Recently A-To-J Connections Project Lead, alavic_222 was fortunate enough to talk with J-Pop artist, Chii Sakurabi and discuss various topics such as her inspiration and what the future holds for her music. This interview will be sure to delight her fans, who are affectionately referred to as her “Sakurabbits”!
Hi. Before we start, here are some questions just to break the ice and to reveal a little more about you to your fans. What is your favorite color?
Of course, I am into cute things, and pink is the color of cuteness, so pink is my defining color!
Great! What is your favorite food?
I mostly eat Japanese food, and I cook it every day! My favorite food is probably tonkotsu ramen, since I grew up eating it all the time! It’s a real comfort food!
How about your hobby?
I love creating things! If it’s not music, I like to draw, sew, and otherwise make things with my hands ^^
Here’s the important one. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Hmm…. I love chocolate!
Finally, do you have a favorite quote, slogan or saying?
Hallo-lo and Bye-nyan!
Now let’s move into some questions regarding your music. First off, what was your inspiration to become a singer?
When I was in college I met a famous bassist in Tokyo. He was always very serious when he talked about music and was dedicated to creating the perfect sound. In the process of making an album, he wouldn't sleep for like a week! I had been singing since I was as kid, learning from my grandma who was a Japanese “Enka” music teacher, but I just did it for fun. By hearing this bassist talk about his efforts for his music career, I was inspired to take my singing more seriously as well. I knew then that I wanted to sing in front of people to make them happy and give them a dream! That's how it all started.
If you weren't a singer, what else do you think you would be?
Well, I guess I would be a voice actress. I’m actually interested in getting into that line of work now
That’s interesting. Similarly to the previous question, if you were a singer in any other genre besides pop, what would it be?
I actually started by doing J-Rock covers, so I would probably go back to that. I’ve always liked rock music and I incorporate some rock flavor in music…it seems like it’s becoming more and more popular J-POP singers to add a bit of a rock edge to their sound.
Wow, J-Rock covers? That’s amazing! If you had to pick a favorite genre of music what would it be?
Of course, it’s J-POP. I’ve been a J-POP fan all my life and I know it suits me best.
What bands/artists do you listen to in your free time?
I listen to all kinds of artists. I guess right now I really like Ariana Grande and Kana Nishino. I think they are both highly skilled singers…and they’re both really cute too!
Who are your musical influences, American, Japanese or otherwise?
My biggest musical influence would probably be T.M. Revolution. He’s just an amazing talent and has a unique voice. I also learned a lot about singing from listening to Nana Mizuki, who has an incredible vocal range.
With those last two questions in mind, if you could have a collaboration with any music artist, who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with T.M. Revolution since he is my idol.
We’ve talked about some of your musical influences, now let’s talk about your personal experiences as a performer. When was your first performance in front of an audience? Can you share anything memorable about it?
I always thought of myself as a strange person and sometimes felt out of place. However, when I first sang on stage, everyone clapped and cheered me on, which made me feel accepted and that music must be my calling. I remember I used a lot of props and effects trying to show I wasn't like everyone else and tried to make everyone feel happy!
Can you share some of your favorite experiences performing since then?
Well, there are so many great experiences I have had it's hard to single any out. But I can say that I'm always so happy to see people supporting me wholeheartedly, dancing along with my songs, waving their glow sticks, and jumping around! They always give me so much energy! I like to have people come close to the stage and be excited...it's hard to perform when people are sitting down because I feed off of the energy of the crowd!
That’s completely understandable. Following up on that last part, have you ever had any negative experiences while performing? Or some experience that made a specific performance difficult?
Since I perform all over the world, sometimes I can't communicate well with the sound techs and I've had problems with songs skipping, changing order, repeating, not starting at all, or the video is off...to name a few. It's become a lot smoother the last couple of years since I streamlined the format of my concert sets. Anyway, I always try to just go with it and make the best of the situation.
Without a doubt I’m sure that your fans always take note of your efforts. Moving onto your music specifically, can you tell us a little about recording your first album, "Mirage"?
Mirage was my first real effort in recording, so it took me a long time to record and re-record. I did all the recording myself at my home and I would send everything to Nucky, my sound producer in Japan. We used Skype to communicate back and forth for the whole production. It was a lot of work and I wasn't used to it at the time, but it became a great practice for me.
What were some of the inspirations behind the songs?
The theme of Mirage is fantasy, and in particular my own fantasy world. Each of the songs tells stories of different fantastic situations, some that have been influenced by my own life. It's really a personal album, but I think it can appeal to anyone.
It’s definitely a powerful album. Your recent album, "Moon Princess", is based on the character Princess Kaguya, what drew you to this particular story?
