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Home >Anime >Essentials >Maaya Sakamoto Special Feature

Maaya Sakamoto

+ Maaya Sakamoto: Profile +

Born March 31, 1980.
Maaya Sakamoto began by doing children's rolls in theater as a child. At the age of fifteen, she was discovered by producer Yoko Kano (legendary composer for the "Cowboy Bebop" series) and began to take her music career seriously. Her second album "DIVE" won best pop album of the year in the pages of Music Magazine.

Maaya Sakamoto

A natural vocalist with a vivacious voice, Maaya Sakamoto is esteemed for every aspect of her songwriting and performance. Her second singles collection "Nikopachi" made it to number 3 on the Japanese charts and featured the song "Uchu Hikoshi no Uta" from NHK's "Minna no Uta" television show. Her fourth album, "Shonen Alice" hit number eight on the charts, with her April 2005 single "Loop" coming in this year at number seven. She's played abroad in Los Angeles, where she brought her beautiful voice before 5,000 screaming fans.

Ms. Sakamoto is skilled in a number of other areas outside of music including theater and voice acting. This year marks her third year in the roll of Eponine for the Toho version of the musical "Les Miserable," and we'll be seeing plenty more from her in the future.
(September 2005)
Maaya Sakamoto Special Feature

What sort of artist do you think of when you imagine Maaya Sakamoto? Maybe you think of her as a voice actress? However, her most careful fans know her as much more - an actress, a voice actress, a singer - and in all of these facets she's completely perfect.

On October 26, Maaya Sakamoto will be releasing a new album, "Yunagi Loop" to the delight of her many eager fans who have been waiting for the last two years since her previous album, "Shonen Alice."

"Yunagi Loop" is a turning point for Ms. Sakamoto since this time around she bids farewell to her long-time producer Yoko Kanno, but has welcomed a number of fresh producers to the mix. Her refreshing tone and unparalleled vocal skill are, of course, unchanged. However her collaborations with h-wonder, Takashi Hamasaki (ex. Flying Kids), Takeshi Nakatsuka and a number of other pop artists, bring a little something new to this realistic 25-year-old girl's repertoire.

Now our little girl is growing up, setting out into the world one step at a time. One foot forward, then another, but always with one eye on the vastness of the world - this is the spirit that permeates Sakamoto's new album, "Yunagi Loop." One new album - and one step forward for both Maaya Sakamoto and her listeners.

Yunagi Loop [w/ CD-ROM, Limited Edition] Yunagi Loop [w/ CD-ROM, Limited Edition]
Maaya Sakamoto
Release: 2005/10/26 | CD
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Yunagi Loop [Regular Edition] Yunagi Loop [Regular Edition]
Maaya Sakamoto
Release: 2005/10/26 | CD Samples
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Maaya Sakamoto Official Site "I.D."

Interviewer: This is your first album in nearly two years, correct?
Sakamoto: Yes.
Interviewer: Up until now you've had Yoko Kano produce all your albums, but with "Yunagi Loop" you've invited a number of different producers to work with you. What sort of album do you feel you've come up with?
Sakamoto: This is going to be my fifth full-length album. When I released my first album, I was only 16, and I encapsulated all these stories of my life from when I was recording the album into the music I made. For me it's a record of that point in my existence, and I'm very happy to have been able to move away from that point in my life. This time, I'd like to think that I've compressed what it's like to be me, now 25, and materializing into the world in all these different ways.

There are things I can do now that I've become an adult. Teenagers are anxious. They think: I have to be like this, I want to be like that, I need to get myself together. This time I think I've become more open, I'm not afraid to try new things. Once you meet all these wonderful people that teach you such great things about yourself that you didn't even know were there . . . I think those sorts of experiences are manifested into this latest album.
Interviewer: Speaking of Mrs. Kanno, she's been a heavy influence on all of your albums up to this point. Was there some reason you decided to work on this album with other producers?
Sakamoto: I've been with Mrs. Kanno for the last eight years, from my first single - which she wrote - until very recently. We weren't a group and we weren't a band, but it felt like Mrs. Kanno was a natural part of my music career. I wasn't particularly thinking "I need to get away from her!" and we didn't get into a fight or anything (laughs),

I just came to the point in my career where it felt natural to do something new.
And this wasn't just me . . . I think Mrs. Kanno was thinking of going on a trip somewhere, so after my last single "Loop" was released in May, I ended up having a number of my new songs written by other people.
Interviewer: I see.
Sakamoto: I don't think there are many artists out there who would stick with the same producer for eight years. I'm not just speaking of work, either. She was this roll model to my teenage self; as a personal roll model she influenced me too. Yoko Kanno is a very special person in my life.

And that, of course, hasn't changed at all. She still understands so much about me - she's so comforting. I don't need to say anything to get through to her. But I was afraid that sticking with Mrs. Kanno was too easy, that by staying with her so long I was taking the easy way out.

