Musician Kishi Bashi

Support Local Journalism


It all started with a pandemic road trip and a cabin in Emigrant.

Singer-songwriter Kishi Bashi was supposed to go on a world tour in 2020. Then, of course, the world shut down. So, the Georgia-based musician dusted off an old, barely used camper and set off across the country with his teenage daughter.

They made their way through southwest Montana and later dodged wildfires in Oregon before finally reaching the West Coast and turning around to head back east.

“It was amazing. I wouldn’t have had that time to do something like that if I’d been touring. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise,” said the musician, who goes by Kishi Bashi onstage but whose real name is Kaoru Ishibashi.

It was back in Montana at a friend’s family cabin in Emigrant that Kishi Bashi had time to do some reading about the early settlers and pioneers in the West and the violence they inflicted on Native Americans in the area.

The area’s history, as well as the views from the cabin, inspired his EP, “Emigrant” which was released this week.

The work is a continuation of the same themes of imagining history and location Kishi Bashi explored in a 2019 album, “Omoiyari,” which touched on Asian-American history and identity.

“Emigrant” was also inspired by Kishi Bashi’s new understanding of Indigenous history.

“I had the time to really reflect on how this country came to be,” Kishi Bashi said. “We kind of all have our own stories and whatever we read in our textbooks, but it’s way more nuanced and exciting. It’s a dynamic emotion of stories, powerful people and egos and greed and, you know, the desire to just have a better life just all in conflict.”

The six-song EP includes two covers, one of Dolly Parton’s “Early Morning Breeze” and another of Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With.”

One song, called “Town of Pray,” is named after the town in Park County.

“One day this will be mine, I fought through space and time,” Kishi Bashi sings, “West to the setting sun ... found a river to make my way, settled down in the town of Pray … .”

It’s also a pandemic album, Kishi Bashi said, meaning all the yearning people are feeling for the pandemic to be over is reflected in the songs.

One song, “Wait for Springtime,” touches on those themes.

“With COVID and like all these awful thing happening to people ... (and) my tours being canceled, I’m still happy. We have ways to find happiness because we have that hope for a renewal,” Kishi Bashi said.

Kishi Bashi comes to Bozeman often to work with his production partner, Justin Taylor Smith, on the song-film “Omoiyari,” which was originally meant to come out with the 2019 album.

But movies take longer to make than records, so on a recent early spring afternoon, Kishi Bashi was in Bozeman working on the film, which will explore Japanese American history, including internment camps during World War II and reasons why some Japanese people left their home for the United States.

A trailer on the film’s website shows Kishi Bashi standing in a field in Arkansas that was the site of a World War II internment camp. His violin strums in the background as the musician introduces himself, then says: “I feel that I first need to tell you a story.”

A montage of World War II photographs and newspaper clips follows, then a Mark Twain quote hits the screen: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

“I think history is really exciting. I’d like people in Bozeman to look into their own history, especially considering minorities, especially lack of diversity,” Kishi Bashi said. “This place is so beautiful, the nature is so beautiful, our national parks and all these things. We should encourage everybody to enjoy it.”

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.