I loved fairytales and since I had been traveling over the world and I appreciate the otakus of the world, I wanted to share one of the oldest and most famous of Japan's fairytales. So that's why I chose this story, which I had always been inspired by. Also, I have a moon in my logo...I guess I always had a spiritual connection with the moon.
It is indeed a story that one can find inspiration in, your fans should check it out if they have not already. Can you tell us about the process of creating/recording the Moon Princess album?
The process was similar to that of Mirage, however, it went a lot quicker as we had better equipment and past experiences on how to get it done more efficiently. It was still very much an independently recorded album, however, the quality was much better!
We’ve talked about your albums specifically as a whole but if you had to pick one what is your favorite song in your catalog? Both personally and to perform live.
Black Tail was the first song we wrote and it has always been with me as my coolest song. I love performing it as it has a lot of meaning for me as well. But nowadays I really like performing Veil, since it is off my album and I think it is my best song.... it always gives me great energy to perform!
Those are both very good songs. Now, I’m sure your fans want to know this. What are your plans, if any, for future releases?
I am working on a new album now, and plan on releasing it sometime next year! I'm still in the early stages of it, but I’m really excited about it!
That is exciting news! Now, in your view, as someone who is living in the US from Japan, how does the music scene differ between the two countries?
The obvious difference is that in the U.S. J-POP is still not that well known, unless it's at an anime convention or something like that. In Japan, I could pretty much perform anywhere and people can relate with my music, whereas in the U.S. it's a lot more selective. But because of that I think it's allowed me to be unique in the U.S. and be able to perform in many different cities, rather than just being a local artist.
Those are good points to make. On the same topic, how do you like the United States in general, compared to Japan?
I think the U.S. is far more free than Japan! I enjoy my freedom and sometimes Japan can be a bit restricting and rule-oriented. I'm happy to be in the U.S. and I love the people here!
Can you share an amusing story that occurred since you've moved here?
When I first had a haircut in the U.S., the lady said she had never touched hair like mine and got kind of nervous... of course she messed it up and I had to fix it myself... It took me a few years before I decided to go back to a hair salon...fortunately, I found a good one in LA (but my hair stylist is Japanese!).
That’s very funny! I’m glad you were able to find a solution that worked! Moving back to impressions of the US, has being in the US changed the way you view your music in general?
Well, I have to incorporate English in songs...and I even did one song in Spanish! I listen to the local radio stations and I think the sound has influenced me as far as technical parts go, but I think my sound is still authentic J-POP in nature.
There amazing thing about your music is that it’s really universal in its appeal. This has meant that you've been able to perform in many different countries around the world. My next question is a little tough. Out of all the countries you’ve performed in, which has been your favorite?
Each country has their own great flavor! I can't choose between the countries because I love performing in different countries, near or far. I always think it's so exotic and am so fascinated at how J-POP's influence has spread around the world!
Great answer! Also, is there a dream venue you would like to perform at?
There isn't really a dream venue in particular, but I would love to perform on a huge stage in front of thousands of screaming fans! It doesn't matter where.
Wonderful. Now we will move to some of our concluding questions. What are some of your goals for your music career?
I'd like to perform on a famous TV program and I would love to have my music as an opening or closing for an anime!
I’m sure your fans would love to see that goal come to fruition! What can your fans do to help you achieve your goals?
I love my fans and always appreciate their support. It would be amazing if they could help recommend me for different events in their local areas, as I am always happy to perform anywhere. Also, just telling their friends about me and sharing my music with them goes a long way!
While this has been a great interview it sadly must come to an end. Before we finish, do you have a final message to your fans?
You guys are awesome and I love you all!...all my Sakurabbits! Keep your passion alive and keep on dreaming!
I’m sure your fans will love to hear that! Thank you for your time.
Chii Sakurabi is a J-Pop singer originally from Tokyo, Japan. 2011 saw her move to the US and release her first album “Mirage”. 2014 saw the release of her second album, “Moon Princess”. Both albums features songs both in English and in Japanese. She has performed in countries such as the United States, France, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Japan. She has also been invited as a guest to perform concerts at pop culture and anime conventions such as Anime Expo, Anime Conji, Anime North, Paris Manga, and Armageddon Expo, just to name a few.
Her upcoming shows include: MIDTONES J-POP NIGHT (Los Angeles, June 6th), Saskatoon Blitz (Saskatoon, Canada, June 13-14), Natsu Con (July 24-25) and Idol Matsuri (August 14-16)
For More Information:
Official Site: chiisakurabi.com
Facebook Fan Club: facebook.com/groups/ChiiSakurabi
Below are the PVs for "Kaguya" and "Veil". Both from the album "Moon Princess" which can be purchased from her official site.
◆ Rin Rigoni