For this, the first installment, I’ll interview my director, Yukako Inoue.
Inside our little group, which starts with Yōko Kanno and has a lineup of mostly girls, Ms. Inoue supports me in many ways above and beyond her title of Director, and is like a big sister who’s always there for me. I’ve been in her care since the very day I made my debut. She even sang backup vocals at last November’s “School Festival LIVE” at the Musashi Institute of Technology!
Fluent in English, a master chef, an expert on all the best massage points, and an encyclopedia when it comes to music, movies, books, animals, cosmetics, great restaurants, and practically anything else, she has a mind matched by few others.
Yet on the other hand she thinks up things truly bizarre, does things no one else would try, and has a somewhat unpredictable side. Her charm includes an eccentricity that leaves you wondering what she’ll surprise you with next.
So then, I have no idea whatsoever what Ms. Inoue’s idea of Maaya Sakamoto is.
1) What do you normally call Maaya?
Usually “Maaya-chan”. Except when you’re not around I call you “Musumekko”.
Example: “I wonder when Musumekko’s going to finish those lyrics…. ”
2) What was your first impression of Maaya Sakamoto (and when did you meet)?
The first time we met was when you were just 15 or so. You were in a school uniform with your hair parted away from your forehead, and I think it was cold that day; your face was all red.
I heard we were going to record a demo tape for the theme song to Escaflowne, and I remember worrying that you’d probably be really nervous during the recording, since you were just a kid.
At the time I wasn’t your director yet—I think I just happened to stop by the studio that day to see someone, but when I think about it now, it was fate.
3) Share one of your “Legends of Maaya Sakamoto”.
When the curtain goes up, you’re in the zone. There was a duet you hadn’t gotten right even once in rehearsals, and when I saw you pull it off on stage, I knew you were made to be in this job.
4) Her most charming feature?
You have so many. You’re smart, and considerate. Of course your singing. And that ear-to-ear grin. I can’t decide which is best.
5) Something you want Maaya Sakamoto to stop doing?
For your age, you get pulled into someone else’s crying right away. During concerts, if you get all weepy I’ll be bawling off stage, so I wish you’d keep it to a reasonable level.
6) One of Maaya Sakamoto’s habits?
You leave a trail of notes wherever you go. Sometimes there are pages of lyrics scattered around the studio with important-sounding things written on the back. Although Princess Kanno is the same way.
Lately you’ve cut back on fluttering your hands around while you sing, come to think of it.
7) If Maaya Sakamoto were a color?
I wonder what you’d be. Kind of like the color of an uncut jewel. Something that hides a brilliant color on the inside that has yet to be completely revealed.
8) And if she were a food?
Center-cut, salted beef ribs, grilled over charcoal.
9) Your most favorite Maaya Sakamoto song?
That’s a tough one. I like all of them. Though it’s embarrassing that the staff has the nerve to say that. You’ve been singing for six years, and I’ve been listening to your music for six years. Each song has its own memories. I can’t pick one.
10) OK, how about your favorite Maaya Sakamoto lyrics?
This one isn’t any easier to decide on a ranking. Every time you come up with lyrics you surprise me with a fresh perspective. Yōko Kanno (that wild animal of the Felidae family) is really picky when it comes to lyrics, so I bet you’ve been held to quite a high standard.
Lately “birds” has left a deep impression. When we did the mastering in New York (the studio there had huge windows between the monitor speakers that allowed an expansive view all the way to New Jersey on the opposite bank of the Hudson river ), right when the phrase “Take flight!” came over the speakers, a huge seabird crossed in front of the window with a rustle of wings. None of the engineers understood Japanese, so I don’t think they picked up on the coincidence with the lyrics, but the timing of it all curiously matched up and everyone broke out in smiles.
11) What big things do you anticipate for Maaya Sakamoto’s future?
You’ll be called the Queen of Ballads. Kind of has a grand ring to it, don’t you think?
12) There’s a lot to her, but if you were to sum up Maaya Sakamoto in one line?
Someone who brings happiness to those around her.
13) Lastly, put whatever you’d like in a message to Maaya Sakamoto.
You’re normally a lot more bashful and shy than people think. I think what’s hidden inside that naïvete comes to the surface in your songs.
On the radio and elsewhere you can only speak from what you really feel in your heart, and you call yourself clumsy, but that’s a good thing, so keep going the way you are.
You’ve got a better grip on things than yours truly, so I look forward to your continued guidance and encouragement in the future. Tohoho.
Maaya Sakamoto’s Response
Hi～, the Queen of Ballads here.
Now hold on, I do cry at every concert, but it’s not like I’m crying because I want to! It’s because you do stuff that makes me cry! You and everyone else!
That, and about that habit of fluttering my hands around when I sing, I admit I used to do that a lot. If you want to know why I’ve stopped, it’s because you and Ms. Kanno were imitating me and making fun of me for it, so I tried really hard to quit! Sheesh. But overall you’re full of compliments. Thank you.
Wow, has it really been six years? I’m looking forward to being in your wedding. Except you don’t have any plans for that just yet. But when that day gets here, I’ll really cry just like your little sister. Ahh, I can’t wait.
I’m still counting on you, sis!