Emily Nobumoto | Director of Operations, Leesta Vall Sound Recordings

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Meet Emily Nobumoto, the talented and passionate Director of Operations at Leesta Vall Sound Recordings; a niche record label in Brooklyn NY that has an exclusive focus on late cut vinyl releases.  The label holds Direct-To-Vinyl Live Sessions which are live performances at the studio, mixed & mastered on the fly, and cut directly to 7” lathe cut vinyl records.  No tracking or overdubs of any kind, just a song played live and cut right to limited edition vinyl. 

Originally from Buffalo, NY, Emily moved to Brooklyn in 2019 after graduating with her bachelor’s from Purchase College.  She worked her way from an intern to now handling Leesta Vall’s artist relations/booking, preorder campaigns, Live Sessions and Shut-In Sessions, studio management, employee coordination, and cutting blank records for sister company, Blanq.  When she’s not at work you can find her spending quality time with her cat, Ozzy.  Or, digging through crates at various record stores in Brooklyn or Buffalo.

“I also love participating in various art forms; I’m a musician myself and play saxophone and piano, among other instruments just not very well; and I love to draw and paint. I’m always in the mood to cook, and spent 2 years getting in touch with my Japanese heritage as a ramen chef in Buffalo. I’m also a big reader – I think expanding your mind and reflecting on your life and how you can improve it are two of the most important things one can do.”

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How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

I’ve always wanted to work in the music industry.  I’m a musician myself, so I’ve been interested in everything from performance, to artist management, to art & entertainment law. Ultimately, I got my degree in Arts Management which led me to an opportunity at Leesta Vall. I started my career there as an intern in 2018 and worked my way up to Director of Operations, which is where I am now. I’d say my two biggest motivators have been following the vinyl revival over the past few years, and the underrepresentation of women in the music/vinyl industry. Seeing vinyl making a comeback since the late 2000’s has been so exciting.

I think the experience of listening to vinyl is a really positive, community-building experience that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. Vinyl has quite literally become the anti-MP3 as well a sort of symbol of resistance against the digitalization of music.

What is a day in the life like?

Being a part of such a small team, I’m in work mode the majority of my day, almost every day. A normal work day for me consists of tons of email correspondence, a few phone calls here and there, managing sales, creating preorder campaigns, and overseeing our sister business, Blanq Records. There, we make and sell our own blank records specifically for cutting or embossing. Also, I listen to a LOT of new music every day. A lot.

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What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?

My favorite Live Session I worked on was back in 2018. My good friend/Americana singer-songwriter and three-time Leesta Vall alumni Trae Sheehan came in for our 518th Direct-to-Vinyl Live Session. I got to mix and cut his session, it was such a memorable experience to make records with a close friend!

The Shut-In Sessions are probably the coolest large-scale project I’ve worked on. When COVID first hit in March, and we had to decide whether we could have a session that day, no one really knew what was going on. The facts weren’t clear, the news was confusing. We either had to make a change to our business model, or we’d all be out of a job. When my boss pitched the Shut-In Session idea to me, I was so excited that people all over the world would be able to participate. It’s an exciting, accessible way for artists to make money from the safety of their home, and the response we’ve had over the past few months has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m seeing a much more diverse group of artists submit for our Shut-In Sessions, and it’s been a great opportunity for us to push our boundaries a bit.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

Honestly, the most difficult part of my job is keeping my cool when an artist is unnecessarily rude. It’s so important to always try and think of the other person’s perspective, but when you’re taking heat all day, artists don’t seem to care, or just plain don’t read what you’ve sent them, even when you’re working your butt off for them… it can get pretty infuriating. I do a lot of deep breathing at my desk.

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Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it? 

I am an avid, borderline obsessed vinyl collector. I can’t control myself or my wallet when I walk into a record store. When I put a record on a turntable, I get to participate in a multi-sensory experience. I have to physically engage with the music before, during, and after the sound hits my eardrums. This makes my connections with music stronger than when I listen digitally. When I hold a record in my hands, I can feel the grooves where the sound lives, I can smell the musty scent of an artifact that has passed through countless hands, I can see the wear that comes with physical items, and the artwork the artist wanted me to see on the cover which further connects me to the individual promise of what’s inside. When I listen digitally, I’m much less engaged with the act of listening. While digital recordings will continue to dominate due to convenience and cost efficiencies, there are many, such as myself, who will be drawn to vinyl and its ability to temporarily transport the listener to another world.

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What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

Take your time. Do your best work – anything less isn’t worth it. Be kind. To everyone, no matter what. You never know what someone could be going through or that someone may know someone who may know someone… You know what I mean.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.

Vinyl outsold CDs this year for the first time since 1980, that’s huge! Its so exciting to see vinyl on the comeback these days, but not only in the ways it used to be consumed (ie: record stores) but we have these great new services like Vinyl Me, Please and Merchbar who are producing really exciting albums. This caters in my opinion to the younger generation of vinyl buyers, who continue to fuel the resurgence, specifically Millennials and Generation Z; but is also great for seasoned vinyl veterans. It allows listeners to not only engage with and discover new sounds, but also to engage with the albums on a deeper level.

The vinyl record is so much more than just a way of listening to music. It is a multi-sensory experience that transports you to a different place in space and time, that allows you to connect to the music in a way no other format of listening does. Because of this, vinyl becomes an inherently emotional, sentimental, and nostalgic part of someone’s life. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in the age of digitalization, younger generations are longing for an elevated connection when it comes to music. They want something tangible that they can hold onto, literally. They want to own something, to live with it, and to be represented by it. And it’s stuck around for 100 years… I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?

Right now, supporting independent artists is so important! They are struggling right now after having their source of income completely taken away and were left scrambling to find a way to make rent and eat. There are lots of ways you can help, many artists have Patreon or will even list the ways you can support them during a live stream. Or, you can support them by buying a record from Leesta Vall!

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Tell me what you’re listening to right now.

Top three albums I currently have on repeat: Shore by Fleet Foxes, Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction, and Dreamland by Glass Animals.

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Find Emily:

Instagram: @leestavall

Facebook: @leestavall

Twitter: @leestavall

Website: www.leestavall.com

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