Last year, UMI blessed fans with the release of her ethereal album, Forest in the City. The project is an angelic ode to queer love, her Afro-Japanese background, and healing. Songs like “say im ur luv” are filled with melancholic-yet-upbeat melodies, and a movement-inducing video to accompany. Since then, the Los Angeles-based rising star has kept busy with a tour throughout Asia, and pulling looks during her first NYFW. And, as of today, she’s releasing her new single, “why dont we go.”
“This song was honestly inspired by my nature,” she tells ESSENCE, via Zoom, with a big smile on her face. “I’m a very spontaneous person. I’m often like, ‘why wait for next week? Why wait for next month?’ I’m a ‘why not do it now?’ kind of person,” she adds. In terms of the sonics, UMI was influenced by Fleetwood Mac and ‘70s soft rock. Additionally, this musical chapter reflects her new-found independence after leaving her record label. “Not being with a record label now has allowed me to more deeply understand why I create. I feel I’m moving at a pace that’s really authentic to me, too.”
The feeling of freedom that music gives UMI has been there since she was a little girl. It also helps that she has very encouraging and musical parents, too. “Ever since I could write words, I’ve been writing songs,” she says. “If you go through my home videos, they’re all of me dancing and singing,” she adds. Not forgetting to mention she’d make her sisters be her background dancers.
Similarly, her gentle nature that seems to effortlessly shine through in her art, likely stems from her intentional self-care routines. For example, UMI is big on meditation. “I feel like my music in itself is a meditation in a way,” she says. “But in general, starting my day off with meditation has just made my life so much easier.” She also loves sound baths and curating sound bath experiences for people, too.
And she applies the same intentionality to her beauty regimens. “I’ve been really adamant about wrapping my hair every night. I’m also really into face massages to relieve tension and sculpt my face,” she shares. For skincare, UMI loves using products she finds at the farmers’ market. “I love supporting small, sustainable businesses.” Specifically, she’s been loving the brand cleancandletherapy lately for body oils, and room sprays. “I’m a spray girl. If the room smells good, I feel good.”
On the horizon for UMI is her next EP, talking to the wind, which is set to release January 19th. “This project will be a really cool look into where I’m going next with my music,” she says. “It will also show people how far I’ve come to understand myself. I think in the past, I was more so experimenting. Now, I feel that what I want to play with is more clear,” she says. “The EP is going to be all about not overthinking too much.” This trust in herself goes beyond music, too. “I’m in a place where I feel confident that I’m surrounded by good people. I’m confident that I’m growing everyday. I’m confident because I exist.”