Creative collaborations

A few days ago my nakama Megan Valentine released her debut EP Wrong Side of the  Road! It’s fantastic. You should click on that link and listen to it now, especially if you like anime, pop, punk or anime pop punk (which is what it is). Seeing as Meg is one of the main people I collab with, I thought I would discuss the importance of creative collaborations.

Julia Mascetti Megan Valentine
Me and Megan Valentine in London

For the first 20 years of my life I was terrified of showing people my songs. Too personal, too weird, not good enough. I also don’t think I had met the right people to work with yet. When I did start creating with other people, it changed my life. I think art is (almost always) meant to be social. Stories round the campfire and all that jazz. So without further ado, here is why you should do creative collaborations:

1) You get shit finished
So many artists are chronic un-finishers. Perfectionism, procrastination, fear of not being good enough… Honestly I think doing a collab with a friend is the best way to get out of the ‘I can’t finish a song’ rut. Because the fear of letting your friend down because you haven’t written your part on time outweighs the fear of never starting because you are scared you will be shit. Once you’re done, you will be braver about sharing you collaborative work then anything you made on your own because your confidence in your friend becomes confidence in yourself. Neat huh?

2) You grow musically
Although I had got my ABRSM Grade 8 and a place on a BA Music course, until I was 18 I had no idea how to count or play in time. Violinists grow up in out of tune youth orchestras, guitarists in bands but harpists… honestly before I left home I could probably count the times I had performed with actual other people on one hand. There was not a Youth Orchestra that was big enough to want a pedal harp in my neighbourhood. When I got to university I made principal harpist in the uni orchestra because the audition was, again, solo. When I started playing in orchestras I got a rude awakening. Turns out technical ability wasn’t much use without the knack of actually playing in time. It was a steep learning curve but but after two years of being looked at weirdly when I came in 8 bars early and one year of slowly starting to get it, I was five times the musician I was before. I will never say timing is my strong point but at least now I can count rests and play to a click track. Even when I play by myself, everything sounds so much tighter and slicker. I could never have got this ability alone in a practice room.

3) You support each other
If you are a soloist, creating can be very lonely. Sometimes you really just need to talk to someone who gets it, bounce off ideas, get feed back on a draft, share your insecurities and get some sympathy and encouragement. From a practical point of view you can also gain exposure through each other; your collaborator’s fans can become your fans, they can introduce you to venues, people and experiences you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4) You get inspired
In general I like to be around awesome people who do awesome things. Though I am proud of my friends who are a great data analysts, unfortunately you can’t put their work up in a gallery. Two of my besties work for the British military. An exhibition of their work would compromise national security. No such problem with my artist friends! Not only can I feel proud of them and warm and fuzzy, they hold awesome events for their work where I can go home feeling inspired and moved.

5) They make your art better
I am just so hugely lucky to know Isabel Galwey and Oliver Wood. Whenever someone gets a physical copy of my EP they always comment on how beautiful the artwork is. It’s the first thing people see, it’s what they remember and what they hold in their hands to take home once they put their money down. And without Olly, well it would be me recording with a USB mic in my drafty flat. There would be no high quality harp tracks, no beautiful string arrangements, no flutes, no violins… well no EP at all. Both of them not only did what I needed them to do, they understood my creative vision entirely and finished my thoughts, creating something bigger than just me.
Two (or more) heads are usually better than one. 

If you’re an artist go and find your people. You with enrich each other’s art and each other’s lives and have a blast doing it!

Playing the harp standing up

2017 has been the year where I entered the wonderful world of playing the harp standing up!

One of the reasons I decided to take my little purple harp to Tokyo was because I wanted to play standing up. Before coming to Tokyo, I had owned my little harpsicle harp for a couple of years and it had been great to take with me to low key gigs, but I hadn’t been brave enough to perform standing with it yet. But if I was going to go through the trouble of bringing a harp to Tokyo I was going to bloody well learn!

