Rheason Love - Vocals/Music
Birthday: March 9th
Blood type: O
(aka Nao Otokura)
AKI - Sound Producer/Engineer
Birthday: December 2nd, 1979
Blood type: B
(aka Akinori Ishiyama)
Call song sample
Everything Is Watched
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Rheason Love Interview
"Our songs often have spiritual messages. When I write that kind of lyrics, I feel like someone else is teaching me. I don't know why but I can easily write about a feeling or experience that I have never had." - Rheason Love
When you answer a "singing job for video game music" ad in Japan you never know where it might take you. For Nao Otokura aka "Rheason Love" one fateful ad launched a career of singing and songwriting that took her from her home in Osaka all the way to the US. Teamed with the upcoming producer AKI (aka Akinori Ishiyama) the two have released several of their songs on iTunes with hopes and plans for finding a major label for their music in 2010.
So if you're looking for some soulful music with much to say about life and death, come take a listen to the duo who say "I am Japanese and respect American music, so I wanna try in America, I wanna send out my music alongside those I respect. Even if people say I'm reckless, I should sing in a place that I think is the greatest."On January 23, 2010 Rheason Love and AKI were kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Rheason Love.
Can you tell us how the two of you met and what made you want to work together?
Rheason Love: It was 2004 when I first met my music partner AKI. At that time, I was working as an in-house singer for a video game production company. We regularly used one studio in Osaka and AKI was the recording engineer there, that's how we met. As we worked on some projects, naturally we became friends.
I often asked for his help in my personal projects because he had such expert wisdom. Sometimes I asked for his advices and in some cases I asked him to sing background vocals for songs. What surprised me was, when I was thinking of a sound image or color that I wanted, he immediately caught on and captured the sound after only a few words on my part. I was so happy about that and surprised 'cause I didn't have a technical vocabulary then. Later on, I would start talking a lot to him, about music influences, favorite songs, artists, about what I wanted to be and many things. AKI had a huge collection of CDs and let me realize that there were many artists which I didn't know. I felt happiness every time the number of my favorite artists increased.
One day, he told me that he'd been trying to become a music producer. And I decided, because we had the same taste in music, to work with him. AKI makes everything smooth, and what is more, we had the same vision to do charitable work through music in the future. I felt working together would be the best. I was afraid if he'd chose to work with me or not 'cause there were many talented singers around him. But in 2007, we officially started to work together as a unit.
What was the first song you worked on together?
Close to You was the first. It's a love song. There were many lyrics that I wrote at that period. AKI picked out one of them and wrote the song. I'd been thinking he would make a kind of slow ballad because the lyrics was a lonely one, but the song he made was medium R&B and perfectly matched the lyrics! I remember that I really loved it and started recording guide vocals by myself right away.
In this song we featured one artist for background vocal. Her name is Erykah, a mutual friend of ours, AKI's junior from music school and she is a fabulous singer. She performs in many shows and gigs in Osaka and is active as a backing singer for some famous artists.
I really love her singing. I used to go to shows every time she performed. I got a mix from AKI within a few days after I sent him the vocal data for Close to You. I listened and found there were cool background vocals in it. Then I realized for the first time about this collaboration and got excited! This was a surprise for me because in the interest of time they had to record her part before I knew it. Anyway, I was so happy as if it was a surprise present. ;) I'd love to collaborate with her again with an English song as well.
REMEMBER is a beautiful song. Can you tell us more about it?
Our songs often have spiritual messages. When I write that kind of lyrics, I feel like someone else is teaching me. I don't know why but I can easily write about a feeling or experience that I have never had. It's strange but sometimes I'm surprise about what I wrote and sometimes I ask AKI to help me understand what I wrote.
REMEMBER is one of those songs. This song is about how someone who died feels after his death, about the feeling he has after losing his body, the feeling which living people like us never know.
When I heard the news of Michael Jackson's death, I thought I wanted to dedicate this song to him and all of his fans all over the world, and I uploaded this song on YouTube as a dedication for MJ.
MJ is a great inspiration for both me and AKI. Many people miss him so deeply like us. I wished I could heal somebody with this song even if it's just one, just like the way MJ did. Later on, we received thank you messages from people who listened to REMEMBER. Our hearts were filled with appreciation. We believed this song was born for a reason.
