Interview Exclusive

Interview with SHIHORI

05/07/2021 2021-07-05 14:00:00 JaME Author: Christine

Interview with SHIHORI

Fresh off the release of two new singles and some eye-catching collaborations, SHIHORI is fired up and preparing to release her first full album in the US.

© SHIHORI. Photographer: Christine Keeley
When we first interviewed singer-songwriter SHIHORI in 2020, she had just released a self-cover album featuring new arrangements of tracks she wrote for popular J-pop and anisong artists. She was particularly excited to start performing those songs across the United States, as she relocated to New York in 2018 and is currently working hard to make a name for herself overseas. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the shows all ended up being cancelled. That hasn't stopped SHIHORI though, as she just released two new singles recently and is now preparing to release her first full album in the US.

We caught up with SHIHORI shortly after the release of her latest digital single FIRE to learn more about how she's been spending her time since the pandemic hit, some interesting works she's been part of in the anisong/video game world and what fans can expect from her new album.

It’s only been a little over a year since our last interview, but it feels like so much has changed already due to the coronavirus pandemic. How has the pandemic affected your activities?

SHIHORI: At the beginning, all the events were cancelled, which was the same as for many other people. But as I spent my days at home, I started to change my mindset and tried to seek out what I could do at home in such times. Then I started to take online lessons on the Alexander Technique, ballet and so on, to improve skills that I had wanted to work on but didn't have time for during busy days. Also, I bought a bunch of equipment to record vocals at home and to shoot photos and music videos by myself. It actually became a good time to challenge myself and learn new things while everything was stopped.

I got another fantastic opportunity to collaborate with many talented creatives, including Yoko Kanno herself and Seatbelts, on a charity single (a cover of a song from the TV anime “Cowboy Bebop”), and its revenue was donated to medical institutions. It happened because everybody had no work and was at home at that time.

The cover went viral worldwide, and it ranked #6 in the World Digital category on the Billboard charts. It was a huge pleasure to collaborate with amazing talents from all over the world and to also contribute socially.

I always believe that everything has two sides, but these experiences showed me that very clearly.

Have you learned anything new about yourself as an artist or picked up any new skills due to the lockdown period?

SHIHORI: Although I already mentioned it, I learned the Alexander Technique, ballet and home photo/MV shooting.

FIRE has a very strong, aggressive sound. What inspired you to create this kind of track?

SHIHORI: I’m glad to hear so! I thought of a piece of the melody first (the beginning of the chorus) while I was taking a shower, and I got most of the rest during my shower time since then (laughs). As an Asian artist, this time I wanted to try EDM rock with J-pop and K-pop elements, and I also wanted to try rapping for the first time.

For the message, I’ve seen people who are working but look like the dead. (This laundry guy who currently works in my building always looks like he's dead, so depressed, no emotion, no pleasure and no energy.) I wonder why they don’t choose jobs that bring them happiness instead of just ones that are ways of making money. It doesn’t make sense to me that people spend most of their lives killing their hearts to make a living. Living physically but being dead mentally is very pointless. There are many interesting jobs out there. Why would you choose to be dead by doing something that doesn’t bring any joy to you? Or you can find a better reason or purpose. Even if your work is the same, adding a more exciting reason to work than making money, that creates a totally different energy and cause. You wouldn’t be working dead then, and you’ll get more money and other extra treasures as a result.

Although many people still believe making money is one of the most important things in life, I want to throw a stone at that common sense that gets people into the system of the capitalism.

What was the inspiration behind the cover art for FIRE? Did you have a particular image or character in mind for it?

SHIHORI: I simply imagined a “cyberpunk, female fire soldier” with this artwork, since the track sounds like it has a kind of anime or game vibe.

I asked a graphic designer I found on Instagram before to work on it, and I really love the outcome!

We saw on Twitter that you were rehearsing some choreography for the music video for FIRE – do you have a lot of experience dancing, or was this a new challenge for you?

SHIHORI: Oh, yes!! I tried dancing in a music video recently for the first time in my career! For the previous single Invisible, I tried contemporary dance and I tried more of a jazz dance with FIRE. Dancing in a music video was one of my dreams since I was a kid, but I never had the chance because my style was a very acoustic, piano playing style for many years. I was thinking “that’ll be for my next life", so I was super happy that I finally made that happen in this life.