Julia Mascetti metal harp
with my band Gjoll at Shinjuku Antiknock

After all metal is more effective when you can jump around a bit…














I bought a guitar strap from the Yamaha shop in Ginza and started experimenting. The main problem I had was one of angle – I like to have to the straps tight-ish so the harp close to my body and I don’t have to lean down, but I’ve found that if I get it into optimum position, the strings are out of eye-line? This is fine for simple songs I know well, but I can’t imagine sight reading standing up or attempting pieces with a lot of lever changes for this reason. I’m still working on this issue and if there are any veteran standing harpists out there I would love to hear your tips! Nevertheless, as I play standing mostly when I’m accompanying myself singing it hasn’t been a big problem. I’m just sticking to basic arrangements and gradually gaining confidence as I perform standing more and more.

For my recent EP release party and other ‘big important gigs,’ as well as events I’m booked for, I still go for the bigger celtic harp but I am enjoying the freedom of being able to play standing up when I want to. I find I can connect with the audience in different ways when I can walk and move more and I can breathe really well and project my singing voice. I’m always using for ways to break new ground and expand my musicality, and this has been an enjoyable one!

If you have tried playing your instrument in a different way, please let me know how it went!

Julia Mascetti harp Cheshmeh

Julia Mascetti to play at the Great British Weekend

Happy to announce that I’m performing at a really fun event on 9/10 December 2017 – The Great British Weekend, a celebration of all things British featuring British music, sport, travel, fashion, food and drink.

I’ll be doing a harp and voice performance of British music featuring covers of folk, pop and Christmas songs.

If you fancy coming down, I will be playing on both the Saturday and Sunday at Roppongi Hills. Please see the Great British Weekend full schedule.

I was super excited to hear that indie band The Watanabes will also be playing. Founded by two lads from Norfolk, The Watanabes are a Tokyo based indie band with members from the UK and Japan. They take their name from the main character of the novel Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami, which is also the title of a Beatles song. I think this fusing of British and Japanese references is pretty neat on their part.

To be honest, I was never too fussed about the Beatles but I loved the Murakami novel and that made me come to appreciate the song. From there I slowly started to get into more of their music. So to honor British Japanese relations, I thought I would cover Norwegian Wood.

When you’re doing a British event in Tokyo, it’s pretty much compulsory to play the song which is both a Beatles classic and a world famous Japanese novel.

Hope to see you there!

Thank you

In June 2016, I became more unwell than I had ever been in my life.

My story of chronic illness in Japan  has been told elsewhere but essentially after 8 months of pain, doubt and sickness I quit Japan and moved back in with my parents in Essex. For 2 months I temped in a call center and blew my savings visiting a swanky Harley Street doctor in the hope that he could fix me.

These two months could have been really shit but during this period I had the chance to reconnected with wonderful UK friends. Thanks to these people, I feel I recovered spiritually as well as physically.

One of them was Oliver Wood, a wonderfully talented musician and producer that I know from my time in the Essex Youth Orchestra. During my exile to the home counties, we recorded my EP In Distance, Everything is Poetry together. It was the kind of recording experience I’ve always craved, relaxed but bursting with creativity. Olly drew my best playing out of me and we had a lot of fun getting the tracks done. His string arrangements and post production are stunning and I feel he’s really brought my songs to life.

In May 2017 I made the decision to return to Japan, this time not with the protection of a steady job, but as a freelancer. Perhaps a crazy choice given I was recently ‘recovered’ (what I have doesn’t usually go away completely but I’m 90%) and broke thanks to the swanky doctor. But illness sometimes brings into perspective what is really important to you. When I was faced with the prospect of possibly never being able to work full time again I realised that I had spent my entire life doing things I was never really that into.

I don’t mean I’ve lived an unhappy life, far from it. Most of the things I’ve done with it – uni, music PR, teaching – have been worthwhile, good things that I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from them. I mean that, to be honest, I was never super passionate about any of them them, even if I told myself I was. Illness taught me that life can take time and opportunities away when you least expect it. I had spent my first 23 years hitting targets and doing the things I was supposed to do. Now it was time to chase what I actually wanted.