Tell us more about the song Never Want Us to Part.
This song is a spiritual one as well, from the view of someone who died: a spirit. Just when he was planning a surprise for his loved one, he was killed in an accident. After that, he could see them sadly crying in front of his body. Like a movie the story goes on until he heads into the light.
When we wrote this song, AKI and I put chords to the melody from the beginning of the song as we pursued its feeling, so some may say this song has a unique construction. This process reminded us how important it is "to feel" and not "to think" when we write a song. We, living people, tend to forget that we are here, but everyday somebody's loved one is dying in some place. After we die we can't say anymore words of love, appreciation or apology... but they may be around us, lovingly whispering and trying to express their minds after their death, though we can't see them, just like the lyrics of this song.
What is the message behind Earth Song?
Earth Song is the song of my honest feelings about the problem of poverty. I was seeking in books or web if there was something I could do for the problem of poverty and I found many sad truths there. Above all, some pictures and movies of a boy dying from hunger broke my heart. I wanted many people to know the fact and think about it.
First I talked to the people close to me but they said "You can't blame anybody". Only a few people would hear. Instead of speaking about it, I chose singing and wrote Earth Song. When I sing this song in my shows, everybody listens, showing interest about it. I haven't released this song, but there is a reason. Someday I want to release this song and use the profits from it to donate to charity. For that, Rheason Love has to be def famous, I'll do my best!
And this song has another message -- to many people who do charity works right now, "Your efforts and love are surely reaching and making a difference, so don't give up, just keep on going". The problem of poverty is a very hard issue but I believe becoming aware of it is a very important first step.
How important is a song's lyrics to you compared to the music itself?
I think both of them are very important, but I can say lyrics carry much weight for our music. Because there is a message to tell first, then it leads to the music. On the other hand, sometimes music leads messages... This is a very difficult question.
Can you tell us more about how you write music together? Do you have a process, or is each song different?
Talking about lyrics, first I write in Japanese. Next AKI translates into English. Sometimes I get ideas from AKI, sometimes it comes down to me. When we write music we have many ways, like putting chords to a melody from the beginning, AKI making beats and chords first, getting inspiration from lyrics then creating beats, or building arrangements onto my vocals. We don't have a steady process, it always depends upon the song.
What type of places have you performed at?
At clubs and halls in Osaka.
When did "Nao Otokura" become "Rheason Love" and why did you pick that name?
Nao Otokura was my Japanese name and the pronunciation of Nao seemed to be difficult for English speakers. For switching to be a US-based artist and getting a fresh start, I decided to change my name. I had been given the name Rheason Love from a mentor in the US. AKI and I loved this name and that's how I changed.
Prior to that, you sang on some songs for video games? Tell us about that.
That started when I happened to find a "singing job for video game music" ad on the web. In fact I hadn't believed that I would sing for such a major video game at that point when I submitted. But later, I got a notice for the interview and was told that I was chosen for their final consideration, then I first realized I was in a kind of an audition. For the final screening I needed to write lyrics to the song which I received from them. There were three people remained include me, then I first visited the studio which AKI was working for. But at that time I didn't know him.
After this, I got the notice that I won and was surprised to hear that the song was used for ending theme of "Hagane no renkinjutsushi 2" from the major company Square/Enix. I went to the recording studio and sang the song with my lyrics. That was when AKI and I first met. I got hired for more jobs after this. I have sang four different songs in all including "Hagane no renkinjutsushi 3". These works became the turning point in my life, including having met up with AKI.
In 2002 and 2003 you competed in the Japan Singer Ranking Contest. Tell us about your memories of those performances.
Singers from all over Japan submitted demos to this ranking contest. I was one of them -- I wanted to check my level with this contest. I remember the total number of the applicants was about two thousand. In 2002 I sang two songs, one is compulsory while the other was For You by Utada. In 2003 I only sang their compulsory song. Only ten of the top applicants got calls from them and I was really surprised when I got a call -- my eyes popped out since I hadn't expected it. I remember my mother appreciated it very much as I reported the result.
AKI, what other musical projects have you worked on?
AKI: I used to work for a recording studio as an engineer. I was really involved in so many genres of music there. Unlike studios in Tokyo, in Osaka clients from a very wide price range used the studio where I was working. So I learned many skills and abilities in the course of working there.
