Emerging indie-R&B singer/songwriter and guitarist Naia Izumi has released his NPR Tiny Desk Contest-winning track, "Soft Spoken," which appears as the first song of his Tiny Desk Concert that aired last week. NPR Music calls "Soft Spoken" "singular and unparalleled," noting that it "speaks to the power inherent in the gentle and quieter voices that are often drowned out by the outspoken and boisterous ones." The genre-spanning track is available now on all digital platforms, including Bandcamp, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.
Naia Izumi was selected as 2018's Tiny Desk Contest winner from nearly 5,000 entries. NPR Music states, "Naia won us over with his mind-boggling and unique style of guitar playing — a combination of tapping on the fingerboards and soul-filled whammy-bar note bending," adding, "Naia's music draws from so many spheres of sound. There's that punctual, rhythmic, mathematical pulse to what he does, but there's also a fluid, almost African kalimba sound in there as well." Izumi began experimenting with guitar at around 9 years old as a way to express himself due to the social difficulties he experienced living with autism. Originally from Columbus, GA, he was busking on the streets of Los Angeles before winning the Tiny Desk contest, and it was during this time that he wrote "Soft Spoken," which was originally titled "Soft Spoken Woman.” The track is Izumi’s response to the social prejudices he has experienced throughout his life, with lyrics such as, "Don’t judge a book by its cover / Listen and you will learn / I might be a soft spoken person / But I’m aware of a power I have." During a recent interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Izumi divulged, "I was experiencing a lot of people [who would] just kind of over-talk me, or downplay my abilities because of how I presented myself."
Izumi has embarked on a nationwide tour presented by NPR Music and Lagunitas Brewing Company that includes shows in New York City, Denver, Minneapolis, Washington DC, Seattle, Chicago, and more. Izumi will also perform a SoFar Sounds LA session on May 30 and has an upcoming special guest appearance with Fantastic Negrito at the Lagunitas Amphitheater in Petaluma, CA on June 12. Additionally, he will support The Lone Bellow on a 12-show tour this fall. Please see below for full tour details with more dates to be announced soon.