The last 6 months have been the most exciting of my life but also some of the most challenging. For the first time I feel like I’m spending most of my time pursuing things I actually, really care about. It is tough as hell but also hugely fulfilling.

On Friday I released the EP and yesterday I held a release party at the Cheshmeh in Sasazuka, Tokyo. The venue was packed; I felt bad because a lot of people had to stand or sit on the floor, but we opened up half of the stage for extra seating space. Two wonderful female artist friends opened for me. I enjoyed this performance more than I have in ages and I will always remember looking out into the crowd, unable to believe that I had this – a release party in a beautiful venue packed with people of a variety of ages and nationalities but united in their warmth and love of art.

There are so many people in my life I have to be grateful for. The musicians I perform with and the venue owners who book me. My wonderful producer Oliver Wood and Isabel Galwey who made the beautiful album art. Everyone who bought a CD, came to a gig or shared my work. I have found Tokyo to be a wonderful place where so many people are enthusiastic about music and supportive of musicians. It’s the kind of artistic community I’ve been looking for all of my life to be honest.

What I have to be grateful for goes beyond my art. Every friend who listened to me when I was sick, my parents who let their daughter in her mid 20s move back in and eat their food, my long suffering boyfriend who has supported me through thick and thin. Everyone, thank you so much.

I’m collapsed in a bit of a pile right now. Over the last couple of months I have performed my original material more intensively than ever before. Putting on shows is a lot of fun but it is exhausting, physically, emotionally and socially. Actually the social one is a biggie – I think one of the main reasons I didn’t get seriously into performing original material before graduating is because I hadn’t got enough experience points to level up to the required social level back then. You need to make friends with musicians, make friends with venue owners, invite everyone to your events, hustle on social media, and talk to everyone competently after the performance. Yesterday, people asked me to sign CDs. I mean, me. Signing CDs. I can’t get over it.

So yeah, I’m on my sofa in a pile eating takeaway sushi, catching up on Netflix. I usually work out twice or three times a week but I have been so busy I haven’t in almost three weeks. Maybe I’ll catch up on that too.

The world won’t stop for me. I actually have a huge writing deadline tomorrow. My next solo show is on Friday, then another on Sunday then I need to get to work on learning a tonne of material for a corporate event in December.

But for the next couple of hours, rest, relaxation and gratitude. Thank you, everyone. Thank you so much.

My wonderful support acts ❤ 

Marie Dangerfield and her beautiful Amy Winehouse style voice
Marie Dangerfield

The trilingual electropop stylings of Juliette Jemm
Juliette Jemm

My first time on Japanese TV

You’ll always remember your first time.

My maiden voyage into the world of Japanese TV was almost a year ago now and it was as exciting as it was random. I’ve been on TV several times since then but this appearance is still probably the most fun (so far!). A lot of people have asked me about it and I even got recognized by strangers a few times afterwards but for some reason I never got around to writing about it until now.

It was October 2016 and my good friends and long term collaborators Megan Valentine and Tomas Eduardo had come to Tokyo for a mini tour and had kindly invited me to perform with them. I think it was only their second day in Tokyo when Meg and Tom were in Shibuya for some sightseeing. As there often are there were some camera crews hanging around picking out interesting looking foreigners to interview. As luck would have it, the topic of the day was Japanese music! They asked Meg to sing a bit from her favorite Japanese song and they were super impressed (of course, she’s pretty great). Meg being Meg, she went straight into PR mode and started promoting our first gig of the mini tour at Shimokitazawa Waver. To our amazement the film crew said they would come and film the performance!

Turns out the film crew were from Zip! TV, a popular breakfast show (for my UK peeps, similar kind of deal to Channel 4). We had only been rehearsing together a few days so the prospect of playing my harp on Japanese TV was… a little bit daunting.

