Hometown: Omihachiman, Japan
"Do what you love and the necessary resources will follow."
1. Cantaloupe Island (get Up)
2. I Mean You (you Know Who)
3. Soochow Serenade
4. Inner City Blues
5. On A Clear Day
6. Spring Nocturne
7. Infant Eyes
10. I Didn't Know About You
12. Biwako (english Version)
One Love (2007)
1. One Love - Opening
2. It Could Happen To You
4. Would You Believe
5. I've Never Been In Love Before
6. Hoshi-No Love Letter
7. I Hear A Rhapsody
8. Tav'lin' Light
9. People Make The World Go Around
10. Little B's Poem
11. One Love
Where to Buy: CD Baby
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Taeko Fukao Interview
"I've never recognized the true beauty of Japan until I stepped out of Japan." - Taeko
While the stunning scenery of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture might have seemed commonplace to a young girl named Taeko, the music she grew up listening to would prove to be much more inspiring. Faced with a decision to pursue a career in law or music, she make the fateful decision to pursue her artistic dreams. We are glad she did.
With a confident voice that both soothes and satisfies, Taeko has developed a singing style that transports her native culture of Japan to the Jazz filled clubs of New York.
So come learn the story of the singer who says: "Most memorable concerts were always the ones where the band, the audience and I became completely one wave through music..."On May 21, 2012 Taeko was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Taeko.
Let's start from the beginning. Can you tell us about your hometown and what it was like growing up there?
My hometown is Omihachiman in the prefecture of Shiga, next to Kyoto. It is a small town with warm and energetic people and comfortable living. Shiga is surrounded by mountains and contains the biggest lake in Japan in the middle, called Lake Biwa. It is a beautiful place.
How did you first get into music?
I always liked singing since I was a little girl. I was always singing, on the way to and from school, on a bicycle in the park, etc.
When you were in high school what type of career did you imagine having?
English Translator or Lawyer.
Do you think growing up in western Japan made a difference to your musical tastes than if you had grown up in say Tokyo?
It's an interesting question because I never thought about it. I don't think it made a difference. I liked studying English and listening to American pop music on the radio, and that could be at any part of Japan.
You studied law while you were still living in Japan, but another interest was beginning to fill your mind. Can you explain the pull you felt?
When many people were trying to stop me from pursuing my music career, I asked myself: What if I became a very successful lawyer around age 50, making lots of money, went to a bar one night, and saw a young girl trying to sing? I would say to myself "Why didn't I do that?" and I would regret my entire 30 years that never returns. Then there was no question not to follow my passion.
Tell us about your decision in 1998 to come to the US.
My brother passed away 1995, and I needed a different direction in my life. So I chose to come to the Unites States.
What were those six months like for you?
Very exciting. Walked every street, took voice lessons every week, checked out every jazz club, went to every party I could find, and made many musician and non-musician friends. I tried to take New York City all in because I thought I was going to be in New York for just six months. I even had my first Jazz gig and my first recording session towards the end of that six months.
What did you find to be the most challenging thing about living in another country?
The weight control. American food is way too big, too greasy, too sugary, too salty... I had to learn to watch what I eat, and I started to cook more often.
You made several recording from 1999 to 2004 beginning with your self-titled album "Taeko". Tell us a little about the songs and your memories creating them.
The first jazz standards I learned were Softly as in the Morning Sunrise and Body and Soul, and I recorded these songs twice with different arrangement. I had a great help by a jazz drummer and composer Doug Richardson, and I learned a lot from him.
So you learned a lot musically from those experiences?
Yes. I learned a lot about how different a recording session is from a regular show. Everything you do is under a microscope. I think it takes more energy and concentration at a recording, and it is necessary to go through a few recordings just to get used to the process.
Tell us about the performing you did during this time.
At Carpo's Cafe in the center of West Village, I had a show every Tuesday with a guitarist, and it was fun. It didn't pay much, but I felt very grateful to have a place to perform. New Tokyo, a small bar in Downtown was a good session spot where I had a show every now and then. Then a steady show at a soul food venue called Mobay Uptown in Harlem came in. Performing at Mobay helped me to work out my musical ideas consistently and understand how to be in front of audience. My first show at Blue Note came in 2003 where they featured local talents on Sundays, and it was a great experience for that early stage of my career.
