Songs came to me while I was overseas, and I naturally wanted to make them into an album
--How long have you had a plan for this album?
Fukuhara Miho: There was never a feeling like I was being compelled to make the album. Last February I studied in L.A. for five weeks, and I was able to introduce myself to several creators I’ve been wanting to meet for a long time. It was study abroad, so when school got out, (laugh) I’d go to the studio and we’d make music. The number of songs gradually increased over the five weeks I was there. I’ve taken the things that I want to convey from that and turned them into songs, and I thought that I wanted those songs to become my next album. It was very natural.
--This album conveys a sense encouragement about the world we live in now, and the depth of your compassion. What was your feeling as you created it?
F: I didn’t have the time to explain things in words, and I didn’t just pull out a dictionary when I needed help saying something, so I felt like there was a conflict between the melody writer and the track writer. The truth is that I had songs that I wanted to make, and I went forward with them while everyone else was watching YouTube. Making it is a little different, but we were... “corresponding” about which songs sharpened our senses. (laugh) It was interesting to create the melody and track with just the sound.
--I had the impression that, rather than stressing the roots of a raw sound, you focused on doing a lot that was radical.
F: Yes.There are a lot of these kinds of tracks where I was reacting to something. But it wasn’t enough to just lay down tracks; there’s real bass, guitar, and piano, and parts of the sound that I changed. I thought that it would be good if we could tease out the good parts of both the track and the raw sound.
--The last half of “Black Star” has a freshness like that of Coldplay.
F: Oh, it really is like Coldplay. (laugh) I was happy to take things like this from artists like Coldplay and Adele while I was in America. I think that the senses of and choices made by both artists and individuals are important.
--They really are.
F: When Jay Z headlined at the Glastonbury Festival [in 2008], Noel [Gallagher] of Oasis said that it was wrong for a hip hop artist to headline. Then Jay Z played acoustic guitar and sang an Oasis song.
--As a dis?
F: No. Jay Z himself said that in our world today, no matter what you listen to, the style is music, and it’s really true. The hard genre lines are disappearing. For example, Alicia Keys’s third album was influenced by Coldplay, and I find that kind of give-and-take vibe very interesting.
Leona wanted us to have time alone in the booth together
--When we spoke with you about your song with Wada Akiko, “Get Up! feat. Akiko Wada,” you said, “You can’t be in Japan right now without giving a strong message.” There’s a difference in the album because of this song, but there’s a huge impression attached to it.
F: The song is different, as was my creative partner, but I was thinking and feeling just one thing. This is the album that’s allowed even me to understand the “Fukuhara Miho philosophy,” and I want to hear it again.
--The sound on “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! feat. Chara” is totally different from everything else.
F: That song definitely still shows parts where we fought for dominance. Chara would take something from me, and I’d ask her to wait and she would be like “I don’t WANT you to sing it all!” (laugh)
F: I said that I wanted some of the gentleness to remain, so Chara played her guitar and I played the piano and we kept that in. We let our instruments do the fighting, and Chara drew out the more child-like elements in the music. I’m happy that I can still play around like this as an adult. (laugh)
--How did “Save Me feat. Leona Lewis” come about?
F: I had the composition before I worked with Leona Lewis. I went to a music office and listened to various songs, and I mentioned that I liked this one in particular and wanted to work on it. But there was a big artist that already had a hold on it. (laugh) But I really wanted to sing it, so the next day I created temporary lyrics, but it was really tough. I hadn’t met Leona at that point, but I asked a producer in a L.A. to arrange a meeting with her, and it happened. Even though “collaboration” is the theme of this album, there were some collaborations that I couldn’t do on my own, and since this is an album that really showcases the power of the Japanese people I practiced hard and attended the London recording.
--I was surprised by how similar your voices are.
F: Yeah. I think we might be in the same class, but I don’t think there are very many people with voices that have the sort of “feeling” that ours do. Like it sticks and won’t let go. (laugh) Leona wanted us to have time alone in the booth together to sing, but we fundamentally followed my direction. It was a very special time for me.
I try to move music in a good direction
--“Regrets of Love” and “STARLIGHT,” which had already been published, are also included on this album.
F: “Regrets of Love” is a song where I was aware of my roots in soul music and started working on my themes, so I really wanted to make sure it was included on this album. And when I listen to “STARLIGHT” now...
--It has thoughtless lyrics, written before the earthquake.
F: Right? This one became the theme song for “Onigamiden” (movie). When I was reading the script, more than feeling like the protagonist, I felt like a protective mother and wanted to write about it. But I wasn’t thinking that it would turn out this way.
--The meaning of including this song is huge.
F: When something happens very suddenly, you start thinking about living. Before the earthquake I always used to leave my guitar in the entranceway of my house. After the earthquake I couldn’t focus on anything but music, but working on music made me think more about the earthquake. More than writing music, it’s about doing my best. You can’t be afraid to of loss. I think it’s fun to work on each song one by one, writing it, singing it, putting it together, and thinking about how the album will resound. For me, this album is huge.
--We’ll close with “You Are My Reason feat. AI,” another collaboration with AI.
F: I met with AI while doing my study abroad in L.A., and I promised her that we’d do another song. We were at a karaoke place downtown, singing Whitney [Houston]. (laugh) I screamed when I heard the mix for this song. I immediately sent it to AI. I was like “This is awesome!” The way it was originally sung, it wasn’t like the singers were just there to pat each other on the back. I was glad that we were able to sing it in Japanese and add our influences to the music. This is the song I was most excited about when I heard it, and I knew it had to be the ending for the album.
--This is a powerful album, and really speaks to what we need in Japan right now. I hope that it’s able to break through the genre barriers.
F: I want it to break through as well. But I’ve said it before: this is an era where the listeners can choose the music as much as the artists, so I listen to music and try to move it in a good direction.
Interviewer: Ishizumi Yuka