To concentrate on making music with Rheason was the reason for quitting the studio. For that reason, except for Rheason, I have no other projects right now. I'm giving 100% to this project.
AKI, can you tell us more about how you create and produce music? Do you have a "philosophy of music" or certain ideas that guide you?
AKI: Talking about "philosophy of sound", I found many in the studio. Balance is very important I think. If we spend a lot of time mixing to make music perfect, sad to say it doesn't always have good vibes. These days I think I can often find the best balance in imperfectness.
Talking about music creation, it may be out-of-the-box thinking not to use the conventional way. I need to think one hundred ways to make one hundred songs. It's similar to dealing with people. Also I give attention to entertainment.
Let's take a trip into the past and learn more about your backgrounds. Can you tell us about your hometowns and what it was like growing up there?
Rheason Love: I was born in Osaka and grew up there. In a word Osaka is an interesting city. My parents are just normal people but both of them used to aim at becoming a singer in their youth and were music lovers. So there were karaoke machines, many LPs and CDs in our house. I was given such a lucky circumstance so that I could sing when I wanted to. My favorite was The Jackson 5, I always listened to it.
At the age of 8 I was asked to sing in a relative's wedding. The first performance in my life was in the big party over 500 guests attended. I sang Cosmos, a song of Momoe Yamaguchi, my mother's choice. The joy of singing in front of people grew in my mind. After that I sang on many stages like festivals or small karaoke conventions.
At 14, I happened to watch a lesson by a music school on the TV that made me want to take real lessons. I talked to my mother and luckily I got to start going to the music school from the TV. I learned dance and singing for three years there. From the age of 17 I started to earn my living as a dance and vocal instructor, while seeking and submitting to many auditions on the web or magazines. One submission that I thought was for a part-time job led me to AKI's studio, and now we are here.
What kind of kids were you? Outgoing? Shy?
I think of my character as cheerful or just noisy. :D Speaking or singing all the time. My family often said to me "Be quiet just for 3 minutes!" :( Maybe I haven't still changed.
What musical artists most inspired you growing up?
Luther Vandross. His singings brought many ideas and inspirations to me. I always listen to his songs when I have run out of ideas.
What artists do you most admire today?
Michael Jackson. I've always loved MJ since The Jackson 5, his voice was so pure all the time. Not only singing but also his dance and performances were great. In addition, his acts were all amazing -- he's like an angel. I want to be like MJ.
What did your family and friends think about your decision to pursue a life in music?
Luckily, they are supporting me and no one opposing. But I think there was some thought that I would never succeed. I teach dance and singing to the local children as an instructor. One time I was advised to make a living with it, but after I got together with AKI who had experience in the industry, there are more people supporting me. Unlike when I was alone, he has changed my American dream into realistic targets. That was a big difference for me, now I am able to send music out and get heard by many more people. My friends and the children in the class seem to check my MySpace page often -- I feel like I'm warmly watched over by everyone.
Why did you decide to come to the US to perform your music?
Many Japanese artists name American artists they like or respect: Mariah Carey, Keyshia Cole, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc... So do I, I respect them very much. So I chose to play in America -- same stage with them. People may think it sounds crazy but I don't think so. R&B, Hip hop are popular in Japan but they originally came from America, many artists in Japan are followers I feel.
Music in American is always really hot, leading and soulful -- that's why many Japanese name American artists as those they respect most. I am Japanese and respect American music, so I wanna try in America, I wanna send out my music alongside those I respect. Even if people say I'm reckless, I should sing in a place that I think is the greatest.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
This year I want to get a record deal with a label in the US and release a full album! Concerts in the US and all over the world, TV appearances as well. I want to keep trying to grow up every day so that the music of Rheason Love and AKI will be heard and loved by as many people as possible!
On a more personal subject, any thoughts on marriage and kids in the future?
Right now music comes first, but of course I think about female happiness in my future.
Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?
Two singles are available for download on iTunes Stores now. The first single "Everything Is Watched". The second single is "CALL".
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
To make you and many people happy -- to heal hearts with our music. I want to keep singing the songs that have soul and meaning. We will do our best to make the songs that can get into your hearts like the breeze, with meaning in both lyrics and sounds. Your support lets my singing grow all the time. Thanks very much for your support!!
For more info checkout Rheason Love's MySpace page and AKI's MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments