Angela Aki "Life" Exclusive Interview Translation

Original: Oricon
Translated by Erin Grace

The 5th anniversary of her debut

Her new album, “LIFE,” in which she goes back to her roots 

I recorded half the songs in English and half in Japanese, because the album is called “LIFE” 

--You’ve completed your album “LIFE,”  crowning the 5th anniversary of your debut.

Angela: When I finished recording my last album, “ANSWER,” I decided that the next album after it should be called “LIFE.”  I would be reaching the 5th anniversary of my debut, and besides that, I was going back to my roots.  While I was creating the album, I kept thinking, “Where do I want to go from here?”

--And for this album you recorded half the songs in English, and half in Japanese.

A: I want to become a singer/songwriter in America, so I began writing songs in English to pursue that dream.  Besides, I’m half-American, half-Japanese, and since this is an album where I wanted to represent my roots, I thought that including some songs in English would be meaningful, so I recorded them.

--You recorded your English songs in Nashville, didn’t you?

A: That’s right.  I perform with Janis Ian on this album, and I invited her by saying “If I record here, I know I’ll be able to perform with someone who has love in their heart.” I recorded in the studio where Taylor Swift produces her music, and I was able to play a session with a bunch of other musicians lead by Sting’s drummer.  It was really encouraging.

-- Janis Ian has been active since the 1960s, and is a prominent female artist.  She collaborated on some of the songs on your album.

A: To tell the truth, I was actually rather resistant to it until now.  I keep thinking, “I call myself a singer/songwriter, but I sing songs other people have written!”  Of course, even the singer/songwriters I love, like Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette, have several collaborations.  And as they say, two heads are better than one.  I figured that if it meant that I could produce even better music, it would be fine to use someone else’s ideas.  Besides, I think the song Janis wrote has a splendor that I can’t express at my age. 

Music has taught me that I have an inferiority complex 

--And it’s not just the songs in English – the songs in Japanese are also very much worth listening to.

A: With the Japanese songs, I was aiming for quality such that no matter which I cut out of the album, they would be worth putting on a single.  Any music I save for my next single is still great!

--“Haha Naru Daichi” makes liberal use of an orchestra, and is a very moving song.

A: I wrote this song, thinking “Where is ‘home’ for me?” just like I had when I was working on my first album, “Home.” The entire theme of this album is summed up in “Haha Naru Daichi.”  Also, when putting together the arrangement, I included a koto [Japanese zither] along with the orchestra, and I think the way that it rings out of the song really makes an impression.

--So then, having written in both English and Japanese this time, what musical discoveries did you make?

A: Due to my experiences living in America, people have said that my Japanese lyrics have a peculiar expressive power.  But when I wrote in English this time, I heard the same thing from American musicians.  I was surprised.  When I was little I felt that it was complicated, and now I feel like music has taught me that I have an inferiority complex. 

Interviewer: Matsunaga Takahisa