A conversation with Masaki Araya about “In My Nature”

Q: Hi Masaki! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

A: Hello everyone, I am Masaki Araya. I am a songwriter, producer, artist, arranger, recording, and mixing engineer, among other things. I also go by Class M as a producer, unofficially. That’s something I’ve been toying with for a little bit. I may revert back to my real name lol. Aside from music, I also worked on Films/ Short Films, TV, audio documentaries, audio plays, theatre, and other audio-related works as a live sound engineer, sound designer, and/ or sound editor. I also have an Emmy nomination under my belt.

Q: How did you come up with the lyrics for the song?

A: Beth Joy, the artist who is behind the vocals for “In My Nature”, came up with the lyrics, melody, and chords for the first verse and chorus. The lyrics were initially the woe-is-me-why-do-you-keep-hurting-me type of song but I felt it needed to go in a different direction without changing much of the lyrics. Instead of “it’s in your nature to hurt me” among other areas in the song, I flipped the perspective by making the singer the one who is inflicting pain over and over.

When I sent back the slight lyrical changes, she was on board with the idea which also gave it more of the James Bond type of feeling we were looking for. From there, I proceeded to write the second verse with a few slight changes from the artist. The bridge was a combo between me, Beth, and a couple of lines from an old text message from a friend, Melvin Woolfolk, that I believe worked out well. I also came up with the chords to the bridge because I felt it was a song that needed one. The last section was all Beth.

Q: What was the process like working with Beth Joy on this project?

A: It was a lot of back-and-forth communication and feedback because we both wanted the song to be perfect. For the instrumentation, most of it was from the stock sounds Logic Pro provided with a little help from an external VST that I used to beef up the strings. Beth sent me both the audio and chord names for the verse and chorus and I changed up to give it some variety.

I honestly forgot what DAW Beth used to record her vocals but the arrangements came along as the song progressed. I wanted to make sure that the arrangement was secondary to the vocals and that she had more than enough room to let her voice shine through. The rest of the arrangements came once I had a suitable lead vocal composite to work with. Mixing-wise, it was all uploaded on Pro Tools. 

Q: Did you have any specific musical influences when creating the sound for the track?

A: Since she thought of the idea initially and presented it to me with just piano and vocals, I instantly thought the Diane Warren penned- David Foster production of Whitney Houston’s “I Learned From The Best” because it had that James Bond type of feel without being a James Bond song.  Come to find out, she used Adele’s James Bond theme“SkyFall” as a reference. At some point later on, I had the other co-writer, Melvin, listen to it and said it reminded him of “SkyFall” without me telling him where the inspiration came from.

While I did listen to the Bond theme song a couple of times, I was mostly inspired by two tracks from Whitney’s Houston “My Love Is Your Love” album arrangement-wise— The aforementioned “I Learned From The Best” and the Babyface-Daryl Simmons written song, “Until You Come Back”, produced by Babyface. They both have the classic clean late 90s feel that I wanted to gloss over on “In My Nature.”

Q: What was your favorite part of the production process for this song?

A: As cliché as it sounds— Everything! It all seamlessly fell into place from the writing to the vocals to the arrangements to the mix and everything in between. I felt like I channeled David Foster and I was thoroughly pleased by the result. It’s probably my best to date. 

Q: What message do you hope listeners take away from “In My Nature”?

A:  Whether it relates to people or not, I ultimately like for the listeners to fully enjoy the song. I know everyone interprets a song in their own way and in their own life and that’s powerful in and of itself. From our perspective, it was loosely based on the fable of the scorpion and the frog but with some James Bond flair.

Q: Were there any challenges you faced while producing the song?

A: Not seeing things eye to eye during pre-production. It wasn’t major but we certainly needed to iron out some details and make sure we both were on the same page moving forward.

Q: Can you talk about any interesting or memorable moments that occurred during the creation of this track?

A: In no specific order:

  1. The collaboration was entirely remote. She was in one state, I was in another. We never met in person.
  2. Two lines of the bridge were taken from a text from a friend. We gave him some writing credit.
  3. She sent me somewhere between 20 to 30 takes of her lead vocals, which I was more than okay with— The more the merrier! I was able to create a very nice composite.
  4. The process of writing, arranging, recording, and mixing took a little less than two months for the whole song to be complete (January 3 to February 28, 2023).
  5. I told Beth to close her eyes while listening to the updated mix I sent her. She got Rick Roll’d by infusing “Never Gonna Give You Up” in the middle of the song. It was probably my finest moment. Haha

Q: How important do you think collaboration is in the music industry?

A: It is very necessary in any industry and it does not matter if we are talking about music or not. While you may see “insert artist name here” in the spotlight, there are people involved behind the scenes that help put together a project. You don’t see Michael Jackson or Beyoncé playing every single role in their respective musical works. They are delegated to people who are experts in a specific field whether they are session musicians/ singers, graphic artists, arrangers, engineers, etc. They each have a specific task that unites them to become a fantastic work of art. It is a final product that connects everyone. In the case of “In My Nature”, aside from Beth Joy and myself, Melvin Woolfolk was credited on a couple of lyrical lines, and Beth Joy’s daughter, Jazmine Sanders, worked on the single cover design.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters and producers?

A: It is not just about the music, it is about the business too. If you are just about the music, then you will lose. Someone out there will likely take advantage of your lack of business knowledge and you will watch yourself burn alive from an out-of-body experience point of view. Also, know the differences between a beat producer and a record producer— One side only cares about the transaction of money while the other side cares about the cultivation between the artist and the producer. —