Birthday: May 18 (Taurus)
Birthplace: Tsuchiura, Ibaraki
Current home: Los Angeles
Secret passion: ballet dancing
Echo song sample
A Crescent Moon Canoe
Right Now live
3. Pursed Lips
4. Suki To Ienai
5. The Queen
7. Your Wedding Is My Funeral
8. Can I Be Your Lover
9. Like Never Before
10. Hello Goodbye
11. Imaginary Love
Unleashed (mari music)
Before Rain & Shine (mari music)
Wonderful People (2004)
Silent Love (2003)
Right Now (2001)
No Limit (1999)
Rain & Shine (1998)
Good Medicine (1996)
Sonic Boom (1995)
Love Season (1994)
Different Worlds (1993)
It's a Love Thing (1990)
My Heart in Red (1989)
Miss Lemon (1988)
Coquettish Blue (1987)
Kimono Stereo (1985)
Where to buy
Order from marimusic.com
Order from CD Japan
Order from YesAsia
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Mari Iijima Interview
"This album is about unrequited love. To me it is a universal heartache when two people's heart temperatures are not quite matching… My album is based on love stories. My love stories." - Mari Iijima
"Echo" will be the 21st studio album from Mari Iijima, and much like her debut album, "Rose", it has been a true labor of love, with Mari immersing herself in every aspect of its songwriting and production. The music is powerful and poignant, driven by Mari's perfectionist desire to bring the music of her heart to the world.
Although Mari might have first achieved fame through the lucky happenstance of voicing the character Lynn Minmay in the popular "The Super Dimension Fortress Macross" anime series, her long and successful career as a world class singer/songwriter has garnered her international awards and fans eager to hear the next installment of her musical odyssey.
So come hear the story of a remarkable woman who says "Life gets tough sometimes. I think that a part of my purpose in life is to create the music and words to give people some peace and hope for tomorrow."On August 16, 2009 Mari Iijima was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Mari Iijima.
Let's start with your new album, "Echo". Can you tell us about its central theme?
The theme is Unrequited Love. Echo is a nymph that appears in a part of the Greek Mythology, "Echo & Narcissus". That story to me is the universal symbol of Unrequited Love. Her experiences in the story and my own experiences during the last few years cross over. It felt as if I was Echo herself.
I wrote the title song Echo at the beginning of this year, then I decided I was going to name the album that too. I actually had a completely different title ready to go in my mind. I'm going to use that someday.
The songs are in both English and Japanese. Did you have a guiding plan on which languages to use as you wrote the music?
I want my music to expand to the world, also I live in the States using English daily. So I usually write my songs in English.
Suki To Ienai. Somehow the words came to me in Japanese. Maybe it was going to be too direct if I sang it in English. I might sing in Spanish if I'm in love with a Spanish speaking person. It depends on that too. Love matters.
The title track Echo creates a powerful effect in the combination of your singing and the accompanying strings. Can you tell us the story of writing this song?
I knew that it was going to be a thick string arrangement track since the first melody came to me. It's violin and cello. The viola parts are played by the violin too. It worked out fine.
Who is playing the strings?
Andy Studer & Ryan Studer.
Is this the first time your sons have worked with you?
They co-wrote a couple of songs with me when they were little kids. They opened my tour in Japan in 2007, so this is not the first time we worked together. But I can say that this is the first time they were heavily involved creating my music and album.
I didn't hire them because they were my sons. They are great musicians. That's why they were hired. :)
The guitar work on Like Never Before is excellent. Did you write the actual guitar part of the song yourself?
The guitarist is Ian Bairnson on that. No one writes out the guitar solos for the guitarist to play. (Wait a minute, maybe Noel Gallagher does? lol I'm just kidding.) Ian Bairnson is a Scottish guitarist who played with Alan Parsons Project, Kate Bush, Pilot, etc. I worked with him back in 1985 while I was making the album "Kimono Stereo" in London. (He was THE reason I became a vegetarian back in 1985.)
We re-connected for this album, and I'm liking it. :) His sounds are serene but there is a little darkness (shadow) to them. I guess it's like the London sky. That's his style.
One of the highlights of the album is the final track, Unrequited. At what point in the album's creation did you write this finale song?
Actually this song was written in 2006. There was no place for it when I released my previous album "Uncompromising Innocence". So it had to wait. But early 2007, my computer crashed, and I lost almost everything about this song. I was devastated since I knew this was going to be a great track.
I tried to remember, especially the words. It was painful and frustrating! Not everything came back, but I did remember the key lyrics. So I re-created the song from there. I guess I'll never find out how it originally was.
Can you tell us the central message of this song, and how it relates to the rest of the album?
There is no message. It's a straight forward, one of the most honest love songs I've ever written. Layers of situations and feelings in this song. It's an unrequited love song.
