--So why did you decide on “STAR” as the title?
Nakashima Mika: These past several years, the amount of talk about me being a “star” has increased. My producer noticed this as well, and we talked it over and decided on this title. I’m not trying to say “Yeah, look at me, I’m such a huge star!” but rather I’m acknowledging my awareness of performing for the public.
--Were you not really aware of it before?
N: No, not really… Of course, I felt that not giving it everything I’ve got would disrespect the people who listen to my CDs and come to my lives.
--So even during each of your lives, you say to yourself “I’m going to put everything I’ve got into singing these songs?”
N: Well, everything except actually saying it, but I really do my best. Still, I’ve never thought that I’d go on performing live forever. I don’t usually think about how it was when I first debuted (laugh), but I was always thinking about the next audition.
--And how it would be to finally live the life of a professional singer.
N: It’s nothing like I’d imagined. I mean, I just kept thinking that there was no certainty to my career, but then around the time I released “VOICE” (her 5th album, released November 2008), I realized that I’d come so far, I could probably keep singing forever.
--So eight years after your debut, you finally woke up. (laugh) You also have a strong tie to the word “star” itself. Your debut song was “STARS,” and you have several ballads with “star” names, like “ORION,” “Mienai Hoshi” [“Unseen Star”], and “Nagare Hoshi” [“Shooting Star”].
N: That’s true. It’s something that I’m aware of, though not exactly something that I’m trying to do; they just sort of mysteriously accumulate. That’s just part of my image, though. There are a lot of people who thing that Nakashima Mika is synonymous with ballads.
--How do you feel about the public image that your music has?
N: Hmm. It doesn’t really bother me. I like ballads, too.
--Speaking of which, you’ve said in the past that you’re “not very good at up-tempo songs.”
N: I think I’ve gotten better with them now. During “VOICE” I released some good up-tempo songs, and I’ve been using them more in lives as well.
--On “STAR,” you’ve included the electric “Over Load,” and the house-style “Memory (feat. DAISHI DANCE).” Are there many types of songs that you’ve expressed an interest in performing?
N: Not really. I hear a song and say, “Oh, that’s cool,” or “Hey, that’s a good song.” (laugh) But I don’t really say, “I want to try out house.” I have confidence that I’m releasing good music, and rather than suggesting that I create a specific kind of song, waiting for the opportunity is a lot more fun.
--Is that something that you rely on your production staff for?
N: I do rely on them for that, but I think luck is a component as well. I have faith in my luck.
--It comes with the territory when you’re a star.
N: Yes, I suppose you could say that. (laugh)
--(Laugh) “LONLEY STAR” is also an impressive song, and you wrote the lyrics. Is the “lonely star” you?
N: In this case “lonely” doesn’t mean “forlorn” or “deserted,” but rather “alone in a good way” or “serenity.” I’ve never really thought that solitude was a “bad thing.” I’m the type who would rather do things on my own than rely on someone else.
--The visuals – the images, make-up and fashion – give the impression of a self-produced album.
N: Yeah, I was very particular about how I wanted to do everything. Naturally, when I’m doing something new I tell the people closest to me. “I want to do it this way, what do you think?” If they say it sounds good, it boosts my confidence. I don’t just do things my own way without consideration. (laugh)
--But there must also have been times when you’ve crafted your artistic image all on your own. Speaking of which, during a previous interview you said that we you were surprised when someone commented on your positive attitude. Do you often feel these gaps in your self-confidence?
N: I do. (laugh) I felt like it didn’t really matter if I expressed my own self. This is probably also connected to my feeling of “solitude;” I’m not sure. I’ve been blessed enough to meet many people, and I trust my staff, they’re all great people… But when I’m singing on stage, in the end, it’s just me. I’m not trying to be arrogant, but it’s true – I’m up there alone. That’s just me – I can’t speak for the staff.
--I suppose that’s very true.
N: There aren’t many people that understand that. I get along with my fellow singers, but it seems wasteful for them to know little things about me.
N: Yeah. I think it’s better for people to wonder about the kind of person I am, even among singers. I have a lot of friends, but I don’t want people to just say, “Oh yeah, Mika’s a good person.”
--So, you think it’s better for you to be something of an enigma.
N: Exactly. I don’t even want my fans to know every little thing about my private life.
--I see. Hearing you speak today, it’s clear that your thoughts influenced the lyrics of “16.” Although it’s the kind of idea that a producer would have generated – “16 year-old Nakashima Mika” – it seems like it may have departed from reality in places, like it’s a fairy tale.
N: It’s not really that realistic. I liked the idea of the frightening feeling that’s inside fairy tales. Although it seems on the surface like something that even kids would enjoy reading, it turned into something a little scarier.
--You make the best of your instincts and values in the lyrics and the images they generate. Would you say that this is your calling?
N: That would be wonderful… I still keep thinking I’m not cut out for it.
--Really? Even still?
N: Yeah. (laugh) I’m sure there are people who can just flick a switch in their minds and suddenly their spirits are up. I’m different than that. Even in this kind of interview, when the rhythm is off…I’m only human. (laugh)