Mayuko is beaming from ear to ear as she talks to MyM BUZZ backstage at Hyper Japan. With a name that means “child in a cocoon” her radiant smile is more than fitting. Described as having an ethereal voice, her music has resonated with fans across the globe and has given her the chance to collaborate with many renowned artists. Having first enchanted audiences at Hyper Japan in 2012, she successfully did the same this year, and she and guitarist Yozo sat down with MyM BUZZ to discuss the event and their careers.
Welcome back to the UK Mayuko-san. You were here at Hyper Japan two years ago. How has your experience been this year?
Mayuko: “I am very glad I could come back to the event again. Some of the people here saw me before and they told me they were looking forward to meeting me which made me really happy.”
What was the reaction like this time like compared to two years ago?
M: “I was worried because my songs are a little bit slow and other’s music is more upbeat, so I was worried about whether people would enjoy it or not. But I could see that they were. After the concert someone told me that they loved my voice, and I was so happy.”
Since your debut in 2001 how has your music evolved?
M: “My music hasn’t changed much since 2001, but the details are different. Before I put in something sad or painful in the music and lyrics, but now I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to sing about happy things so I made my music purer and more simple. The songs are more gentle and soft now.”
Your first album was Toy Cross and you then released Amaranth. What have you been up to since that album came out?
M: “Since 2002 I have released four albums, and I have collaborated with other American and British artists. I went to the US and Europe for tours, and my last album was released in November last year. I am also doing some live performances in Japan and in Europe.”
Didn’t you also release a digital mini-album this year?
M: “Yes, I did! My new album was released last year, but in March I also released some songs digitally.”
What is the concept of your new album?
M: “I have two concepts for it. First, my album the title is called ‘muguet feerique’ which means ‘Lily Fairy’ in French, and in France people give lilies to others for good health. So my album means that I want to offer health for my fans. The other concept is related to how I first began my music career. At first I was painting and I listened to music in my head when I was doing that and I wanted to take the music out of my head and that’s how things started. I think there are little fairies living in my head, and I wanted to take them from my head and put them into my music. With this album I recorded the music exactly as it was in my head.”
You have collaborated with a lot of artists. Is there anyone you would personally like to work with in the future?
M: “I am already planning to collaborate with some French artists right now, and I am looking forward to doing that. I really like Kate Bush and British artists, but maybe it’s really difficult to collaborate with Kate Bush since she is so famous. But one day I would like to collaborate with British artists that I like since I like British music a lot.”
Do you have any other artists that you like?
M: “I really like Peter Gabriel, Imogen Heap and Radiohead too.”
How was Yozo-san brought on board and how did you start collaborating together?
Yozo: “Mayuko and I met each other 15 years ago.”
M: “I am a solo artist, but in Japan I sometimes play with a band, and Yozo is the guitarist for that. Every time I ask him to perform in my concerts.”
Y: “There are many opportunities to go abroad, and she wants to play with an instrument in the background. Bass and vocals wouldn’t work, and neither would drums and vocals so that’s why she uses guitar and vocals.”
M: “I respect him.”
Y: “Guitar and vocals sound good together.”
The contrast between Mayuko-san’s singing style and Yozo-san’s guitar style is quite interesting. On paper it may not work, but on stage it really worked well together.
Y: “Thank you.”
If you make the music from what’s in your head Mayuko-san, does Yozo-san collaborate on any of it with you?
Y: “When she makes music in a studio she is the director of everything, and she also writes the guitar tracks. But when we are in a concert together I am free to play.”
Yozo-san, you have a history with collaborating with other musicians. What is your favourite musician that you have worked with apart from Mayuko-san, and who would you like to work with in the future?
M: “He plays in Japan with many other artists. He plays with Ayumi Hamasaki.”
Y: “If the music is good then everything is okay for me, so I don’t have a particular musician I want to play with. If the music is good, then I am happy.”
You seem to have worked with everyone, and that is probably why you don’t have a favourite.
Y: “I am a back-up musician, an invisible musician.”
M: “But he is famous musician in Japan.”
Y: “In the Japanese underground.”
M: “He works with Enka musicians, pop and others. He works with a variety of musicians.”
You played at Japan Expo a few weeks ago, and you have a huge following in France. Do you notice a difference between the French and British audiences?
M: “It’s a little bit different. French people are more enthusiastic in concert, and they share my feelings. In the UK they are more reserved so it is quite interesting. I felt that here the audience was more like critics, and were analysing my music more. That’s meant in a positive way.”
How has your music been received outside of the UK, Japan and France?
M: “I am really happy and excited when I am promoting my music outside of Japan. At the same time, I am a little bit nervous about whether people are accepting me or not, but this excitement and nervousness makes me more powerful. I am really happy I can meet people like you in another country.”
Interview by Roxy Simons and Paul Browne