And of course we have to ask... is "Mr. Martin" based on a single actual person?
Chris Martin from Coldplay. When he released that "Fix You" song, I was a bit upset. I know he meant well (I know it was written for his wife to ease her pain) and I do like Coldplay, but no one can fix you, you know.
It's a choice we make. Do I want to feel good today or do I still want to stay feeling down, which is fine. You go through some process to get over the deep sadness. When I'm sad I want my love to tell me "I'm here with you" instead of "I'll try to fix you." :)
Thanks Chris for inspiring me to write Unrequited. You're a good man.
The album was mixed by Michael Koppelman and mastered by Ian Cooper. Can you tell us about your working relationship with them?
I first worked with Michael for the "Sonic Boom" album. He was the IT engineer for Prince at that time. He mixed my "Europe" album too in 1997. There was a long period of time that I was not in touch with him. Then I realized he was so very creative and musical. So he came back to my world in 2006 when I made "Uncompromising Innocence". I reconnected with him as a single, independent woman. That was very good. We'll work together more.
About Ian. I had 3 mastering engineers in my mind who I wanted to try to master this record with. One was in Tokyo, one was in New York and Ian was in London. I thought about the sound (I can't explain that with words) I wanted to end up with for "Echo". Not too crystal clean, not too rough and dark. Of course, I wanted to go to London too!!
So I decided to work with Ian. It was a thrilling choice and move.
You did a very larger percentage of the work on this album yourself, from its writing to playing the keyboards, synthesizer, bass, percussion... Do you feel this helped to keep the album true to your original concept of each song?
Well, this was not the first time I did that, you know. I love working with other musicians too. It's easier in a way. Have a couple of studio sessions and BAM! I really enjoy having other musicians gifts on my records. Truly.
Making the album by myself is very close to creating a one of a kind tapestry. It's bold and delicate. And my body & soul are my threads. Do you know a Japanese story called "Kaguya Hime"?
How do you feel now that the album is complete?
I think it came out great. It's not perfect of course. There is no such thing as "PERFECT" creations in this world , but we always aim for it. (I'm pretty much a perfectionist.) I gather people who have the same amount of passion and kindness towards the music. People who like me, people I like. I didn't hire anyone who had any doubt about me as a musician/artist.
Anyway... I usually don't listen to the "just finished" album too much once it's done. I need some distance, you know. Then I come back to it a bit later. I think it's a great album. :)
The album will be released in Japan on September 2, but is available before then in North America?
Yes. It's available through my web site right now!
You have another release date on October 14 for a credit on the compilation CD "Chojiku Anthem: Ikiwoshiteru Kanjiteiru". Can you tell us about that?
It's a maxi single. A division of Victor Entertainment Japan (Flyingdog) asked me if I could write a song for this Macross project. I was super busy (for real) finishing up my album, but I said yes, cause it sounded like it was going to be a huge project. I told him I'd do it if I could produce the record here in LA.
The singers from Macross 7, Macross F and myself sing together on this. We take turns!! (The Japanese singers sang in Tokyo and the files were sent to me.) It's a good song. The message in the song is good too.
Speaking of Macross, let's take a trip to the past and learn more about your background. Can you tell us about the hometown you grew up in and what it was like living there?
Umm. It was fab and difficult. I was pretty much good at everything. So life was somewhat tough growing up. (Deru Kui Wa Utareru.) I was always musical. My family loved music. In that sense I was blessed. I could find the way of life very early.
How did you first get into playing music?
Playing piano and singing. I started my piano lessons very early. (My mother and bro both played the piano. My parents were great singers too even though the music was not their professions.)
I was crazy about this band called "The Tigers" when I was like 4 years old. My father was regularly playing The Brothers Four and The Ventures a lot. (Somehow not so much The Beatles.) I was one of those people (kids) if I heard a song from the radio or something I could instantly play it with the piano and sing.
What type of career did you imagine you would have when you were still in high school?
To be a musician. To be a pianist & singer & songwriter. Pretty much the way I am now. I wasn't ready for the ups and downs part of this business though.
Also, I wasn't ready for the curve ball the Universe threw to me. So I couldn't imagine the Macross part.
In 1982 that curve ball would arrive when you provided the voice for the character Lynn Minmay in the anime show "Super Dimensional Fortress Macross". Can you tell us how you got that role and what it was like?
I just got signed with JVC Victor as a singer & songwriter in the Spring of 1982. Sorry... I don't exactly remember the time. I was having lunch with my A & R, and this Macross audition topic came up. Someone said "Tomorrow, it will be the last audition. Do you want to try for it? Yeah?"