FIRE has an especially strong contrast to the vulnerable tone of your previous single Invisible. Is your upcoming album going to be very diverse, or are there any particular genres or themes you’re focusing on?

SHIHORI: My first album will be very diverse! I always write quite diverse songs, like a rainbow, and I’m known for that in Japan. But since I moved to the US especially, I’ve transformed myself more dramatically than ever. Also, I’ve asked multiple music producers to arrange the tracks, and their uniqueness definitely creates more diverse characters.

I could’ve went on with what I’ve done in Japan, but I wanted to transform myself into a totally different level of creature, and I hope my adventure also empowers the listeners as well!

You have been doing weekly streams where you chat with fans on Twitch recently. Have you been asked any surprising questions, or are there any other moments from your broadcasts so far that stand out in your memory?

SHIHORI: I love the moments that my fans, both English speakers and Japanese speakers, communicate with each other. I’m trying to speak in both languages and it’s a pleasure to see people in different countries having an interest in each other. And, surprisingly, all of my fans are very, very kind and good-hearted, so I always enjoy that hour and a half every week. It feels like a really short amount of time and I can’t wait to communicate with these lovely people again!

You were part of a charity project where over 40 artists covered “Cowboy Bebop”’s The Real Folk Blues, in collaboration with Yoko Kanno herself, to raise funds for COVID-19 relief. How did you become involved with that project, and how did you feel after seeing the final video?

SHIHORI: The organizer, Mason Lieberman, and I have been friends since we met at an anime convention in 2019, and he asked me if I wanted to join the project. Of course I said yes in a second. Many more amazing creators and voice actors joined, and we got official permission from Funimation and Sunrise, but the biggest surprise for every one of us was definitely that Yoko Kanno wanted to join us at the end! The track and video were really crazy cool. I was so excited and honoured to be a part of this super project.

You also sang the skin theme song Battle Queens for “League of Legends”, which has nearly a million views on YouTube. What was the experience of working on that song like?

SHIHORI: Mason, from the previous answer, introduced me to Jason Walsh, who was working on this track already. He had the instrumental version, and he was seeking a Japanese singer who could write a top-line in an anime opening style and who could sing powerful rock vocals.

I thought “Oh my God! This is too perfect for me!!”.

I realized that "League of Legends" is one of the most popular video games in the world, and I was freaked out a bit, but I was impressed by how they respected me as an anime composer, and I thought they analyzed J-pop very well. I was very confident and comfortable in this work, and the track became exactly what we discussed, like a typical Japanese battle/fantasy anime opening-style song, but it was not like an imitation, it had a fresh part to it because it was made in the US.

While you create a lot of music for anime and games, and we discussed anime a bit during our previous interview, do you play any video games yourself?

SHIHORI: I used to play video games up until when I was in high school, like… the "Final Fantasy" series, "Puyo Puyo", "Donkey Kong", "Mario" and some fighting games, although I rarely play any video games recently. I played "Final Fantasy V" in 2017 on iPhone, I guess that was the most recent one.

If you could create a theme song for any anime or video game, which one would you choose and why?

SHIHORI: I’d like to write theme songs for American anime and games since I am here in the US. Although I truly love working in the Japanese music industry, I wanna experience new challenges and keep improving myself.

What else can fans look forward to from SHIHORI this year?

SHIHORI: Two music videos for my two latest singles will be out very soon in June and July, and I’ll release my first full album in the US in August, finally! This year is the time to showcase all my adventures since I moved to New York in 2018.

Another thing that I am so excited about is to finally perform not virtually, but in front of audiences at the conventions!

I have Anime Magic! in August planned right now, and I hope to see you guys at many more places!

JaME would like to thank SHIHORI for this interview opportunity.

Links to download and stream FIRE on most major music platforms are available here. Fans can follow SHIHORI's official English Twitter account, check out her Twitch streams, and subscribe to her English YouTube channel to stay tuned for more updates on her new album and music videos.

 SHIHORI - English Twitter account  SHIHORI - Twitch account  SHIHORI - English YouTube channel  Download or stream "FIRE"


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