This time I went to work as my own vocalist, collaborating with a number of musicians, a number of artists, and got a chance to look into myself. There are things that I discovered that will help me the next time I work with Mrs. Kanno, and all the things she taught me, all the things I absorbed from her helped me work with these other artists. I finally felt like I had come up with my own thing, my own style during these eight years.
Interviewer: What sort of album did you come up with this time?
Sakamoto: I went to Scotland to film for my last album "Shonen Alice." There I was standing in the middle of 360 degrees of beautiful scenery when it came to me - even if I hadn't come here, even if I was just living my day-to-day life in Tokyo I could feel the same sense of vastness of the world that I did on that spot. It was like time had stopped - the moment felt like my own personal space.

That feeling of space being so close to my real life, that sense of connection, I wanted to put that into my album.
Interviewer: On the opposite side of the coin, were there any places where you particularly had trouble with this new album?
Sakamoto: I always seem to have a bunch of problems (laughs). With this album, to put it simply, this was my first experience working with a variety of producers and that process served as a stimulus to fix a number of things. No one could understand what I was thinking if I didn't tell them, so I had to figure out what I wanted to do, what I wanted them to take out of me when they were writing the songs. I had trouble acclimating myself to communicating with people. I stressed out about it a lot because I've been shy all my life and am just not good at communicating.

Though the same people wrote many of the songs on the album, I was able to become more open through the process of building each song separately. I feel like that's one of the things I've accomplished with this album, overcoming one of the things I'm not good at. I'm definitely glad I was able to have that experience this time.
Interviewer: Did you have to work with each producer differently?
Sakamoto: Yes. But, to tell the truth Yoko Kanno might work a bit different from normal as well (laughs). She's a very busy woman and was working on a number of projects during the recording of my albums. She's very fast, well, I should say she makes decisions very fast. Working with someone who works so off intuition - where we'd go in without a demo and she'd just play a melody on the piano and have me sing it - was a bit of a crash course for me (laughs).
Interviewer: (Laughs)
Sakamoto: Things went smoothly with everyone this time, on the other hand, so ultimately I wasn't too surprised if something did come up (laughs). I think I might just be used to it.
Interviewer: That's amazing. Just right on the spot?
Sakamoto: Yes. This time we listened to a bunch of demos, the whole time choosing which were good and which ones we needed lyrics for. Choosing and choosing, we then put them into an album. However, when we were working out the chorus section, or whenever it was my time to sing, the arranger would tell me my lines and I'd have to sing them on the spot. But, I'm so used to it that it went smoothly. Whoever I worked with, they were surprised at how fast I picked up the harmony parts (laughs).
Interviewer: You always write a few tracks for your albums. Do the lyrics come to you easily?
Sakamoto: No, no, no, I take forever (laughs).
Interviewer: Oh really (laughs). Was there anything you wanted to try out with your writing this time, anything you wanted to change?
Sakamoto: With every album I want to do something I haven't done before, so most certainly I wanted to write something new. But, for example, I wasn't thinking about changing my style, or attempting to be like someone else. Ultimately, whatever I write reflects me, so rather than thinking about what I want to change, I just listen to a song or a melody and write whatever scene I see in my head.
Interviewer: Ms. Sakamoto, you're an actress, a voice actress, and of course a singer - it's amazing to watch you do all these things from the sidelines. Working in such broad fields, what would you say is different about each area?
Sakamoto: I got my start when I was eight in a children's theater group, so it was originally through my interest in acting that I came to the point where I am now. I couldn't have imagined that I was to become a singer. When I was small my parents would take me to the theater so that's the first thing that made me want to do acting.

But, through a number of coincidences I happened to get a job doing voice dubbing, and since the time I was a child I had been doing music for commercials, narration, and other voice jobs. When I was 16 I got a job doing the lead character for an animation, which is how I met Yoko Kanno, and I ended up somehow singing the opening theme.

From there I moved into singing. But the thing I find personally most fun about acting is that I can be someone entirely different from myself - a malicious character, a precocious child, the strong kid. It's really fun to be able to show all these different personalities.

But sometimes I feel that by dyeing myself in all these other colors I start to lose my own color. Sometimes I feel dissatisfied, but then I get to write my own lyrics and sing, which lets me discover my true colors. When I sing I'm not becoming something like myself, I get to become myself. Those two approaches are entirely different, but personally I think it's good. It's good to balance the two out; it's important to have both of them.

They both may be ways of expressing yourself, but they have slightly different ways of approaching it.
Interviewer: Is there anything you have to do to switch yourself over between modes?
Sakamoto: Not particularly. Of course, I'm sure something is switching over. I'm just not very conscious of it - it's natural (laughs).
Interviewer: You've already done a variety of types of songs during your career. Is there any type of song you'd like to attempt in the future?
Sakamoto: I don't think about what sort of genres I want to work in, but whenever I finish an album I find myself thinking that there's a lot of variety in what I've made. I guess I don't think much about it at all.
I'm just out on this journey, and everything I've seen has been really great - I'm glad I have the chance to work like this.

