Longtime listeners of the show know that I have a thing for Jin Akanishi. He’s one of my favorite artists in Japan due to his extensive skill in Dancing, singing and acting. When I heard about his debut in the US I was ecstatic. Knowing how strong a handle Jin has on the language would easily undercut the many difficulties most Asian artists have in crossing over to America. Japanese and American fans alike have high hopes for Jin to debut in the US as a breakout artist and who can blame them? He’s already had millions of views on his official Youtube channel and has hit the #1 spot on the iTunes dance chart with both lead-in singles for his debut album “JAPONICANA.” Admittedly equal parts nervous and excited when I called in for my interview with the man himself I soon found myself relaxed by his cool head and down to Earth nature. In the interview we discuss his separation from the group KAT-TUN, different approaches to music making and all about “JAPONICANA.”
Disclaimer: The following is a summary of the interview and not a word for word transcription of the conversation.
GK: Over the past decade you have found such widespread success in Japan as both an actor and a musician. What made you decide that now was the time for you branch to out and break into the US market?
Jin: Well, my mom loves American music and she used to play it all the time. So I feel like America really shared its music with me and now I want to share my music with America.
GK: Which artists did your Mother like to listen to?
Jin: She loves everybody, like all American artists. Recently I listen to Lil’ Wayne and Young Money a lot.
GK: So did they influence you when you started making JAPONICANA?
Jin: Well my album is totally different. They’re more hip-hop while mine is more dance-y.
GK: So which artists did influence you?
Jin: I dunno, I just wrote whatever I felt. I don’t think I really had any influence from anybody.
GK: Is there a difference between the creative process for crafting a song in English compared to crafting a song in Japanese?
Jin: I guess it’s always hard to make music even if it’s Japanese or English, it’s still the same.
GK: So what made you decide to leave KAT-TUN and become a solo artist in Japan?
Jin: I don’t know...
GK: Was it just time?
Jin: I wanted to share my music. I wanted to have people to share my music with worldwide.
GK: Do you prefer the creative environment of being in a group or as a solo artist?
Jin: They are very different but there are good things for both. If you’re in a group somebody else can cover up if you make a mistake. (laughs) But if you’re solo you can do whatever you want. If you’re in a group you share with other people.
GK: Are you enjoying that creative freedom you get from being a solo artist?
Jin: I am, actually.
GK: You’ve been to many red carpet events in the US now, most recently being the grammy’s last weekend. What differences, if any, have you seen between the US and Japanese media?
Jin: Umm... Well, language? (laughs) It’s kind of hard for me to get an interview in English because it’s my second language. And sometimes I have to translate Japanese to English so it takes time.
GK: What is the significance of the title JAPONICANA? What does it mean for you?
Jin: I made up the word. You know, Japan + America. You know when people use “a” sounds for the female and “o” sounds for the male? She’s a girl; my albums a girl. (laughs) And like I said I want more people to share my music so it’s international.
GK: What has been your favorite aspects of creating JAPONICANA?
Jin: Producing my own music. And the collaboration with fantastic, talented producers and collaborating with other artists.
GK: What was it like working with Jason Derulo who is this huge star in America?
Jin: He’s very talented. I was happy to hear his “Jason Derulo” in the intro. (laughs and mimics the intro) He sings his name like “how’s that?” on my track.
GK: So what do you think has been the most difficult part of creating JAPONICANA?
Jin: I didn’t think it’s difficult because it was fun. I really enjoyed making music when I created my album.
GK: What song on your debut album are you most excited for people to hear once it’s released?
Jin: I think all the songs, but there’s this song called “California Rock” that is a collaboration with a rapper named Prophet. It was my first time having a rapper on my track and I love Hip-Hop so I was excited about it.
GK: The Japanese version of your album is going to have a few bonus tracks. Is there anyway your American fans will be able to get their hands on them?
Jin: The additional tracks are in English. I picked the tracks from my last tour Yellow Gold 3010. I wanted to put more in but I added them for my fans.
GK: So you’re embarking on your first US tour. What kind of feelings do you have towards it?
Jin: I think it’s going to be good. A lot of dancing, crazy lighting, and sexiness. (laughs) Drink. Party.
GK: You’ve been flying back and forth from America and Japan. Has that been really hard on you?
Jin: Well it’s good to have two countries. It’s not hard because in America I can practice my English and if I get stressed out I go back to Japan. (laughs)
GK: So you already have millions of views on your US youtube channel. How does it feel to have that success right out the door?
Jin: It’s surreal, like, unbelievable. I feel like it’s someone else.
GK: Did you expect that kind of success when you were going to debut?
Jin: Not at all. Not. at. all.
GK: What are your future plans in Japan?
Jin: There are no plans. I don’t really know my schedule. I’m just working on music as usual and if I get a chance I’ll do anything.
GK: And one final question: What would you like the fans of your Japanese music to take away from JAPONICA and what would you like your new fans to take away from it?
Jin: Songs from JAPONICANA are the songs I like and I want the fans of my Japanese music to know what I like and be more interested in American music. I want my new fans to know my style and I want to get more attention from them.
Jin's first two singles can be purchased now on iTunes here: