Laughter is also a kind of "therapy"
--Your second album, "THERAPY," is great! What are your thoughts on it?
MiChi: I also think it's great. (laugh) It's been a long time since I released my first album, "UP TO YOU," and there were times when I thought I wouldn't be able to finish this one. Right now I'm just happy that I was able to do it, and I'm enjoying the reaction from my listeners.
--You've released six singles in the two years since "UP TO YOU." Were you thinking about that when you released this album?
M: Yeah, because more than thinking about the album, I sought for quality in the singles. In the process of creating the album, I'd look at the songs in a new light, asking myself "Is this song necessary?" or "What's missing from that song?" until I felt that I'd achieved balance.
--Is the title "THERAPY" meant to convey a feeling of soothing or giving strength to your listeners?
M: It is. All kinds of music soothes me, and people encourage me, and I can even see something in doing nothing. I think people's image of the word "therapy" is different [from mine], but it doesn't really have a heavy meaning. For example, laughter is a kind of therapy, and all kinds of regular things can become therapy if you think of them that way. So it's not that I'm giving everyone therapy, I'm sympathizing with them through these songs, and if we can feel good as we move forward together.... That's the feeling.
--And that's the central point of this album?
M: Yes. There's an impact to the word "therapy," and it has a good meaning, so this is the title I wanted to go with.
"THERAPY" heals the soul with its sound
--"THERAPY" is also the title of the 12th song. Did you originally plan to name the album after this song?
M: No, I'd decided the album title before that. I included my singles and there were a lot of different kinds of music, but I somehow felt that there wasn't a song that healed the soul with its sound. So I told my producer that I wanted to do a song with an ambient sound, and this is the first track he created for me.
--This is the one song that symbolizes the album.
M: Yeah. But I've never done a song like this before, so I was worried because I didn't know where to begin. I thought I'd start with the chorus. I already knew what I wanted to convey with the lyrics, so I wrote them all at once.
--This song has a novel spoken-word type style. Is that also something you'd decided on from the beginning?
M: I'd originally planned for it to have a regular singing melody, but it just wasn't right. (laugh) I changed it to the spoken-word style, like it is now. The lyrics convey the title much better this way.
--There are some parts that are personal for you, and it has a very candid message.
M: I'm not tied down by the melody, and I wasn't thinking about whether it would be good or bad, I just thought about saying what I wanted to say. This is a simple thing on the surface, but it's something you don't think about, and I'm glad the listeners noticed it. I think each simple word resonates.
--After you completed the song, what did you think about it?
M: The spoken-word style was something I'd never tried before, and I was also happy because it was my first ambient track. I've always liked that genre, so even though I don't know that I'll do another spoken word song, I'd like to try something new like this again.
I think I must have been Indian in a previous life
--I'd also like to hear about the first song, "MadNesS Vol. 3." It really hit me hard. (laugh)
M: Ahahah! (laugh) I've been doing the "MadNesS" series since my indies album, and this is the third installment. My producer always says to just go crazy with my first track. Once again, this is the one song out of the thirteen that I think I just jumped all over.
--And the theme is Indian...?
M: It's surprising, isn't it? At first it was a really cool dance track, but I wanted more of a feeling like I was having fun with it, so I thought it would be cool if I gave it a bit of an Indian feel. (laugh) The desire to go Indian was very strong from the start, and that was precisely my mood at the time.
--But the producer must have been confused. (laugh)
M: Yeah, he was like "What?!" (laugh) But we added in the sitar sound, and it took on an Indian feeling little by little. I also thought it would be appropriate for me to try singing somewhat Indian-style, and that calmed my strong desire to play around.
--Why do you like the Indian sound?
M: I hadn't tried it before, but I really like the sound and I think it's charming somehow. I think I must have been Indian in a previous life. (laugh) My father went to India a lot when he was young, so maybe that influences me as well.
I'm not reluctant to expose the real me
--The sixth song, "Special Someone," is a very "MiChi" song. It's easy to listen to, and I think it's something that even people who have never heard your work before can get into.
M: This song is simple pop rock. It's the only love song on the album. I've had this song for seven years, but I brushed up the sound and I changed the lyrics from their original English and it did a 180.
--You've been working on it for seven years?
M: I haven't been working on it, it just sat for a long time and I thought I'd take a look at it again.
--The lyrics are full of heartache, but the sound is bright and makes you want to dance.
M: Yeah. The character in the song is getting over a love, and it has a forward-looking "goodbye" message.
--The tenth song, "Motto." is the only song that you wrote and composed yourself. This song has the central "therapy" message of the album.
M: It has the atmosphere of a song you should listen to slowly. This song just came out of me, both the melody and the lyrics, while I was playing guitar and not thinking about anything at all. I expressed my emotions just that way, frankly and without dressing them up.
--You also convey the irritation and conflict of regular life, the solitude that you can't express to anyone, and the different kinds of situations where you just want to say "I want more." Why did you choose to expose yourself this way?
M: I didn't feel any reluctance about it. I might have been a little shy about it at first, but I think that my ideas won't be conveyed clearly if I don't expose the real me.
--The sound is also very raw.
M: I originally composed it on just an acoustic guitar, but this time I thought I'd add some strings to the arrangement. I wanted to do this song live right away, with just my acoustic, and also release it as a single.
--You just wanted to be able to "see it" again.
M: That's right. I want to perform this song more and more.
You can see the "me" in collaborations
--The last song on the album is of course "ONE."
M: After I created "ONE," I thought that it should go at the end of an album. I also thought "THERAPY" would be a good song to end with, but a MiChi album should end on a high note, and I want to leave a big important message at the end.
--After 3/11 last year [the date of the Tohoku earthquake], the PV for "ONE" went up on the internet immediately. You didn't create this album because of the earthquake, but the release was almost exactly on the anniversary of the disaster. Do you have any thoughts on that?
M: I'm not sure if the timing was good or bad, but I think that people would have mixed emotions if I'd tried to change it. So rather than thinking about it too hard, this album has a happy feeling that says, "Let's move, no matter how we feel."
--Looking back on this album, do you see anything new?
M: Compared to my first album, I think I definitely increased the amount of Japanese I used. Although I thought about the earthquake, I wanted to sing about the things that were resonating in my own heart, and the desire to convey them was very strong so I think it was natural for me to use more Japanese. I also collaborated with various people, and I learned a lot from that. For example, I studied poems by all kinds of people, but you can still see the "me" in the songs.
--Listening to this album, you can hear that it has the same positivity as your previous album. What parts do you think show additional maturity?
M: I think it was that I was able to go a little deeper. Although I was able to offer a very important message with my first album, I think that I've been able to deepen and grow as a person in the two and a half years since then.
I want to face my emotions honestly
--Although they're such small words, two and a half years is quite a long time.
M: Yeah, it was very long. I had some times there where I was really worried and conflicted about music, and I felt very lost. I was thinking things like "Why do I sing anyway?" and "What was I trying to get across to people?"
--You've spoken about your struggle with that in previous interviews. There's a sensation that this album is a compilation of [your emotions during] that time.
M: Yes, that's exactly it. At the beginning I'm searching, and by the end I've just found the answer. I include the worry and the conflict; I include those two and a half years just as they are. I think there's a humanity to it.
--When you were done with this album, did you find that your motivation for music had changed?
M: Well, I had a strong desire to do the things that I had been wanting to challenge. There's this image that MiChi sings very positive songs, but there are also dark places, and places where I want the negative side of me to come forward. Even with the sound itself, there are unexpected parts where I challenge ambient and acoustic, and I want to do more songs like those. People have said that I do a lot of electronic, but I what I really want is to make music that speaks to people.
--You want to break down the image that you had at your debut?
M: A little bit, yeah. Of course, it's good to do the things that you've been wanting to do, but people's feelings and the things they like just naturally change. I want to be honest about that in my music.
--So you want to show your emotions about all kinds of experiences, without hiding anything.
M: Yes. That is to say, I can't help but do that. (laugh) I mean, even though I could say, "I'm going to write a love song," I can't do it if I'm not feeling it. From now on, I want to face up to my emotions honestly no matter what's happening. Because I can't lie in my music.