Tomo Nakayama Finds Community Through the Airwaves on New Single “With The Radio On” (KEXP Premiere)

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry
photo by Yuuki Matthews

As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues on, many of us have begun to adapt as best we can to this new life. While there have been many noble attempts to be social during social distancing, all the video calls and virtual dance parties in the world can’t necessarily fill the gap we’re collectively feeling. And yet some of the things that once played a background in our lives are now what’s connecting us – like the radio. (Editor’s Note: Oh hey, that’s us!). 

That’s the crux of Seattle songwriter Tomo Nakayama’s latest single, “With The Radio On.” Following his excellent 2020 LP, Melonday, Nakayama continues to embrace synth-pop as his musical language. This new musical aesthetic doesn’t just suit Nakayama and his pitch-perfect songwriting but feels reflective of the sterile, digital, and distant world we’re living in now. As express in the song, Nakayama has found solace in the communal aspect of listening to the same music with others through the radio waves. 

Nakayama shares more about the song’s genesis: 

"With the Radio On" was inspired by an article I read somewhere in which the author said it feels like each of us is living in our own separate time zones right now. I think like many people, I've had a lot of trouble sleeping lately and this pandemic has really fundamentally altered our sense of time in a way that's both weird and fascinating.

One of the things that has been keeping me grounded and sane is walking with my dog every day and listening to the radio. It's given me a chance to really fall in love with music again, revisiting old favorites like The Cure and Prince, and discovering new bands too. The power and the comfort of the radio, I think, is the idea that at any particular time, there are hundreds and thousands of other people in the world listening to the same song, experiencing the same sound waves. It really helps you feel more connected and less alone in the world.

I was very happy to work on this song once again with Yuuki Matthews (The Shins, Teardrops), with whom I wrote and produced my latest album "Melonday". He also painted the cover art of the single, which is featured in the lyric video. I think this song is a natural evolution from where we left off, and I'm very excited to keep building on it. The message of the song is pretty simple but I think it's true: Whatever happens in the coming days, whatever challenges we face, we will all get through it together.”

The beauty of “With The Radio On” is that it would work as a great pop song regardless of whenever it was to be released. But that it finds its way to our ears, forged and released in a time of uncertainty, it feels like something of a gift. As we gear up for a tough holiday season where the best thing to do to help one another is to be apart, “With The Radio On” reminds us that we’re all experiencing the same hurts, worries, and occasionally brief moments of serenity together. 

Nakayama's latest album Melonday is available now on honeydew green vinyl via Porchlight Records. Order your copy here. Listen to "With The Radio On" below. 


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