At any rate, I'll probably be working with Mrs. Kanno again in the future, and I want to show her I've grown as an artist. I think that now is the time to polish my skills, so if there's anything I want to do right now it's to go further out on that journey (laughs). I want to go in whatever direction I want without feeling afraid to precede farther.
Interviewer: Well then, I'm going to change the subject, but is there anything besides music that you're drawn to at the moment?
Sakamoto: Drawn to . . . I guess I don't have many hobbies.
Interviewer: Really?
Sakamoto: (Laughs) No hobbies.
Interviewer: Nothing you collect?
Sakamoto: Hmm, collecting . . . Lately, well, I've finally gotten over my fear of throwing things away. I'm trying to get the problem at the start by not owning too many possessions (laughs). I try not to bring too much stuff home with me (laughs).
Interviewer: It's hard to get rid of stuff, isn't it (laughs)?
Sakamoto: I think of them as memories, and put them aside. Hey, memories aren't objects (laughs)! Now I can even throw away my tickets when I get back from a trip (laughs).
Interviewer: So, now it's time to throw things away?
Sakamoto: Yes. It's not like before where I couldn't get rid of things, where I wanted to have everything. I still keep a bunch of clothes I use for work since they're still necessary, but my regular clothes I either wear the same ones all the time (laughs) or I give them away to people.
I used to be a pack rat, but I think I've finally gotten to the level of a normal person (laughs).
Interviewer: So, now you have you're material needs under control (laughs).
Sakamoto: I find I'm happier without all that stuff in my house.
Interviewer: So your room is simple then?
Sakamoto: Not exactly.
Interviewer: What? Really (laughs)?
Sakamoto: It might be dirty, but I'll have you know I'm always in the process of trying to clean it (laughs).
Interviewer: It's in a transition period.
Sakamoto: My room wants to be reborn.
Interviewer: (Laughs) That's surprising. You seemed like you'd have a clean room.
Sakamoto: Nope, it's quite dirty.
Interviewer: Uh, maybe you shouldn't say that (laughs).
Sakamoto: No, no, no. But, you see, I'm really busy. I wonder, do busy people normally have clean rooms (laughs)? I guess it's just me. I just can't get it clean. Yesterday I had a little time so I cleaned it up a little.
Interviewer: It's impossible to get done if you don't have the time.
Sakamoto: I wonder how everyone else does it.
Interviewer: I can't really say much myself (laughs).
Sakamoto: (Laughs)
Interviewer: Well then, Ms. Sakamoto, what is the most important thing in your life?
Sakamoto: Important . . . hmmm. There's so many out there, but I'd say that it's the important people around me. I'm glad to have everyone around me, and I'm glad that everyone is so healthy and lively.
Interviewer: Aaah . . . I see.
Sakamoto: Seriously, I can't do anything by myself (laughs).
Interviewer: Now, can you recommend one album to us?
Sakamoto: "Yunagi Loop"! Ha ha ha, You've got to give it a try right now (laughs)! It's the album I listen to the most lately.
Interviewer: Ok, "Yunagi Loop" (laughs).
Sakamoto: Yeah (laughs). But seriously, I listen to so much music I don't know which album to choose (laughs).
Interviewer: Well then I guess we'll go with "Yunagi Loop."
Sakamoto: Ok.
Interviewer: So, what are you going to try next?
Sakamoto: Hmmm.
Interviewer: I'm sure you're busy with so many things that nothing comes directly to mind.
Sakamoto: I'm definitely lucky to be allowed to do so many different things. I just don't want to split myself up so much that I'm going to dilute the quality of my work. I guess what I want is to keep doing all these different things, but still go at everything with 100% of my energy, to give it my all.
I'd like to continue working at all the different things I do now.
Interviewer: Finally, I'd like you to give a message to all of your fans.
Sakamoto: I think that the people who have been listening to me from the start are going to hear something different on this album, discover a new facet of my personality. Of course the people making the album are different, so naturally the sound is going to be different. But I think anyone who gives this album a chance is going to really like it.

There's a lot of good old 25-year-old me in this record - the lyrics feel like they're getting closer to the real me. Since things are so personal, on the other hand, I think people who have never heard me before are going to find it really easy to get into this album because of it's intimacy. I'll be happy to hear that people found me by first hearing this album somewhere. Definitely give it a try!
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
Sakamoto: Thank you very much.


(Text by Takahashi, Translated by Szkoropad)

*All details including prices, bonus features, street dates, and catalog numbers are subject to change by publisher without prior notice.

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