--Your new album “LOVE is.” has just come out. Recently you’d been doing a lot of collaborations, but this single is a return to your regular songs.
MiChi: The music for the songs has been around for a little while, but I wasn’t sure what to do for lyrics. I’ve talked about it before, but there was a period of time after my first album that I felt empty. Since then, I’ve been thinking about love. I’ve been thinking about what to do when I feel empty and alone, and how to change it, and how to increase my motivation. People tell me that my music makes them feel alive, so what makes me feel alive? That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I’d become kind of a depressing person.
--Really? I just can’t see that.
M: I feel like I’m working against myself, like I’m taking rather than giving. There are lyrics written from that angle.
--You say that you wanted to give, so why did you think first to give love?
M: Perhaps because I was truly unhappy. But I didn’t like feeling like that. I wanted to change. When I thought about what would make me happy, I realized that it was the thought of my music making people smile and helping them keep going. That’s is why I sing, but I’d been so busy that I hadn’t realized it.
--It seems like that was very painful for you. Why did you write the lyrics with Ishiwatari Junji?
M: About one year ago, Ishiwatari decided he wanted us to work together and wrote this song for me. At the time, I was very struck by the lyrics. I thought that for my one-year collaboration it would be okay if someone else wrote the lyrics, and that’s exactly what happened here.
--It seems to have been fate. What kind of creative exchange did you have with him?
M: One where he let me convey what I wanted to write. (laugh) If he wrote the phrase “along the way” in part of the lyrics and I told him that I don’t normally say something like that, he’d explain what meaning he was going for and give me advice on a different word to select that would still fit the purpose.
--When you listen to the music without reading the lyrics, you hear “Don’t you” instead of “touchuu” [“on the way’].
M: It was “Don’t you” in the demo phase. (laugh) We worked so closely together that we were able to reach an understanding so that even when I sing his words they come as naturally as if they were my own.
--When I first heard the final line, “we can change the world,” I thought “MiChi’s back!”
M: That makes me so happy! The past year I’ve been so lost, I want to come back to where I started from.
--A lot of people feel lost; you’re not alone. Do you have any advice on how to move forward?
M: Hm... Well, I’m still learning (laugh), but all I can say is “Shinjiru koto wo don’t stop” [“Don’t stop believing”] from “ChaNge the WoRLD.” I think I’m always telling myself that I can’t do it. To stop that, I have to truly believe in myself and truly love myself. If I can’t believe in myself or say good things to myself, other people won’t be able to either. First, I have to tell myself “I love you” every day.
--The B-side, “YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!” is painful and fast.
M: When I wrote this song, I told T.O.M. [MadNesS] “I want to do a song I can run to!” (laugh) I’ve been running for about 6 years, but recently I’ve been more dedicated about it and I wanted this song to be something I could run to. But when I tried running to it, the tempo was really fast and it was really hard because running isn’t that aggressive. (laugh) Both the music and the lyrics create an image of running swiftly. The outline was complete, but I hadn’t really thought out the details of the story, and I finished them up on the day before we recorded...
--Like homework during summer vacation. (laugh)
M: At the time, I got a letter from a friend that had gone to England. In the letter she explained how she’d somehow gotten into the wrong country and didn’t know English well and was really worried. I tried writing the lyrics while I was thinking about her. That’s why “Kiite / Kinou sekkou sareta no” [“Listen / You were told yesterday”] suddenly opens the lyrics. I thought that you don’t usually write lyrics about this kind of thing.
--That’s real life for you. That’s what your lyrics aim for.
M: That’s true. I’m glad you think that.
--Recently more and more women have been running. What’s the appeal?
M: For me, it’s like my “happiness switch.” Even when I’m feeling a little negative, after I run I just feel like everything’s okay. Of course I still get frazzled even when I’m running regularly, but it’s so much worse when I’m not running. If I don’t exercise for three days straight, I’m not a very nice person to be around. (laugh) When I get the chance to use my body, it puts me in a better mindset and gives me more balance.
--I’d love to try! “JUMP ON IT” has a fun, trendy feeling.
M: On the one hand, I want to send a message with my songs, but I also want to have fun and cut loose. This song is more of the latter. “PRETTY FLY” has that same kind of feeling, too. Of course, I listened to this music in real time. There aren’t just rock elements, there’s also hip hop, and overall I though that it was good to play around with it. A girl’s singing, so there’s a certain unpredictability. (laugh)
--When you smile like that, it really does seem like you’ve come out on the other side of a hard year.
M: That’s because I was able to believe in myself again. Although I worked as hard as I could after I debuted, I never told myself that I’d done a good job. Because of that I couldn’t keep working hard. Although in my mind I understood the concepts of believing in myself and loving myself, I wasn’t able to actually do them. I’ve only finally been able to truly feel that way about myself.
--So your 2011 will be awesome!
M: This time, I’ve chosen four uptempo songs to show that I’m on the offensive again. Not in an immature way, but in a grown-up way. Before I thought that I had to be private and couldn’t have fun. I felt guilty for playing around, and I was getting worn out from being so stoic. But I can still produce music while playing around, having fun, and relaxing. I think 2011 will intensify this for me. I’m planning on releasing my 2nd album, and I have a feeling that it’ll be a really great one.