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Life and Work with Christina Higa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Higa.

Christina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I started seriously thinking about my career as an artist. When I was sixteen, my classmate’s mother reached out to me about an audition for AVEX, an entertainment conglomerate/label in Japan. She recognized my passion for singing and saw potential in me as an artist.

I went through two rigorous years of training, auditioning, and performing at local gigs until I was finally chosen to be an official member of a girl group that would be signed to the label. When I heard the news, I was ecstatic, relieved and overwhelmed all at the same time. But when the reality sunk in and I thought about what this really meant, I felt a sense of emptiness. It was a five-year contract in which I would be singing and dancing to songs I didn’t write or may not necessarily always like. When I dreamed of being an artist, I always envisioned myself writing and performing my own songs, choosing my own outfits and believing in everything I do. I worked so hard for this opportunity but realized my efforts lacked intention. So ultimately I turned down the offer and decided to move to the US to learn more about what I really want to do, and who I really want to be.

Like everyone else my age, I started applying to colleges. I got into the University of Southern California where I studied music industry. Upon moving to LA, I was blown away by the creativity, talent, and passion for the arts in this city. I produced my first event, “New Moon Fest” as my final project for an event production class. I secured the venue, booked the artists, and managed all the promotion for it. It was a huge success and I had a blast doing it. Through producing “New Moon Fest”, I realized my passion for event production, which lead me to create my own party called Collision, with my siblings.

Collision is a party that aims to bridge the underground electronic music scenes of the US and Japan. The first Collision was in Tokyo where I performed two tracks I was featured in. Since then, we have thrown one in NY, Tokyo (again), and Miami (for Miami Music Week). We are currently planning for our next event in Los Angeles. Throughout all of this, I was inspired to learn how to DJ. By the third Collision, I made my debut as a DJ under the name, AYAKO (my middle name). Back at USC, my friends and I started a party series called UNS where I really got to hone my DJ skills. Throwing events gave me a platform to perform and establish my reputation as an artist.

In my senior year of college, I started getting booked for events other than my own. I was DJing as well as performing under Rock Candy, an indie-electronic duo I formed with my friend Ryan Meagher. Once I graduated, my DJ career took off and I was being booked left and right at recognized clubs and parties.

Currently, I am working on the music video for my first single as a solo artist! My good friend, Gian Torri produced the song (“You Are The Damned”) and we are so excited to finally share it with the world. It’s about time and I am ready to keep the momentum going. I already have a couple more singles ready to be released after the first one.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest struggle I’ve had to deal with is balancing work life (or school life) and creative life. Currently, I work a full-time job. I wish I could just make music and do creative things all day, but I also have to pay my bills and eat. There are times when I doubt my path and my decision to work a full-time job while also pursuing a career in music, but I have learned that every step along the way is crucial to my success as an artist. My advice for anyone who is just starting their journey is to have a clear vision of your goal and do everything with the purpose of making this vision come true. If you have to work a full-time job for a little, so be it. Everyone has to start somewhere.

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” – Jacob A. Riis.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of. What sets you apart from others?
I am known as an event producer, DJ, singer, songwriter, and music producer. Collision is a brand that I am very proud of, as it represents my personal mission to bridge the musical gap between Japan and the US. I have become known as someone who actively embraces these two cultures in everything I do and create. The two songs I was featured on were produced by legendary Japanese house producer, Shinichiro Yokota and UK-based producer, Pleasure Cruiser. In both songs (“Rainforest” & “Insecure”) I am singing in ½ Japanese ½ English. They were pressed on vinyl as part of a compilation album called “Tokyo Horoki”, and sold at the best record stores all over the world. When I went to Technique record store in Japan, the salesperson told me it sold out within the first day! This was the craziest feeling, to know that people actually bought my music and are listening to songs I wrote. What sets me apart from others are my roots, upbringing and unique experiences that are genuinely channeled in everything I do.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
I met all my mentors in the most unexpected circumstances. But it was only because I was open to meeting them and genuinely interested in getting to know who they are and what they do, that I was able to form the deep relationship I have with them today. If you really vibe with someone, don’t be afraid to get their contact and follow up. Schedule a time to meet, show them you are committed and eager to learn. Voice what you want in life and be confident when you say it. Be involved in their process, and they will be involved in yours.

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Image Credit:
Anastasia Velicescu, Jamie Rosenberg

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