Emiko’s Video is released today on our website
By Terry Miller
A good friend and outstanding artist, Emiko, is an award-winning LA-based singer, keyboardist, songwriter, and music industry professional who started an emotional project some time back about dealing with the ever-present sexual harassment and assaults that have become headline news for years, but especially these past weeks with the likes of Presidents, former Presidents, Actors, filmmakers, and a litany of people in the limelight being accused of very serious crimes against women, for the most part. Men are not immune to harassment, it is just usually less public.
The timing of the release of this music video for a song called “I Believe You” is remarkable and astonishing. It is based on the Emiko’s own experience of sexual assault. The song was co-written with Grammy and Oscar-nominated producer Tommy Faragher who is most recently known as a music producer for the hit FOX TV show, “Glee.”
“This is so much more than a music video. This is a vital social statement. More than anything, we feel that the most important thing a survivor of this kind of trauma is to simply be believed. We are in contact with RAINN and are looking into partnering with them and other advocacy groups and networks in the LA area, ” Emiko said.
Pasadena Independent asked Emiko what prompted her to embark on such a project:
When did you start this project?
Emiko: That’s a good question. I can’t say there was an exact date per se because the project was born out of the song I wrote with the same title which unfortunately is about my own experiences with sexual assault, and was written back in July. It’s kind of all been simmering for a while now, even since before I wrote the song, really.
How did you find survivors?
Emiko: How we found survivors was equal parts an incredible blessing and a tragedy. We decided to halt production on a couple of other videos we were working on and jump into “I Believe You.” I made a public statement via Facebook Live about a week before we went into production, asking people to reach out if they wanted to be a part of this. My assistant and one of my managers did some outreach to various sites as well – within 24-48 hours, we had about 70 emails. By the third and fourth day, we had well surpassed 150. I think in total we got over 200 people which in and of itself IS the tragedy because we were looking for real survivors, not actors. And if over 200 people in a few days come forward, it proves that sexual violence and the laissez-faire attitude toward it have reached epidemic proportions. And to be clear, these survivors are not famous Hollywood actresses and actors. These are everyday folks – even children came forward. That said a LOT.
This is a not-for-profit venture but I’m sure wasn’t inexpensive to produce. How did you fund the making of the video?
Emiko: Actually, it came together with incredibly little cost. Everyone volunteered their time, the space, the wardrobe was all their own. The director and crew donated their time, and what we found out was that each and every member of the production was either a survivor or knew someone that was. Again, it just forced such a bright light on how horribly commonplace this is.
How long have you been professional and when did you start to play keyboards?
Emiko: I’ve been playing keyboards basically my whole life. I started when I was two years old, or so I’m told. My parents have lots of funny photos of me at the piano in diapers. This has been my whole life. I’ve been a professional songwriter and performer for a lot longer than I care to say – I think I played my first original show when I was 14 ….
Who influenced you most to get into the music industry? Who are some of your mentors?
Emiko: I used to say two words: BILLY JOEL. But as I’ve grown and developed over the years, I think the biggest influences in my life who encouraged me were my family, definitely my parents and my Grandma Bea, and the absolutely phenomenal teachers I had who never gave up on me. They taught me how to create, how to edit, how to practice, and how to BE, something I think a lot of people don’t really grasp about the music industry. That you can BE successful, creating original music in many, many forms. If your ears, eyes, and mind are open there are countless opportunities.
You spend a lot of time in studios but do you perform live gigs frequently too?
Emiko: I DO spend a lot of time in the studio, it’s true. I’m lucky enough to have a recording studio in my home, where I do most of my songwriting and composition for film and TV. I tend to perform in cycles, which is pretty normal for artists – we spend months writing, and then we go out and perform the songs we’ve written. A performance/tour schedule is posted on my website presently. It’s a bit sparse, mostly because we are finalizing details to a lot of shows but rest assured there are a lot of concert dates that are forthcoming!
Could you list the people who helped produce, direct, choreograph and film the video?
