Singer-songwriter Akemi – pronounced ‘A-kay-me’ – started writing songs aged eight. But severe stage fright meant that it took till her late teens to pursue singing seriously. Now, the 22-year-old releases her debut EP ‘Colour You In’ (11 December), starting with single ‘Your Love’ (today!), all written and recorded in lockdown. Spanning five-tracks, Akemi’s mellow, soulful sound is like a seductive diary entry musing on love, past and present. Born in Chorlton and currently based in Whalley Range, she is also a final year fashion branding and communication student at Leeds Arts University. Here she talks about how she went from posting singing videos on Instagram to getting management, bootleg recording in a home studio and why you should never surround yourself with ‘yes men’.

Where does your love of music come from?

The reason I’m into music is definitely because of my dad, he’s a lover of jazz music and it was played constantly around the house growing up. Akemi Fox is my real name, not stage, and I’m actually named after a jazz pianist called Akemi Kuniyoshi-Kuhn. My personal music influences are very 2000s/2010s RnB – Neyo, Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson – after a childhood spent watching music channels with my cousin. Then I also love soul artists like Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’ is one of my all-time favourite albums and lyrically, I love bands Daughter and Hiatus Kaiyote.

When did you start writing songs?

I started writing really young, around aged eight, but definitely some of my best lyrics came at 15 or 16-years-old. I used to write them down in my diary in bed and have even used them on my new EP. It’s so nice to make use of them six years on.

What were you like in school – were you always a confident performer?

I definitely had a lot of confidence in primary school and got the main singing roles in school plays, but in secondary school I started to get the worst stage fright. It was the classic case of becoming a teenager and being worried about what others think of you. I never sang at school, only at home, and signed up to study dance and drama in the hopes of becoming an actor. I started writing lyrics again to help out my friends who studied music – I always loved English lessons and writing stories. I was too scared to audition for the yearly school concerts until year 11, when I plucked up the courage to do a duet with my best friend. That was the start of really getting into my music. I started posting videos of me singing on Instagram, and then when I met my current producer and friend Teo (@teomadeit) in my gap year, I realised that maybe releasing music could be a reality.

What’s your songwriting process?

When I was younger, the lyrics would just come to me and I’d write them down with no music, but now I prefer to freestyle over a beat. I draw on personal experiences, but also things that have happened to friends and whatever I’m watching or reading. For my single ‘Lemon Tea’, I just noticed an empty yellow carton in the recording studio and wrote the song in one sitting, over maybe three hours. It’s a very quick process for me, I don’t like to drag a song out.

Your music video for ‘Lemon Tea’ was created in lockdown over FaceTime, tell us about this process.

My friend Zoey Jacqueline has a student modelling agency called Agency 7 and Ona Greenwood, an art direction and styling student, messaged me on that. She asked to do a FaceTime photo shoot and we got chatting about my music and it turned into a music video. We shot it in one day over lockdown and it just shows you can do anything from home.

Video stills taken from @onagreenwood’s music video

What was the inspiration behind the first single from your EP, ‘Your Love’, which drops today?

I write about love all the time with my lyrics, which might be boring to some people, but I think it’s something everyone can relate to. I wrote this during lockdown, reflecting on the start of a relationship where you’re amazed at how quickly you get to know someone and fall into place with each other.

I recorded it very bootleg in my producer Teo’s home studio and I loved the natural, chilled setting a lot more than being in an actual recording studio. I like to be comfortable when I’m writing. It feels fitting for my EP of chill bedroom tracks to be recorded also in a bedroom.

What’s been the biggest fangirl moment of your music journey so far?

Performing with BBC introducing in the BBC Breakfast studio with their film crew was incredible, it felt like the moment my career became ‘official’. Also, recently one of my favourite artists Biig Piig played ‘Lemon Tea’ on one of her Instagram Lives when she did a playlist in quarantine. Seeing her dancing and say how much she loved it was surreal.

Tell us about your drive as an artist.

I want to create an iconic, timeless album like Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’, but I also want to be part of a more diverse music industry. Festival line-ups are dominated by men, especially Leeds Festival, and I also find myself listening to so many male artists unknowingly. Such a male-centric industry and line-ups is worrying when you’re trying to break into the business. Tours and festivals are where artists make most of their money so this really needs to change. Through lockdown, I’ve spent time discovering some great women artists like like Nina Cobham, Nxdia, RADA and Jaydonclover. I’m hoping for a lot more girl power, even all-female festivals in the future.

I’m mixed race myself and would really like to see a lot more dark skinned black women rise up in the industry. A lot of things are inspired by black culture so it would be nice to be appreciated more.

Do you think studying a creative course has helped with your music?

Definitely. Though I now know I don’t want to go into fashion, I’ve learnt so much from people I’ve met here. My course taught me a lot about social media, styling and photography, and I’ve collaborated with so many creatives, like Morgan Roberts (@shotbymr) who shot the cover of my EP.

How do you navigate social media as an artist? It must be easy to get bogged down in comparing yourself.

Social media is fabulous, but it’s very intense. Recently I’ve felt overwhelmed by the constant scrolling and I’ve taken a step back to just use it for a work. It’s easy to say ‘stop comparing yourself’ but if you take a break and stop looking at those perfect images, you really do start feeling better about yourself. I’m constantly reminding myself of this, I want to be more carefree and enjoy life more.

What’s your advice for someone breaking into the music industry?

I never went into this with too much of a game plan. I think that if you enjoy making music it’ll come across – if you would listen to it yourself, then that’s almost all you need. Don’t obsess over having a massive social media following either, if it’s good work and you have faith in it, it can find the right ears.


Also, making friends with other musicians has been so crucial for me. I can ask them to be honest with me and they’ll give me proper feedback. This can sting at first, but I have so much respect for that and it pushes me to do better. You want to create a circle of people that aren’t always going to be your ‘yes men’, constructive criticism is vital to grow as an artist. It’s really helped grow my confidence and I’m a bit less emotional now. I used to cry when someone said something I’d created was bad, but now I’ve gotten over it and realised that to get better you need someone to tell you ‘no’ sometimes.


Three words that define your music.

  • Chill, alternative, fun.

Three words you want your music to make people feel.

  • Happy, nostalgic, relaxed.

What’s the song you blast for max creativity?

  • Anderson Paak’s second album ‘Malibu’. I rediscovered it months ago, it makes me feel so good and motivated.

Your perfect midnight snack?

  • I’m loving mozzarella dippers right now.

How do you tackle creative block?

  • I have a good cry and then come back to it later. Sometimes you feel blocked and need to release it.

When do you write best?

  • Late at night in the dark, I’m not a morning person.

Who should we be following on Instagram?

  • @zoeyjacqueline, she founded Agency 7 as a platform for young creatives to source models for projects.

Who should we be following for the lols?

Best thing to come out of lockdown?

  • Finally finishing my EP. I feel like I got my life together when life stopped.