An Interview With The Japanese Electronic Pop & R&B Singer, MIREI On Her Latest Music, Singing in English For The First Time and More!
Hailing from Japan, 21-year-old electronic pop / R&B songstress MIREI recently stepped out with her international English-language debut and music video for “Take Me Away.” The new single was the first of many to come off her forthcoming EP of the same title in which she collaborated with producer/songwriters Zak Leever (a classically trained musician who’s earned support from industry heavyweights like Diplo) and DJ Shiftee (a two-time DMC World Champion). She has also put out a DJ Sliink Jersey Club remix along with the new video showing off her dance moves via Stage Right Secrets.
MIREI says: “In the artwork and in the video, I’m wearing a neon yellow outfit. It looks like The Bride from the movie Kill Bill and I’m just in love it. In the video I’m dancing with Misaki, who choreographed this with my ex-roommate. We were trying to represent light and shadow.” DJ Sliink adds: “It was a great opportunity to work with Mirei on this one, she has a beautiful voice and plus she’s Japanese! I have a big fan base in Japan that loves the jersey club style. For me to remix a Japanese artist’s sound into jersey club made a lot of sense! I see big things for her in the future!”
Possessing full creative control over both her music and image – MIREI is ready to strip the layers and stand up for the unspoken, bringing awareness to issues that otherwise are taboo in Japan such as mental health, the pressures of living in a bustling city, and the objectification of women or their lifestyles (young students, popstars, Papakatsu women, etc.).
In kindergarten MIREI began taking dance lessons, which immediately sparked a fascination with pop divas like Rihanna and Lady Gaga. Soon enough, MIREI added singing to her repertoire and with the help of Garage Band began making music on her own when she was just 12-years-old. A year later, MIREI had caught the attention of a major record label. While spending her eighth-grade year in New York City, she performed in the prestigious choir Gospel For Teens, and took home the top prize at the legendary Amateur Night at the Apollo. After moving to Tokyo the following year, MIREI soon found success with several hit singles and album releases on her home turf.
For MIREI, the making of Take Me Away marks a thrilling new chapter in her growth as an artist – one that finds her facing the most difficult of emotions, then transforming those feelings into music that questions, challenges, and ultimately empowers. “I was so moved by the whole experience of making these songs,” says MIREI. “Sometimes it actually hurt to write them, but I think that’s a good thing. A lot of the time what we feel isn’t happy or perfect, but talking about it is what connects us. I hope that hearing these songs helps other people to feel more connected too.”
Take Me Away is set for release in early 2020 via The Orchard / Cool Japan Music.
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Learn more about MIREI in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time! So what does a typical day look like for you lately?
Thank you! I’ve been very busy with my music in Japan. Lately, I’ve been waking up in my hotel room in one of the Japanese cities I’m touring in and preparing for the performance. After the show, I go to dinner and enjoy the well-known local food. Then I go back to the hotel, and immediately start making tracks. Not joking when I say music is my life… I can do this every day because I love my fans and the food while on the road! (Haha)
Now that we are in the latter half of the year, how has 2019 treated you? What are some goals that you have had for yourself this year? How close are you to reaching them or did you already? What are you already looking forward to in 2020?
I spent so much time doing new things this year. I did a Japan tour and most importantly my English releases as MIREI. In this year, I achieved many goals I had for myself so I’m happy, but I never feel completed. 2019 treated me so great, I appreciate it a lot, but I’m starting to think of more things that I want to and need to do to prepare for 2020 too. I definitely want to continue touring, especially places I haven’t seen yet in Japan, and continue to improve my musical skills/making music on my computer. My biggest goal is to succeed with my English debut as MIREI and fly to my fans’ cities around the world. I’m gearing up for the album release so I hope you’ll love it. Call me to your city <3
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music has been very much a part of my life, I wouldn’t be here without music. Literally everything my family and I do involves music – driving, cleaning the house, you name it! Our favorite hobby was singing karaoke and doing Dance Dance Revolution in our living room (we even had the big controller mat). I started learning how to dance and sing because I didn’t feel like I was good at making friends and I was bullied in my neighborhood so I was always helped by music. It’s led me to many places, and I felt seen through my singing. I’ve also thought about quitting music here and there, but it always called me back. It was easy to make the choice at first but it was difficult to believe in / believe in myself. Now I can really say I want to sing no matter what happens, and I’m happy to be MIREI. I have nothing to be afraid of.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I’ve always been a bit shy, and don’t have that much confidence meeting new people without music as the constant. I’ve learned to express myself through music. When I was in high school I dreamt of being a flight attendant actually but I wasn’t tall enough! All in all, being a musician is my destiny. I even skipped out on college to concentrate on my musical career so I don’t really want to think of doing anything else, I’ve committed myself to this 100%.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all? What has been the best part about it all?
