In February, the 27-year-old guitarist, known for sharing on Instagram his virtuosic technique, surprised fans when he shut down his account on the social media platform.
Now, he’s returned to offer his take on the pop star’s DJ Snake collaboration Selfish Love, replacing the song’s tropical house instrumentation with intimately recorded acoustic guitars, performed in his signature sound.
Guitar.com got the chance to speak with Asato about the release and find out more about what he’s been up to since staying off social media.
In February, you announced a break from music, due partially to some of the pressures of social media. Have these past few months being “offline” helped with your creativity?
“That ‘announcement’ on my Instagram had a bit of a misunderstanding, I believe. I was in the middle of a flight on the way back to my hometown when all these thoughts started to show up. It [was] meant to be more of a confession of my current frustrations than anything else.
“But my real intention there was to show that besides my disappointment with my own music development, I was mainly oversaturated from the pressure of posting things on social media. So I decided to take that break from ‘Instagram’ – not music, like most people understood.
“At the end of the day, it was actually ‘good’ the way the media exposed that, because after getting so many messages from friends and fans worried about me, I started to [pay] more attention to my mental health and other details – and I had no clue how many things I wasn’t handling properly.
“It’s been a great recovery process so far – and I feel like my creativity is getting better gradually during this time.”
Lately, you’ve been taking on some high-profile collaborations, including the acoustic version of DJ Snake and Selena Gomez’s Selfish Love – can you tell us how those collaborations come about?
“Working on [Selfish Love] was my first musical activity since my ‘break’. I had [not played the guitar for] more than 40 days when my manager called me, asking if I was down to make a version of Selena’s latest single.
“He explained to [Selena’s label] who I was and they said it could be a great match. They were looking for someone who could [give the song] a Latin vibe. It felt like a challenge – and it came at a perfect time. They gave me a lot of freedom to work on the music. I am glad with the final result.”
What was your process for rearranging a song like that for acoustic guitar?
“It was easy and simple, thankfully. They sent me Selena’s vocals and that was it. I remember listening to the original version twice, but I tried to not get stuck on it much. It was good [as a] reference, especially for keeping the rhythm parts as close as I could. It’s a simple song but still [challenging] to make it sound and feel good. Adding a nylon guitar was a great choice, I believe. ”
Would you continue doing such collaborations?
“Absolutely. If I have a choice, I will keep them coming until the end of my career. Collabs are one my favourite things to do, especially [because I’m not] a singer. I don’t wanna keep [them] exclusive only to singers, though.”
So who’s your dream artist to work with?
“I have a ton of names: Darren King, Pat Metheny, Lianne La Havas, The 1975, The Band CAMINO, Kinga Glyk, John Frusciante are some [I would love to collaborate with] one day. Dream-wise, Hayley Williams is definitely a bucket-list collaboration.”
You mentioned feeling constrained by the nature of Instagram videos. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, have you had any new epiphanies about being a guitarist in the digital age?
“This will sound cliché but: stay true to the essence of why you make music. Remember the ‘what’s’ aren’t the most important. Embrace the ‘why’s’. I read Victor Wooten’s book The Spirit Music during this break that helped me a lot – true medicine to my soul. It’s easy to get lost in the digital era, and I don’t want that again.”
How has your approach to gear changed over the last year? Has the suspension of touring meant you’ve experimented more with your rig?
“It hasn’t changed much, to be honest. I am getting more interested in vintage stuff now. I never had an old rare guitar and this is my next purchase for sure. I am currently living in a Les Paul’s season as well.”
What other guitarists or musicians have you recently been listening to for inspiration?
What do you listen to when you need a break from guitar music?
“Non guitar-driven music, for sure. During the time [I wasn’t] playing guitar, I was listening to a lot of The Alan Parsons Project, Owl City, Lany, Jane Child. Different textures in sound are great to [let] my ears breathe. Silence could be a great soundtrack for moments like this as well.”
Finally, many fans have long been awaiting your solo album, is there anything you can share about how that’s been coming along?
“I think I made too many promises to my fans regarding my album – that frustrated not only them but myself as well. I would rather be an artist of actions instead of a person that remains in the ‘promises land’. So I will leave this here: I am organising a ‘house’ where my fans [can] always call it home. Have patience. The time is near.”