the genre of music. I do also really appreciate some jazz though - that is perfect for a chilled evening.
Who should we be listening to from the rainy city?
[ K S R ], Nina Cobham, Pip Millett, Children of Zeus, The KTNA, Kinkai, Abnormal Sleepz, Francesca, FLISS, July 7. I’ve probably missed so many, there is just so much talent in Manchester right now!
What’s the one song that changed your life?
Hiatus Kaiyote - Nakamarra
I can’t even describe it, it just makes me feel whole listening to it!
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I am playing a headline show really soon in October. I’m really excited but nervous cos it’s my first one. I’m playing London at The Social on the 6th of October and Yes (Basement) in Manchester on the 8th of October. I hope you can all come down and get in your feelings with me!
Find more about Akemi’s music and to see her shows head over to her Instagram.
Photography: Jonathan Tomlinson.