I had no idea what the Macross was. I didn't even have a manager! But it was an audition that my label was asking me to go to so I said "Ok!" (You know all the Macross soundtracks were released from JVC Victor.) I went to the studio the next day, and sang a couple of my original songs with the piano, and read a few lines.
There were 2 other girls from some acting agencies. A week later I got a ring from my staff and he told me "You got it." I was happy to hear that. It was an achievement. I didn't think of any negative aspect.
Tell us about writing and recording the music for your debut album "Rose" in 1983.
The songs were all on my demo that I sent out in 1982. (That was how I was signed.) My label asked me who I wanted to work with, so I asked Ryuichi Sakamoto to be my producer for it.
How did you feel about being a musician who had also worked briefly as a voice actress on a show that became so well known?
I was a college student and musician. By the time I released my debut album, the series was over. (Although the movie came in 1984, I only worked for a day or two to voice Minmay for it.) I was never a voice actress. I only played one character. I was so surprised that people called me a voice actress back then (and still now!!!)
What if you were a golfer, and some opportunity came and you voiced one character that you did that BEFORE you became famous as a pro-golfer, but you were remembered as a voice actor because that series got huge! And people just keep on talking about it instead of your true career.
Don't you think it's gonna be a bit annoying for you? I struggled with that typecast issue. But I accept it in a way. I truly think I was meant to play Minmay. So I'll be responsible for that, and for Minmay. She is very dear to my heart. That's the fact but I'm not really a voice actress.
What did your family and friends think about your musical career?
They know and feel it's a tough business. And my parents know I do everything by myself and try hard. So they feel for me, and they support me when I need the help. My family and friends believe in me and my abilities. I love them back.
As you look back over the many albums you've released, what memories standout the most?
I usually don't look back. But I can say that I was very naive when I moved to the States after "Miss Lemon".
Let me think... I am blessed that I got to work with Jeff Porcaro for "My Heart In Red" album before his passing. He was a great teacher and gentleman. I loved him dearly.
You moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to work on your sixth album, "Miss Lemon", a move that led to your getting married and having kids. What were your biggest challenges living in the US?
Bad marriage is never good, I'll tell you. Hahaha. When I got separated from my ex-husband, that was one tough time. I didn't even know how to drive. I had to start from scratch with the twin toddlers in my hands.
America is huge and it's somewhat all divided. I learned that through the years. Maybe some parts of America will kindly accept me as a musician/performer, but maybe not for other places.
Btw, I didn't see many so-called Asian people in London. Of course, I was only there for 10 days and I was staying in one area, but really, it struck me as a huge surprise. (Since some of my friends told me maybe I was going to do better as an artist in Europe since it's more of a melting pot of people.) People were so friendly and kind though. :)
Are any of the events from your first year in the US a part of the inspiration for "Echo"?
Are you talking about my relationship with my ex-husband? Hell no!! lol I don't write about that no more. It's not in my system.
Where have you been spending your time living since then?
I've lived in Los Angeles for 20 years.
Do you travel between the US and Japan often?
I go back to Japan once or twice a year for my work, and to see my family.
Tell us about the short feature film "Green Tea-r" and your participation in it.
I played one of the main characters named Yoko in the film. I also wrote and performed the film's theme song Petal.
What three Mari Iijima songs would you pick to best capture the soul of your music?
Echo. Can I Be Your Lover. Unrequited.
Cause they are very raw. They captured a big part of who Mari is now as a person and as a musician.
What live performances of yours do you most fondly remember?
The most fun one in the States was a gig at the Knitting Factory in New York in 2007. I just had a great time performing that day somehow. The audience was drunk and loud. lol I didn't care! They laughed at all my jokes and people were dancing to my music and I never quite saw that view before. It was great.
Who have been some of the people most responsible for your musical successes over the years?
My parents because they provided me the opportunities to realize that music was the thing for me.
And me... cause I never gave up. I compromised a lot but never sold my soul to anything or anyone.
How do you feel your music has developed and evolved from your early work?
It's a natural process. I'm always being myself and express whatever the feelings I have inside very honestly through my music. That's why it has evolved so much. It's the weight and depth of life.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you were still in high school, what would it be?
Work with someone who can market you smartly, who can look at the big picture for a long run. It's funny you like the "high school" themed questions. :) Maybe that was the significant time of your life?
Hmm, I guess we did ask you two didn't we lol?! Anyway, now that "Echo" is finished, do you have thoughts on what your next project might be?
Yes. Maybe a dance album.
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
Life gets tough sometimes. But somehow we manage and survive. We're strong! I respect you all. I think that a part of my purpose in life is to create the music (and words) to give people some peace and hope for tomorrow. I think we can relate to each other.
I'll be creating more. Please stay in touch with me through my website marimusic.com. Thank you for reading, you guys. Peace on Earth.
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