Drew Henmi is a standout emerging artist, whose exceptional musicianship and unique sound have the power to transform your environment and mood. He is on an exciting trajectory upwards through in his genre, leaving his mark with his innovative and forward-thinking productions and songwriting. His music is a must-have for any road trip, long car drive, or relaxing moment at home. We are excited to announce him as the Music Insider Artist of the Month for December.
Drew released his stunning single, “Higher”, earlier this year which stopped our team in our tracks. It’s a showstopper. His new EP, “Begin Again”, is coming out in January 2021, and our expectations and excitement levels are high. Drew Henmi is an artist with a passion for indie-folk, alternative, pop and more. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but now based in Honolulu, Hawaii, he manages to combine stunning melodies with infectious grooves and beats to create a catchy, yet direct and personal sound, in the vein of songwriters such as Bon Iver, John Mayer or Dave Matthews. His sound is personal and authentic, and it’s hard to constrain it in the usual genre categories.
We got the opportunity to interview Drew and find out more about how he got to where he is now and what motivates him.
Interview with Drew Henmi
How did you get started in music?
“Similarly to most Asian American kids, my start in music began with my mom forcing me to play the piano. I pretty much hated it and wanted to quit from Day 1. So after a prolonged war of attrition, my mom relented and said I could quit as long as I picked up another instrument. I chose the guitar and the rest is history. Although ironically, I’ve been trying to teach myself piano over the past few years, with mixed results at best. Serves me right.”
You have cultivated such a unique and captivating sound. How were you able to find your sound and what has influenced it?
“It’s really flattering to hear my music described that way. So first of all, thank you! I feel like my sound is the culmination of being open to inspiration from all things. I’m blessed to have spent most of my life in two of the most beautiful places in the world: Hawai‘i and the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s hard not to get inspired and influenced by the beauty in these places. From a music standpoint, I love to listen to all different kinds of artists and genres. My vinyl collection and Spotify library both contain a wonderfully random amalgamation of music running the gamut from jazz and hip hop to folk and pop. These wide range of influences are why I think my music can sometimes be hard to constrain within certain genres, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“My vinyl collection and Spotify library both contain a wonderfully random amalgamation of music running the gamut from jazz and hip hop to folk and pop.”— Drew Henmi
You released your stunning single, “Higher”, earlier this year in anticipation of your EP “Begin Again” which is coming out in January 2021. What was the inspiration behind your EP?
“My forthcoming EP, “Begin Again,” was pretty much all written and produced in the heat of the COVID pandemic and George Floyd protests. I wanted to create something that felt warm and uplifting, to provide a counterpoint to a cold and heavy 2020. These songs are definitely aspirational, particularly during these weird times, but one of the main qualities of developing resilience is being able to look forward and have hope. I think we’re all ready to wash our hands clean of 2020, and what better time to begin again than on New Year’s Day?”
Out of all the songs you have released to date, which is your favourite, and why?
““Higher” is probably my favourite released song. As I was writing and producing it, it really felt like I had finally stumbled upon a sound that felt authentic to me, after years of reaching around in the dark. The lyrics of “Higher,” touching on themes of discovery, resilience, and perseverance, very much parallel the journey I find myself on.”
If you had a superpower what would it be, and why?
“I’m definitely an anthropology geek, so being able to time travel to observe different civilisations throughout human history would be amazing. These would be strictly observational journeys though, as I wouldn’t want to be responsible for throwing off the time space continuum!”
What is something you used to believe in that you don’t believe anymore?
“I used to believe that I knew what I wanted. I know myself well enough to recognise that I am ever changing, and that my beliefs and perceptions can change with it.”
What do you love the most, and hate the most, about being a musician?
“Let’s start with the positive: love. I love being able to create something out of nothing. I love being able to collaborate with fellow musicians and creatives, never really knowing what’s going to come out the other side. I love that the musical journey is never ending, and that there is always more to learn and discover.
And…hate: One of the things I’ve traditionally hated the most is when I feel creatively stagnant. I always want to feel like I’m growing and developing – I think we all do. Feeling stagnant can be paralysing, but what I’ve really been able to comprehend over the past year is that the ups and downs of being a creative are inevitable. What’s important is learning how to navigate that adversity.”
What is one philosophy or idea that you live by?
“I’m learning to live by the idea that “it’s not what is happening that is important, it’s our relationship to it.” We’re all going to go through some really tough times. It’s just an inevitability of being alive. But what do we learn from it? How do we grow from it? How does it inform who we are as individuals? These are the questions that have really helped me in those dark days, and are some of the questions I attempt to explore throughout “Begin Again.””
“It’s not what is happening that is important, it’s our relationship to it. We’re all going to go through some really tough times. It’s just an inevitability of being alive. But what do we learn from it? How do we grow from it? “— Drew Henmi
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, and why?
“Oh boy, this is a tough one. I guess from a musical standpoint, I’d love to sit down and talk with Questlove. Not only is he a prolific musician and producer, but he’s been there at the genesis of some of my favourite musical projects like D’Angelo’s Voodoo and Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun. Being able to pick his brain and hear his entertaining takes on life would be incredible. I’d definitely have to pick one of those slow food restaurants though so I’d have ample time to chat with him.”
Be sure to keep up to date with Drew’s journey on Instagram, and mark your calendar for the release of his new EP “Begin Again” on 1st January 2021. It’s the perfect way to close the door on a stressful year and get a fresh start.