The life of a musician can be tough going. What kept you inspired during those first years living in New York?
I never thought about giving it up because I knew I loved music. Also having great mentors around helped a lot.
What did your family and friends back in Japan think of your life in America?
Friends thought it's cool and envied it. There was a little resistance from my family.
In 2007 you released your first CD "One Love" through Flat Nine Records. Can you describe what the recording sessions were like?
It was over two sessions: one in 2006 and another in 2007, with two sets of piano-bass-drums trio. My musicality grew between these two, and I felt more comfortable in the 2007 session.
What song are you most proud of?
Dindi, the second track of "One Love". I had Harry Whitaker on piano who was a musical director for Roberta Flack for many years. He played great solo on Dindi. It has John Coltrane-like arrangement that showcases my vocal range, and it received many air plays on Jazz radio stations.
Would you say there is a theme to the album?
Colorful and delightful. I wanted to give something refreshing and fun to listen to for various types of music lovers.
Your latest CD release is "Voice". Would you say your singing style has changed since your earlier work?
No, I don't think my style has changed, but my musical skills and approach improved. I grew as a musician. Also my desire to send positive messages through my music got deepened.
If you had to choose a few songs from the album to give fans a feel for your singing, which would you pick and why?
On a Clear Day: Singing and scatting on a bright straight-ahead swing like this is exactly my strike zone!
Inner City Blues: I love to include medium to slow R&B tunes with strong meaning to my jazz repertoire.
Biwako: A folk song from the area where I was born in Japan that I added an arrangement and English lyrics to.
Stand! by Sly and the Family Stone, Cantaloupe Island with vocalese on the trumpet solo, Spring Nocturne which is my original ballad, Sooshow Seranade which is another Japanese old song, Infant Eyes, Sugar, I Mean You, I Didn't Know About You which are great songs written by Jazz masters... All songs on the album VOICE is a good representation of my singing.
If someone said to you "Taeko, I've never heard a Jazz song before" what song would you pick to sing to them first, and why?
Sugar by Stanley Turrentine, which is on my album VOICE. The song swings hard and brings up the excitement of improvisation, and also the lyrics are sexy and Jazzy.
What have been some of your most memorable performances so far?
Most memorable concerts were always the ones where the band, the audience and I became completely one wave through music with the help of fabulous organizers and amazing sound techs:Japan Day in Central Park in New York City in 2011.
Cape May Jazz Festival, in Cape May, New Jersey in 2010.
Monday Night Jazz Concert in Bushnell Park in Hartford, CT in 2009.
Blue Note New York in 2004 when my parents came from Japan and more...
Where can fans get a chance to see you perform?
I perform around New York City often and also travel to other states and Japan a few times a year. It is listed on my website: Songbird Taeko.
Looking back at your early days in Japan, could you ever have imagined that you'd actually be recording and performing Jazz music in New York City one day?
Not at all. No one in my entire family lived overseas and no one is a professional artist. What I am doing is totally out of the blue!
Outside of music, what do you do for fun and relaxation?
Working out at gym. Cooking, Taking hot baths. Travel.
On a more personal note, can you describe your version of a romantic date?
Roses, dinner, Met opera.
What do you do whenever you feel homesick for Japan?
There are many Japanese people in New York City, and I really never felt homesick. When I miss Japanese food, I cook miso soup.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Shows in the US and a recording of my next album during the summer, and Japan tour in fall and winter.
Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?
I've never recognized the true beauty of Japan until I stepped out of Japan. I am fortunate to live in New York where I can have good guidance, inspirations and challenges for my career and maintain a strong connection with my people in Japan.
Do you have a final message to all your fans?
I've been blessed to have an abundance of supportive people, and I hope that continues and grows. I appreciate your love and support for my music.Also, I would like to thank everyone who has been supporting the North East Japan's recovery effort.
For more info checkout Taeko Fukao's official site and Facebook page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments