Sound Decision
Interview: Nami Tamaki

by Jonathan Mays, May 31st 2004
Gold Disc awards, Gundam theme songs, international tours—not bad for someone who just hit her sixteenth birthday. Nami Tamaki's a rising star whose solid singing and spectacular dance moves have earned her popularity in Japan and even some attention from North America. After her Friday night performance in Anaheim, I had an opportunity to chat with the bubbly teen for a few minutes. I learned many things, like why you shouldn't bring up maturity when you're sitting in a room full of females.

Is this your first visit to the US?
Yes.

So what was the first thing about the US that surprised you?
Over here, everybody's so tall!

Concert yesterday, another one tomorrow, two more Monday, and another on Saturday... How do you keep it up?
Even though it will be tiring, the American audience is so powerful that they absorb my tiredness. I enjoy what I do so much that I don't even feel tired after performing.

Your birthday's in a couple of days (June 1st). Any celebration plans?
On the actual day of my birthday, we're all going to be moving around—it's a day for transportation. But in the seventeen days that I'm here I have two days off, so I'm going to take those two days to celebrate by going to Disneyland and Universal Studios and such.

I'd like you to take us back to two special moments in your life. First, the moment you realized you could really have a career in music.
I've always really liked music, but actually, I wanted to be a dancer first. But then, I knew I didn't just want to be behind everybody, dancing in the back—I wanted to come up front and be a singer, too. So that's when I started to become interested in Destiny's Child and Janet Jackson and Britney Spears.

And the other moment: the first time you heard yourself on the radio.
It was amazing, unbelievable! I kept wondering, “Is this really playing all over Japan?” I couldn't believe it.

How did your friends react when they found out you'd be singing a Gundam theme?
When this whole thing was decided, I wasn't yet in Tokyo; I was still back in my hometown. I was making the promotional video and the new song and everything, but I didn't actually know it was going to be used for Gundam Seed. When all my friends found out, they were like, “Why didn't you tell us?!” But they were very supportive.

It must be difficult to manage school and friends with a new music career.
I can't help but wonder if I'm allowed to be this happy, because I'm able to experience the pleasures of both lives right now—living a high school girl's life and also an artist's life. Even with all the artist work, they're letting me live as a normal high school girl. And with the background and career of a normal artist, I get the best of both lives.

So you're lucky to be able to live both right now, but what about when those paths diverge?
I'll definitely choose to do my job instead of going to school!

How difficult was it to move from Kansai, your hometown, to Tokyo in ninth grade?
Believe it or not, I had no worries during the transfer. Nothing was scaring me or anything. When I decided I wanted to be a singer, I wanted to do it full-on, you know, the whole course. Usually, people who want to do that go to Tokyo, so I went to Tokyo, and I don't want to come back yet!

Take us through a typical recording session.
I come out of school, walk into the studio, and the first thing I do is have honey with warm water—a special drink of mine. Then I'd get the lyrics, listen to the music, study it a little bit, go over it two or three times. After that I record the main parts, then the chorus for each of the parts, and finally I leave.

For recording you have the honey, but what about pre-concert routines?
Before every performance, I eat. Definitely.

That's unusual.
Really?

When a lot of people sing, they don't like to have full stomachs.
I won't hold out for the night unless I eat. It's my growth spurt right now!

I know you mentioned Destiny's Child, Britney Spears... Are there any other artists that inspired you to sing?
Green Day. Madonna. Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Have you had the chance to meet any of them since you started professionally?
Not yet!

I looked at the lyrics of a few of your songs: the two Gundam themes and “Prayer.” The stuff about romance and love is pretty common. But your mature outlook surprised me.
It's not like I was trying to be a different person, or someone older. It's the fact that girls are more mature in the way they think about things!

Girls who are my age or people who are older can probably relate to the lyrics. I just wrote it as I felt.

You sing about loneliness but with optimism, and you have faith that the future will let you find happiness. There's time to make up for mistakes.
In general I'm very positive, and I can't understand how people can be negative, pessimistic—It's not a good part of life. If you fall into pessimism, it's very hard to become optimistic again, to climb that latter back up. So I like to think of things positively, and I'm always optimistic.

If you think of things negatively, your happier times will be lessened. I think you should always try to be more positive. There are many different types of songs in my album, but all of them portray a very optimistic view.

Is there anything else you try to convey in your music?
Lately I've seen that people my age have dreams and things they want to achieve, but they can't talk about them with their parents, or rather, they don't choose to. So I want to be that hand that pushes them to talk to them, to be proud of your dreams. That's the message I want to send—a helping hand.

What about your own dreams? You've only been performing for two years.
After having visited the US, I know I want to come back and make my career over here bigger. Of course I also want to work harder to expose my music to as many people as possible. That's my main goal for now.

A lot of American fans want to know if you have your eye on anybody.
Of course I have people I look up to and I think are cool and everything, but not at the moment, I don't have anyone in particular. During high school, that's the lot of it, the relationships and everything, so it's sad because I don't feel anything right now towards anybody.

You've done enough shows that something's probably gone wrong before.
In May I did a couple of shows in Osaka and Tokyo and I have a section where I do basketball because I used to play. In Osaka, everything went just fine; in all the practice shots and the performance itself I made the basket on my first try. But in Tokyo I couldn't get even the fourth or fifth shot in. The crowd was booing me! It was quite embarrassing.

If you missed Nami's four performances this past weekend, be sure to catch her this Saturday at A-Kon in Dallas!

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