Translated by Erin Grace
--Last year marked the end of 10 years as a professional singer, and this year you’re breaking into your 11th year. Has the way you think about music changed at all?
Crystal Kay: Up to now, I’ve gone through periods where I think “I’ll try this,” or “I’ll try that,” and every time I make new album, I have this feeling of wanting to create something new. I’ve discovered that when I do that, I take elements from various kinds of music and add them into my style. When I encountered a new style, I found new elements to incorporate into my own sound. But this is my first album since my 10th anniversary, so there I didn’t have a feeling of tension. I make the best use of the sound I’ve created up until now, and I’ve really been thinking about how from now on I have to center the work around making the music that I, and no one else, can create.
--And that’s how “Spin the Music” began.
C: That’s right. I’m not trying to create something “new,” I’m trying to create a “base.” Of course, when I thought of that, my second thought was “What does that mean?” and at first I was worried. But I thought about it, and the result was a sound that allows the listener to hear more of my voice and pushes forward the parts that had been more internal. I focused on this and wrote a lot of lyrics for this album, and I was also very particular about the sound. That is, there’s a lot of variation, but I think there’s also consistency.
--When I listened to the album, I had the impression that you’d drawn the music to you. That is, this album is more “life-sized” than any before it.
C: Ooh! But really, even though I closed the distance between the music and myself, I wasn’t sure if it was good. I was trying to convey who I am more and more. I felt like I needed to create an original style. It seems like doing that has been a success. (laugh)
--The words “conveying who I am” precisely describe it. For this album you asked Korean producer Park Jin-Young for help. How are you connected to him?
C: I have three different cultures: I’m half American, half Korean, and I was born and live in Japan; all three of those cultures are a part of me. Even in my music that’s apparent. I’ve worked with my Japanese culture, and with my American culture, but this is the first time I’ve worked with my Korean culture. Since I had another culture to work with, I wondered if I could draw out the good aspects of it, so about two years ago that I went to meet Park. And when we both had the time, we worked together on “Goodbye.”
--Why did you decide to work together with him?
C: First of all, he has a good sound. And second of all, he’s awesome. He worked just as hard as me. (bitter laugh) I sang with all my heart, like I was just learning how. (laugh) But I thought I’d lost all my passion for music. But that’s not so bad. I was thinking that I wanted to do even better, and he told me that I should try. That we were able to do exactly that made me happy. Although I thought it was a pain at the time, after we were done I understood that this was precisely what I’d wanted. It was a great experience. When my friends listen to the songs that have been successful, they say things like “Your voice is so different,” and “This is really powerful!”
--The feelings associated with disconnecting from a boyfriend and moving on, which are strongly expressed in the lyrics, also come through clearly in your voice.
C: I think so. (laugh) But that strength, flowing out from the inside, is actually an issue even for me. Meeting with Park and creating the song with him, I think I’ve hit the essence of what will make help me step up more in the future. I have a chance to connect with my roots and culture. From now on there’s a connection, and a good opportunity.
--“Goodbye” gets down to the bottom of who you yourself are. I’m also interested in hearing about “Kon’ya ha No.1” and “LOVE or GAME.” Although songs that express the desire to have a good time existed before now, they’re not quite the same. Perhaps it’s that you freely manipulate the music. It’s a testament to how much experience you’ve gained.
C: That might be right. Before I was making a lot of “young” song – songs that had a teen vibe. But now the songs are more mature, and they have a different feeling to them. They’re cute, but they have a more grown up cuteness. I love these songs.
--Even the recording of these songs seems to have been fun. No matter which you listen to, you want to get into the nightlife! (laugh)
C: If that’s how people feel when they listen to my music, that’s good. When I wrote “Kon’ya ha No.1,” I only had businessmen and -women in mind. (laugh) I wanted a song that can raise your spirits when times are hard. I wanted to take the things that are ordinary for everyone and make a fun and positive song out of them; that was my crazy idea when I wrote it. (laugh)
--I was also very curious about “Hands Up” and “I pray.” When I first heard them, I understood your intent, what you described previously as “trying to convey who I am.” I also felt there was a change in your feelings toward music. If I’m wrong, please say so, but until now your attitude seems purely to make music that’s fun, but now that seems to have changed to feeling that you can create change through your music. It’s as though you’ve come to believe in the power of music.
C: It makes me happy that you say that.
--So, because of that, I really want to know more about these two songs.
C: Well, “Hands Up” is my very first track from America. The melody and lyrics were all there, and when I first heard it I thought that it was definitely a song that showed a group effort. It has a theme of being courageous and doing your best. The American demo sounded better than expected. It was like “Are we playing this off a CD already?!” This is a love song with English lyrics, and it sounds so good that whenever I tried to convert it to Japanese it seemed to lose some of what makes it good. And honestly, I had a lot of people write lyrics, but in the end everything changed so I decided just to write the lyrics myself. (laugh) Anyway, it has this image of everyone working together, and I wanted to do a song that would push me a little, so I wrote this song with H.U.B. And of course by doing that, it came out just right and is a good song.
--I can just see everyone in a live raising their hands up for the song.
C: Yes, that’s exactly what I want! (laugh) It’ll be a fun song to perform live.
--And what about “I pray?”
C: This song started out when I went to Spain for “Sekai! Dangan Traveler” (Nihon TV variety show). While I was there, I visited a really old cathedral on Majorca Island. The experience was very impactful, and when I came back to Japan I couldn’t shake the feelings I’d had there. The sound of the organ drifted in my mind, and I used that to compose the melody for “I pray” in my kitchen. At the same time, for whatever reason my childhood floated to mind as well.
--You also mention the year 1992 in the lyrics.
C: Yeah, it was around then. (laugh) Around that time, a lot of people were getting married and having children. [I was six at the time, so] there weren’t a lot of kids my age and I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I wanted to be happy. I wanted to write a song to express that. If you think about it, up till now I haven’t written about my hometown or the things that happened to me when I was a kid. I wanted to change that, and write about the things that are still lingering in my mind.
--It certainly doesn’t have the image of childhood.
C: That’s true. Maybe you expect something more like my debut song, “Eternal Memories?” But when I released that song, I’d only gone through 13 years of life. (laugh) That didn’t express my true feelings. But I’ve recently had a sense of my true age, and that everyone I knew is an adult now. It’s a weird feeling. But I’m glad I was able to make this song, which expresses the things I saw and how I felt. That's the number one thing I’m aiming for when I write music and lyrics.
--The memory is the most important. And it’s awesome for a melody and lyrics that suddenly floated into your mind!
C: It felt like the song was raining down on me. That’s the first time I’ve experienced something like that.
--At any rate, there’s quite a variety on this album: your past and your roots, and you connecting with your friends. It’s an album in which you complete your story.
C: It is. It’s like, until now I worked with all kinds of sounds, and by doing that I prevented myself from realizing my potential. I want to use my experience with different kinds of sounds to weave together my own style of both words and music. These days, everything – including music – is borderless. I want to connect things with my music, using my three cultures.
--“Spin The Music” clearly points to that intention, and I feel that it’s an album that can’t be surpassed.
C: Thank you so much. It makes me very happy for you to say that.