AASHNA MALPANI WRITES — What started out as a sibling duo making music in their parents’ home has spiraled into a national music phenomenon. Cameron and Jon Kuwada, both of whom just graduated college, are the musical geniuses behind the hit single Cherry Cola. The song has generated a massive fan following since its release in May 2017, and the music video published last month already has 439K views.
The Kuwada brothers, signed by Columbia records in 2017, are currently producing music under that company’s label. They were interviewed on August 7, by Assistant Managing Editor, Aashna Malpani.
Was there an instance or experience in your lives that acted as a catalyst to writing music?
Cameron Kuwada (CK): We started playing music when we were six or seven, but we really didn’t try to write music until we were around 14. We were both playing in a band in high school, and our manager now is actually the singer of that band! I think, even from very early on, we were stern with each other. We took everything seriously and always tried to push one another. So there were indicators that we planned to do music seriously.
Jon Kuwada (JK): It was always a dream for us to be able to do music professionally. We started to write songs because that’s the best way to express ourselves. I feel if you’re working on something you actually care about, you’re bound to get better at it, just out of passion. Our songwriting took off when we tried to be more genuine in our writing by taking inspiration from our experiences. It was like, “we can do this!” After we saw that people enjoyed our music and it was having an impact on them, we knew it was becoming a reality for us.
What is the story behind Cherry Cola? It became an overnight success, with the music video garnering over four hundred thousand views in just a few weeks of its release!
JK: I came up with the very first idea probably a year and a half ago. I wrote the chords and then drafted a very general idea of the lyrics. I knew this song was great but I knew I couldn’t execute it because I didn’t have the production skills. So that’s when I went, “Cameron, you want to help me out with a song over the summer?”
So we decided to spend about a month last May (2017) recording and producing the song. It slowly came together and we released it in July. We didn’t do anything in the studio. Everything was recorded in our house with basic equipment.
Did you face any challenges or struggles in your journey to get where you are today?
CK: I feel it’s not fair to say we had any major challenges because things happened so quickly for us. I mean, it’s always a struggle to make music—we’ve been working on the same three or four songs for the past three months because we do so much of it ourselves. It’s an everyday struggle—obviously you’re going to miss a out on a lot of life because you’re going to be so busy working on music.
JK: I think the hardest part is self doubt. We did get lucky in that our first song blew up, but it wasn’t the first song we ever wrote. We’ve probably written thousands of songs, and to get to the point where we felt confident enough to release something was a huge step. We chose this one first because we really felt it would connect with an audience, and we had mastered our craft to the point that we could finally put it out.
But you know, after you do well you have to back it up, and you know everyone everyone expects a lot from you. That’s challenging.
AM: What’s changed in your lives since you were signed on by Columbia records?
JK: It’s been really chill because we can work on music as much as we want, since we both don’t have day jobs. The work is very self-directed. I’ve worked jobs sitting at a desk and watching YouTube all day. But now, we don’t have coworkers to rely on. It’s just us and our manager doing all the work.
It’s very much like starting a small business. Do you want things to happen? Then do it. It’s not a passive job. It’s more like, “this is what I have to do and if it doesn’t happen then it’s because of me,” and that’s the hardest part to face. After all, it’s your future and artistry at stake. ”
What advice would you give to up-and-coming musicians and songwriters?
CK: I think a lot of songwriters talk about inspiration. You can chase inspiration but you can never force it into a song. The first step is telling yourself that this is going to be a really good song, and to remember everything about that feeling, because it’s so easy to lose it. You should be thinking about what you can do differently, not how you can be the best musician.
JK: It’s really easy to hear any big artist and want to replicate a song–that’s actually how I started making music— by copying what other people were doing. Then the moment came when I thought, what can I do that no one else does? Because ultimately, you’re not going to be a better Bruno Mars or Drake. Instead, you have to be the best Jon or the best Cameron.
What can people expect next from the Kuwada brothers?
CK: More music.
JK: I think it’s easy to lose momentum, but we’ll try to keep it up and maintain positivity because you never know what curveballs life throws at you. All you can do is: make music, make people happy and trade positive vibes.