Everyone knows and loves Studio Ghibli. From Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro to Isao Takahata’s Grave Of The Fireflies the company is beloved around the world, and that certainly goes for the music as well. Joe Hisaishi’s compositions are instantly recognisable, and each film’s theme tunes are also perfectly suited to them. For Laputa: Castle In The Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, these songs were sung by Azumi Inoue.
Having become incredibly popular as the singer for Studio Ghibli, she has since contributed to many movie theme songs, become a part of the group Sound Horizon and toured around the world. But that’s not all. She now tours with her daughter Yuyu who is also an aspiring singer. Having debuted at the age of seven, and successfully started her own career in the Japanese music industry, Yuyu came with her mother to Hyper Japan and the pair performed classic Ghibli songs for the crowd. MyM BUZZ was able to catch the pair after their performance at the event for a quick chat.
How did you first become involved with Studio Ghibli?
Azumi: “33 years ago I was an idol, and I passed an audition to perform for Studio Ghibli’s film Laputa: Castle In The Sky. So that’s how I began there.”
Did you perform for Hayao Miyazaki?
Azumi: “Yes, I did. He was there during the recording sessions.”
You performed the title songs for Laputa: Castle In The Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro. Did you collaborate with Hayao Miyazaki or Joe Hisashi on the music at all?
Azumi: “Of course, we did. We would collaborate together in the studio.”
Did you have any ideas that you contributed to the songs?
Azumi: “I didn’t provide any specific ideas. Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisashi create the music themselves and told me what to do and made recommendations. When they were happy with it they would tell me.”
What was it like to work with them?
Azumi: “With Laputa: Castle In The Sky, Joe Hisashi recorded the music on a demo tape and sent it to me, and I practiced and learnt the song from that. But with My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service I went to a studio and saw Joe Hisashi there. We worked together on the songs and talked about them, then we recorded it and he told me what to do.”
What is your favourite Studio Ghibli song?
Azumi: “The song for Laputa: Castle In The Sky. I really like ballads and the feeling about this song can be understood by the whole world. I can also still sing the song now even though I’m older!”
Studio Ghibli stopped making films recently, how do you feel about that?
Azumi: “I am sad about it, but Miyazaki is still writing short stories and making short animations so I am looking forward to seeing what he is making.”
Would you be interested in singing for new animations?
Azumi: “I do want to, of course.”
You are also part of Sound Horizon, and their associated group Linked Horizon, whose songs are used for the hit anime Attack on Titan. What is it like there?
Azumi: “I don’t only sing there, I also dance. But it is very hard for me to do both dancing and singing at the same time. I am enjoying being with a lot of people though, and the joy we can bring to the audience is really wonderful.”
Yuyu, when did you first start singing?
Yuyu: “What age was I?”
Azumi: “Two – you used to sing things to me.”
Yuyu: “Yes, I was two!”
You debuted at seven, and now you are 11. What has your experience of the Japanese music industry been like since you started?
Yuyu: “I feel like the atmosphere in Japan is different to foreign countries. But since I started I have felt like an artist, and I have been able to travel to many countries so I am very grateful to have this opportunity and be able to work like this.”
What was it like to work on an album together?
Yuyu: “We are family, so our voices are very similar. I sometimes wondered which voice was mine since they are so similar and there were times when I didn’t know! Because we are family we know each other really well, so it was interesting to work together.”
What would you like to do in the future, Yuyu?
Yuyu: “I have worked on some albums on my own, and with my mother. I’ve also worked on NHK shows as well so I would like to do many things in the future. I want to sing, but also I want to be an actress and a model. I would like to challenge myself in the future.”
What kind of music would you like to make when you are older?
Yuyu: “I would like to keep singing Ghibli songs!”
Interview by Roxy Simons