Location: Denver, CO
Influences: los super seven, buena vista social club suzanne vega
Singer/songwriter, George Inai, was born at a cultural crossroads. His family lineage is deeply rooted in Colorado; his father’s father founded Japan Mercantile, now Pacific Mercantile, in downtown Denver’s Sakura Square shortly after his release from a World War II Japanese Internment Camp in Utah. His mother’s father fled an unforgiving sugar beet plantation in Montana to arrive in Denver, where he taught himself to type in order to become a postman.
Growing up in northeast Denver in a culturally diverse neighborhood, Inai’s early musical influences included traditional Japanese music, oddly mixed with a collection of memorable big band swing albums from which he now draws inspiration.
Later, while attending Manual High School, hip hop, jazz, and heavy metal music played havoc with his style. Inai moved to California with a Chicano heavy metal band, graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology, and also studied music at the University of Southern California. He spent time playing with an African-American funk/soul band in Oakland before returning to Denver.
If strong cultural heritage is truly a wellspring for great art, then George Inai could not have a deeper pool from which to draw. As a fourth generation Japanese-American married to a naturalized Mexican immigrant, Inai’s musical inspirations intersect at a cultural crossroads and blaze a new frontier in Western American music.
Inai’s songs are a collection of sounds that weave together the diverse cultural music of his youth. The Mariachi trumpet and accordion evoke the ghosts of Mexico, drawing on stories shared by his wife of her childhood spent along the migrant trail, while the steel guitar draws us just north of the border. His musical stories echo these lives and do not let ghosts lie.