Studying abroad in NYC at such a young age was the biggest surprise of my life. My parents weren’t wealthy but my agency helped me go and study there. It was like a dream I never even dreamed of, because it didn’t seem feasible at first. Becoming a New Yorker was full of challenges but also loads of excitement. Also, one of my music videos went viral on YouTube and got almost 20 million views, which is seriously insane after all I’ve done to expand my name in and outside of Japan. I can really say these days are the best part of my life. I want to make my success and challenges bigger and bigger each day.
Let’s talk about your debut international single, “Take Me Away.” What was the inspiration for this track? Besides the language, how does it compare to anything else that you have released?
“Take Me Away” is a song about feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, and I know now that this is something a lot of people can relate to. I was traveling between Tokyo and New York and just full of inspirations but I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin entirely. That stuck like an unsolved problem in my mind. Then, in a session with my now friends and producers Zak Leever and Shiftee, I talked about it a little bit and luckily they empathized with me and that’s how the song was made. Compared with my previous Japanese releases, I sing a lot about my emotions and problems on this record. I’m also singing about Japanese society, things that are definitely taboo and are touchy subjects here, that I couldn’t speak about in my music here. Releasing music in English has allowed me to be my most authentic and honest self. I’m so thankful for that!
What does it feel like finally getting an English language song released? How important was this for you?
I lived between NYC and Tokyo and I always feel like the distance between the two are getting smaller and smaller thanks to the internet. Language and culture still does create a barrier though – did you know that Japanese and American Wikipedia pages about the same thing are often written entirely different? I found out when I was in school in New York and I was shocked. Searching on google in English provides much more information than in Japanese. Now that I know this, I wanted my fans to know what I’m singing without any translations so I knew I had to sing in English. I wanted to sing to the world and English is like the universal language. I’m happy that “Take Me Away” is the first single, and also my first album (with the same title). It has been a very important dream to me since I came back here.
How creatively involved with the making of the music video for the song were you? What was it like making it?
I sing about my experiences and views or observations on Japanese society / culture so it was a simple idea to translate the lyrics of the situation. The scenes were shot so beautifully, but there’s a true and heartbreaking story behind it all. The everyday lives of these women in Tokyo who get involved in situations or put in environments that aren’t exactly the best. So many people dream of visiting Japan but there is a dark side to it. I hope my video is just a glimpse of that dark side so we can get the conversation started.
Did anything surprise you about the making of your new album?
I made all the songs in sessions with Zak and Shiftee, and the biggest surprise is that we made all the songs in about 10 really intense sessions spread throughout 12 months. They’re always helping me making songs from my rough ideas and the sessions just feel like hanging out since they’ve become my close friends now.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates scheduled?
I have many gigs in Japan but not the rest of the world yet. I hope I can go to your city very soon.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music? What if anything has stayed the same about your music-making process?
At first there was so much joy just singing in front of people and being together with the crowd but now it’s changed. I want my fans to actually listen to me, understand me, see me as human and not just as an entertainer. I want my music to make an impact, and make others lives better just like music helped me. I’ve been doing music for years and it’s definitely not the same as before, it’s always growing, it’s ever-changing.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career?
My Japanese songs got viral because my fans spread the word via social media… it’s a chain. I think this is an era where everyone can express themselves and there’s going to be someone out there who connects with it and shares it. I also really enjoy using social media because I can be friends and interact directly with my fans and meet new people. I can ask and say anything at anytime, and they’ll be there. It’s so nice to have this kind of intimacy with them, that we never used to have.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’ve loved Charli XCX since I was a student. I always love how she pulls from Japanese culture. I really want to see her perform and definitely work with her someday.
If you could design your dream music video right now, what would it look like?
There’s a song called “Lazy Boy” on my upcoming album, and I always imagine the music video with the actual sofa, La-Z-Boy every time I listen to this. I want to miss my lazy boy while sitting on the La-Z-Boy. Doesn’t it sound fun and silly?! (Haha)
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
From the earphones next to me when I get on the train. I can imagine it clearly because I had that experience in Japan with my Japanese music once. When I got on the bus, two girls sitting behind me were sharing the same earphones and I heard it. I just froze when they started humming my song. That was one of the best moments of my life. I want to experience it again for sure.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope listeners will be without anxiety and loneliness, even if just for a moment. I got through so much by listening to music. I could feel like I’m not alone with my thoughts. I promise my music will be by your side, anywhere anytime when you put the earphones or speakers on.