Emiko: Certainly! We had a great team and crew:
Tommy Faragher, my producer and co-creator of the song, “I Believe You”
Chris Cairns, Director
Vera Frances Lugo, 1st Assistant Director
Judi Bell, Casting Director (which is a bit weird to say because everyone was a real person who had been personally affected by sexual/domestic violence)
Noor Che’ree, Behind-the-Scenes and playback
Michelle Packman, 1st Assistant Camera
Jennie Walker of Walker/Viden, wardrobe (Jennie came up with the style idea for what I’m wearing)
Charles Como and the Underground Network in Glendale, CA is where we came together to make the video.
I have to say, everyone was committed to this project. With literally less than a week, people were working around the clock, giving up sleep and personal time, talking to survivors on a regular basis – it was intense. But we all knew the level of dedication and focus this not only was going to take, but deserved. So I have to say that “thank you” doesn’t remotely express my gratitude to these folks. And moreover, all the survivors and supporters of survivors who came forward to participate (I am purposely not naming everyone as some folks have some privacy requests that we need to honor) – their courage is nothing short of superhuman. Really. I was incredibly humbled that this project got wings so quickly.
What do you hope to achieve most with this project and how will you market the video for maximum exposure ( aside from a story in the Pasadena Independent…hahahah)
Emiko: This video is just the first in a series of videos to come. Although, yes, this is considered the “official” music video for the song itself, it really was a launching pad for the whole I Believe You Project. My desire with this project is literally to stop the cycle of violence. And I don’t just mean the perpetrators. I mean folks in law enforcement and the justice system – teachers, community leaders, people who find it more convenient to disbelieve someone because it doesn’t fit in with their schedule or their day. When a survivor comes forward, it’s critical to remember they are recounting, and therefore, reliving the abuse they experienced. To wave them off and disbelieve them is like kicking them when they’re already down. And more than that, it has a domino effect. It allows the perpetrator to get away with it, causes more grief and shame for the survivor, and allows the stigma that somehow if you don’t believe them then it didn’t happen, to gain more life. This simply isn’t okay so the project is committed to creating a site and space where survivors can speak out, connect with one another, be supportive of one another, and find resources in their local areas to get help. The project has a second focus as well, which is to bring a bright light on the statistical epidemic of disbelief nationwide, and frankly, globally. My hope is that through the work this project does, it will offer law enforcement and our justice system a more compassionate, effective, and transparent way to honor the survivors while bringing perpetrators swiftly to justice.
Even though you started this project before the recent publicity of high profile sexual harassment cases, what is your take on why all these cases are now coming to light. Do you think women ( and men) are becoming more courageous as with ( safety in numbers kind of thing)…?
Emiko: ABSOLUTELY. There is strength in numbers. And unfortunately this is true for the inverse as well. For decades, there was strength in numbers to remain silent – and what I mean by that was it was easier to turn a blind eye. But water always finds its level and that’s what is happening here. It’s true that the song was written well before all of the Hollywood cases came to light – but that just drove the point home even more – it took a famous personality to have this horrific issue be taken seriously en-masse. What about the countless other “everyday” people who experience this? The kids who witness this? The women who have been afraid to speak up for fear they will lose their jobs, their children, their safety? What about the men who have experienced this and are told to “man up?” Surely, sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and misconduct are not okay for anyone. We must continue to speak up and we must fervently support one another to create safe environments going forward. If we speak up and refuse to back down, perpetrators eventually will realize that their idea that this is considered “normally accepted behavior” is over. And ultimately, that’s where this is going.
In your opinion, what can men do to respect women and not objectify sexuality on a daily basis, at home and work?
Emiko: We live in a world where over-sexualization of (mostly) women and young girls reigns prevalent and has become accepted as a paramount marketing tool. I read a really good piece in the Chicago Tribune just a day ago about how women specifically tend to have their sexuality considered first, before their humanity.
I was quite sad to read this because I know it’s true. This is a really hard question to answer but the best way I can put it is to simplify it: you wouldn’t stand for your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your stepdaughter, to be treated this way. So why is it okay to treat an unrelated female with less respect? It’s not. In terms of the workplace: a woman’s sexuality has nil to do with her ability, her skill, her talent, her social or economic contributions. These qualities are lasting qualities that give way to history making opportunities and actions. I think mindfulness is key. If we all take a little extra step to be just a tad more respectful overall, it would be a grand help. And also, “no means no.” True. But here’s a clearer way of putting it: “only yes means yes.”