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Meet Nao Nakashima

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nao Nakashima.

Nao, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Japan, nothing but an ordinary kid who was into baseball and manga until discovering Rock ‘n’ Roll music at the early teenage. When I entered high school, I joined my school’s concert band and started my musical career as a drummer. It was nothing serious but just to feel the music at a deeper level by playing any sort of instruments.

As I already knew I had not much talent at playing musical instruments through music class, I thought drums could be the only choice I’ve got, even that soon enough I figured out that drums were not my instruments and finally switched to guitar at the age of 16. Must admit I didn’t have any talent at playing guitar either but the joy of playing melodies and composing whatever I feel like gave me massive motivation to keep me practicing.

Since Rock ‘n’ Roll was not so popular in Japan at that time, I had a hard time playing in a band that I could put all my passion and effort into. So I made up my mind and decided to move to LA to play music I love from the heart since many bands I love are from the city. It was a long way and took so much time to get prepared and make enough money for the new life in a different country, but finally, I made it to LA with just one guitar and a packed suitcase when I was 26.

After few years of the stay, I’ve got a lot of opportunities to play in bands, got numerous chances to jam with great musicians and made countless friends who I can share my passion about music with. Most of the things I’ve experienced here in LA are what I couldn’t even have wished for if I stayed in Japan. And now, I’m playing in a band called Circus Of Power which has been one of my favorite bands since the first time I heard their music by the second album “Vices” when I was 15 or so.

Has it been a smooth road?
I wish I could say it was, but no, nothing was really easy to me.

First time I visited Guitar Center in Hollywood, out of curiosity, I fit my hands with all the famous Rock star’s handprints on the ground. I knew my hands were not so big and it’s even hard to play some chords and licks, but still, it was a bit shocking to know that most of the legendary guitarists’ hands are much bigger than mine.

When it comes to moving to LA, I had no relatives or no friends, literally knew no one living in the area. Not to mention, I needed to build everything from scratch and get used to with a different culture. Especially I could barely speak English when I moved to LA, it was definitely one of the most challenging days throughout my life.

But I don’t think most of the hardest things I needed to go through were much of struggles, to be fair. Without overcoming the obstacles, I wouldn’t have been where I am now, and I believe all the pains, obstacles, struggles, whatever I have experienced will become my strength and help me overcome another obstacle one day.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
What I do is simple, playing guitar and writing music. While millions of great musicians out there, I never thought I could be a pioneer of new music or have a very unique style that stands out from others. So my philosophy is basically that the music always comes first putting all my egos aside and what I think I should do is to find what is the best way for the music.

At the same time, when I play, no matter the lead or the rhythm, I try to be as emotive as I can be and focus on catching the vibe at the moment. I might be contradicting myself, but my ideal is to beautifully combine well-thought-out songs with emotional guitars, that way I believe I can connect with the crowd deeply.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Absolutely. In the world today where people can connect through the internet and social media, you can find a lot of great chances to get attention and make something happen by publishing your own music online no matter what city you live in. But I still believe this city helps you reach your goal for sure.

There’s not only lots of great musicians to play with, bands, venues, more opportunities to showcase your talent than any other place in the world, but also artists, filmmakers, athletes, business owners, countless inspiring people who invest their time and passion for the future so I think you can find that anything in this city can motivate you to keep pursuing your dream.

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Image Credit:
George Contreras, Edson Ochoa, Robert Chickering

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