musician, songwriter

Tomo Nakayama

From the moment you set foot in Seattle, you can feel it: art is everywhere.

The thriving arts scene is a priority in this city—in fact, Seattle has been recognized for having more arts-related businesses and organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Americans for the Arts. Musician and songwriter Tomo Nakayama is one of the contributors to this creative city. Read on for a look at the city through his artistic lens.

Q&A with Tomo Nakayama

What do you like to do in Seattle when you aren’t holed up writing songs?

I love nature. I love going to the Ballard Locks, Discovery Park, Carkeek Park, hanging out with my dog Mochi at Golden Gardens. A little further south, the Kubota Gardens are really beautiful. I love being on Lake Union in a sailboat, which you can rent at the Center for Wooden Boats.

You wrote your first solo album, Fog on the Lens, while in residency at Town Hall Seattle. How did the civic and cultural event space affect your songwriting?

I had been writing in a pastoral mode, with a lot of nature imagery. But when I started the residency at Town Hall, I started going to a lot of the talks there, and spending more time downtown, at nearby cultural centers like the Frye Museum and the Central Library. It made me think more about human relationships and communities—which showed up in the songs.

How have you liked playing free shows to passersby for the live local music program at Sea-Tac Airport?

I really enjoy playing those long sets, because every once in a while I have intense moments of connection. I play my songs mixed with covers of Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles, which has raised the bar on my own writing! My new solo album, Pieces of Sky, was inspired by playing at the airport and visiting Iceland, Sweden and Japan—which, like Seattle, have a laidback, modest way about them that I connect with.

Where do you like to hear and perform music?

When I first started playing shows I spent a lot of time at The Vera Project, the all-ages venue. Now the Triple Door is one of my favorite places. I also love the Fremont Abbey, and the Chapel at Good Shepherd Center—that room is really great for experimental and jazz music. I’ve played in the KEXP gathering space, where I also just like to hang out, drinking coffee at La Marzocco and reading a book. You can see the DJs through the glass, and there’s a little record store there. Sonic Boom Records is also great—one of the best record stores on the West Coast.


Interview by Brangien Davis.  Photo taken at the KEXP Gathering Space.


Fourth of Julivar’s from Tomo Nakayama’s 2017 album, Pieces of Sky.



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