Well, today marks 6 months and 1 week of quarantine and I can’t help but divulge into self-discovery and poetry. There’s something about the entry of fall that makes me sit with this sort of purgatory, if you will. A question that’s been on my mind is “how is cuffing season going to work this year?” Dating to pass the colder months by just doesn’t feel right amidst a global pandemic. Thankfully, Caro Juna has found the solution. Her latest single, “Say it Right” is a song that captures the feeling of falling in love in the digital age, which can be a confusing thing. Created in collaboration with Vic Delnur, Devoye Folkes, and saxophone player Jaedon Alvira – Caro Juna presses on the issue of communication and sharing how you feel.
Caro’s serenades sound like milky poetry: soft, light, refreshing. She has long had an affinity for creating love songs and has mastered her smooth, groovy, jazz-inspired tonality. The Brooklyn-based artist was born in Korea and raised in Japan and uses her music to explore her identity, hoping that others will relate to her on her journey of self-discovery. Stylistically, her music is funky, brassy, delicate yet unpredictable. Lyrically, she captivates our emotions and strives for us to listen just a little harder at ourselves.
LADYGUNN interviewed the young star and touched on the importance of Asian representation, classical inspiration, and upcoming projects.
Being born in Korea and raised in Japan – how has your upbringing influenced your music?
Growing up in Asia to conservative Christian parents, I was never exposed to anything other than classical/oratorial music and occasionally some musicals. As I got older, whether it was through friends or just browsing the internet (Limewire was my best friend), I was able to find music on my own, and every new song I found felt like stumbling upon a small treasure. I was surrounded by the influence of trending music in the U.S. at my American middle school in Japan while also transfixed by popular Korean and Japanese music, and then with the internet – my boundaries were limitless. Whether it was jazz or pop or alternative rock, whether it was in French or German or Korean, I loved it all. My upbringing broadened my horizons to encompass many cultures and genres, and that voracious appetite and fierce love of all types of music is what informs and fuels my music today.
Asian representation in the entertainment industry is abysmal, to say the least. How do you plan on changing/influencing the industry? What message do you want to send to Asian American youth?
As my friend once told me, there need to be more Asians that defiantly choose the unconventional path and “dare to be interesting.” If anything, I hope that just my very existence can inspire another Asian American to at least try to pursue a nonconformist career path. In a way, I already see more and more rising to the challenge and succeeding, and I am surrounded by my own community of incredibly talented Asian artists, but I dream of a day when there are so many of us I won’t even be able to keep track – and I hope I can be one of the many that will make that happen.
We tend to generalize Asian music as just “K-Pop” – which is a huge disservice. Any types of genres/styles that you find appealing or would want an American audience to familiarize themselves with?
It’d be beautiful if, one day, being Asian doesn’t have to be a qualifier to a musician’s identity in their genre because it won’t be so surprising to see. I think if you look closely enough, there are so many up and coming Asian musicians across all genres, whether that is techno or jazz or pop. I’m personally a big fan of new jazz and neo-soul, but lately I’ve been trying to find a way to innovatively merge my love for classical music back into my music as well.
You’re beyond musically talented! What is your background in music?
Thank you so much 🙂 I grew up studying classical music, piano & violin. I think in another lifetime, if I had had more discipline and practiced more, I would’ve dreamt of becoming a classical pianist. I also studied opera and jazz for voice, but I never really imagined I would go far with it. I think as I got a little older, I became fascinated with jazz and the way people found freedom in unpredictable, winding improvisations but still somehow remained within the bounds of some imaginary structure. I don’t think I could ever claim to be a proper jazz musician, but it will likely be a lifelong journey of mine to study and learn and grow in it. I am endlessly inspired by jazz and bossa nova, but also I still love the classical musicians I grew up listening to and studying like Saint-Saens and Scriabin and Liszt. Maybe one day I’ll be able to find a sound that incorporates all of the sounds floating around in my head.
Who are some of your inspirations?
Aside from my childhood music idols like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, even Bach and Debussy, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of incredible electronic musicians (my boyfriend is a techno musician, so maybe that’s why haha) like Four Tet and Boards of Canada, or Oklou, Honey Dijon. I am very big fan of Mereba because I think she’s able to meaningfully blend so many different types of sounds into a unique style that is her very own. Beyond musicians, I also love fashion and photography, and I find it moving to see so many talented Asian photographers like Min Hyunwoo and Wang Wei find success. My favorite brand right now is a Japanese brand called Perverze, and they make clothing inspired by street fashion from the 80’s-90’s.
And obviously I am regularly inspired by the artists and designers and writers around me, there are too many to even attempt to list out here. I know some people like to say New York is dead, but I’d argue that New York is very alive and well and bustling with creative energy.
What does it mean to you to be considered an artist?
For me, to be an artist means that I am constantly striving to be better. Whether that is honing my poetry and lyricism or whether that is learning how to produce my own music, I think an artist can start anywhere and share their work so that others might be inspired along the way. I think artists are always burdened by perfectionism or audience reception, but in reality, I’m learning that it’s much more fulfilling and meaningful to find joy in becoming better and growing and learning because there will always be more to learn and new ways to become better. I know they’re cliches, but “hone your craft” and “enjoy the process” ring most true to me.
I absolutely loved “Say It Right!” – anything you’d like to tell us about this track?
This song was a collaboration with some of the most amazing musicians and artists I have in my life! My remarkably multi talented friend Vic Delnur produced the song, Jaedon Alvira is a phenomenal saxophone player, Devoye Folkes always makes magic when he mixes and masters my tracks, and the dreamy album artwork was made by Paulo Pastel. I originally wrote this song around the time my boyfriend and I met, and I wanted to capture the feeling of falling in love in this digital age. All those uncertainties when people don’t communicate clearly, and just wanting to know how the other person feels, for them to just “say it right.” I wanted to make a song that captured both the excitement and impatience when meeting a new person. Overall, it’s quite an innocent, sweet song, and I hope a lot of people will be able to relate. And even if they can’t relate, I hope it will feel like a warm autumn hug 🙂
Do you have any upcoming projects or releases you’d like your fans to know about?
I have some upcoming releases that portray maybe a darker side of me, and I have a few projects that will showcase music that I’ve produced on my own. Stay tuned 🙂
How have you spent your quarantine?
I’ve been spending most of my quarantine inside reading and playing with puzzles (anyone who knows me knows how much I love puzzles). I just finished a book called “Minor Feelings” by Cathy Park Hong which blew me away, I highly recommend, and oh, my quarantine talent is I can now solve a Rubik’s cube in around 1 minute and 20 seconds! And of course, I’ve been using this time to produce my own music, I released my first fully self-produced single “Kite Song” a month ago and there are many more to come!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s taught me to be patient and remember that good things take time. I know I’ve faced a lot of inner turmoil during these times, so I just hope that anyone who might read this might feel encouraged or uplifted in some way.
CONNECT WITH CARO JUNA
photos / Josefine Cardoni
story / Ali Qutmiera