Julia Mascetti Japanese TV Zip! harp
Screenshot of the Zip! program that featured us. They filmed our performance of Moonlight Densetsu at Shimokitazawa Waver

I was happy with our performance though. Honestly it was a great experience. Waver is a really friendly venue and the vibe gave me confidence to keep my nerves under control despite a camera man being 3ft from my harp. It was nearly Halloween, there was a good turnout and the decorations were on point.

We were playing a mix of covers and originals but of course this is Japanese TV and so they were most interested in the song we were singing in Japanese – Moonlight Densetsu, the opening from Sailor Moon. As well as filming us they interviewed us backstage on why we liked Japanese music and what had brought us to where we were tonight.

I love crazy coincidences and that was one night where things just fell into place. My old friends had come to London and obviously a lot of my Japan friends had come to the gig when they heard that it would be on TV…
After our set the camera crew left and we all danced like crazy to the final band of the evening. I will treasure that memory.

I cropped the most harp intensive segment and stuck it on my Instagram:

Or if you’re interested in a better quality recording of the performance (taken by our photographer, not the film crew) and Meg’s commentary, check out her video blog:

New girl-crush: Amina du Jean

How could you not listen to an idol track called ‘seppuku?’

‘seppuku’ is Japanese ritual disembowelment, originally reserved for samurai who wished to die with honour rather than fall into the hands of their enemies.

In the new track from former idol amina du jean, she takes these lyrical themes of graphic violence and atonement for grave wrongdoing and throws them at her ex.

Which I get. 20 year old women scorned in love are some of the most terrifying people alive. I should know. I’ve been one.

The resulting track is almost exactly what you would expect, in a good way. Addictive melody, syrupy beats, no fewer than three key changes. My inner music scholar cringes but the kawaii trash part of me is dancing around the kitchen. It’s difficult navigating these inner conflicts all the time.

Again, combing sugary brightness with gruesome subject matter is hardly new ground but there is a lot of interesting and amusing stuff going on from this bilingual wordsmith. There is so much potential for linguistic interest in the mixing of English and Japanese in idol music but it’s often mediocre. Amina chan expertly weaves her Japanese into English style rhyme and stress patterns, with just the right amount of F bombs for ex evisceration.

Basically I like it and you should download it on Amina’s bandcamp.

I would do a harp cover of it but with a mug like mine it would be just terrifying instead of cutsey terrifying.

So I’ve been listening to this track and stalking Amina on social media all day. Definitely a girl-crush but I think she is way too hardcore for me. Alas, like many love affairs with idols, maybe it’s better if it remains a beautiful (and vengeful) fantasy.

Amina du Jean
Photo credit: Shintaro Kago.

NEW EP ‘In Distance, Everything is Poetry’ to be released 10 November 2017

I’ve got a new EP coming out and it’s title will be ‘In Distance, Everything is Poetry.’

The release date is Friday 10 November 2017 and I am SO FRICKIN EXCITED.

As the title suggests, this one is influenced by my life in Japan. Lyrics explore culture shock, long distance relationships and being young and broke in the two most exciting, alienating and expensive cities in the world (which are Tokyo and London duh, no arguing).

This blog is Tokyo Harp but my identity as the song-writer Julia Mascetti is slightly broader, which is why I tried to make this a Japan influenced EP instead of a ‘Japan EP.’ I think I’ve succeeded. I don’t think ‘distance’ is a subject matter only relevant to those of us crazy enough to uproot to the other side of the world. These days very few of us live our entire lives in the area we are born. We study and work far from our families, make connections online that compete with people we see every day and our loyalties and priorities are blurred in ways that can be confusing and painful but also interesting to write about. So I hope most of you can find something to relate to in my lyrics, and if not, everyone likes harp music right?

I’m working with some amazing people to bring this thing to life and the first I’d like to introduce is the fantastic London based photographer Emily Valentine. Nature and romance are two big themes of the EP and I feel she captured both perfectly during our shoot in Greenwich park.

I have never been this excited about anything I made in my life and I truly can’t wait to share this EP with you.


Julia Mascetti harp Emily Valentine
My harp in Greenwich park. Photo credit: Emily Valentine