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Interview: May'n

by Christopher Macdonald,

Born May Nakabayashi in 1989, May'n released her first single, Crazy Crazy Crazy, at the age of 15 in 2005, and performed her first anime theme song, Fallin' in or Not for Love Get Chu ~Miracle Voice Actress Hakusho~ in 2006, but her big break came in 2007 when she was selected as the singing voice of Sheryl Nome in Macross Frontier. With six albums to date, the music of Macross Frontier has sold close to a million copies in Japan alone.

However, phenomenal sales aren't the only reason Macross Frontier is important to Nakabayashi. Working with Yoko Kanno, who composed and supervised all the Macross Frontier music, had a profound effect on her. So much so that she feels she is now a different singer, with a different style. In 2008, with the release of Macross Frontier, Nakabayashi decided to change her stage name to May'n, both as a reflection of her new style and her desire to be a "main act."

Since then, May'n has released three solo albums, the eponymous May'n in 2009, If You... in 2011 and HEAT on March 21 of this year. She has also performed live at Anime Festival Asia every year since 2008 and at Anime Expo in 2011.

On May 16, May'n will release her recent albums "HEAT" and "If you..." in the US iTunes music store, and in June she will kick off her Rock Your Beats world tour in North America with shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco (more information below).

May'n agreed to speak with Anime News Network about her career, working with Yoko Kanno and anime.

ANN: Did your musical style or anything else change in any way when you changed your stage name to May'n?

May'n: Since I changed my artist name to "May'n," I sing more rock songs with strong, high tones. The work with Macross Frontier and Yoko Kanno changed my career as an artist a lot.

While working with Yoko Kanno on Macross Frontier, she pushed you to develop your range and sing higher notes. You've acknowledged that she has had a big effect on your music. Are there any other musicians you would like to work with and perhaps learn from?

I've collaborated with many great artists so far and I'm learning a lot from them. This time I worked together with Daisuki Asakura and I was very grateful for the chance. Since he's truly a great artist who has lots of ideas and knowledge for music, he influenced me on my vocal style, and I tried things that I've never tried before.

You've said that Heat is your best album yet. Is there a particular song that is your favorite?

I like all of them, of course! But if I had to pick only one... I guess "We Are" is my favorite since I composed this song by myself. I put what I feel and see at my live concerts into this song. My fans laugh together with me when we have fun, and they cheer me up when I'm sad. That's why I composed this song filled with my full spirit, the feeling that I want to be by their side through my music. It might be hard to listen to each of my fans, but I want to be next to them in my heart always. This is my love song for those who have supported me.

Maintaining your health, particularly your voice, was your number one challenge and focus while recording Heat. What did you have to do in order to protect your voice?

I always wash my hands and cleanse my throat and nose to keep my best condition. It's important to me -- I have to protect my health so I can give my best to my fans. We started recording "HEAT" right after my national tour so I could keep my motivation and momentum, and that's what made it my most "rock style" album ever!

What is your favorite part of performing live?

Concerts are always unpredictable. Even though we rehearse so many times, the outcome is always better than what we expect. Everyone's happy faces and cheers make it special. I can never have the same performance, or can never sing a song the same way. That's what I love about concerts.

You've performed in Los Angeles (At Anime Expo 2010), and in Asia and Japan. How do the three audiences differ?

In Japan, everyone does the same dance for one song, and then they'll listen to another song quietly -- they know what they're doing for each song. But at concerts in other countries, they just dance or sing whenever they want! At first, I was surprised how the foreign fans enjoy my concert. But I was so impressed the first time I saw people from different countries singing along to "Diamond Crevasse" together in Japanese! Every time I perform in foreign countries, I always get so much energy. I feel like "music has no borders." So on this new world tour, I'm bringing the same performance level that I deliver in Japan, so I can feel that energy again and tell everyone that music can bring the world together! At the same time, I'm sure I'll learn more about each country's flavor and personality. I'm waiting for my fans to teach me their style!

Is there anywhere you'd really like to perform that you haven't yet?

So many places! Anywhere that I have never been to yet! One of my dreams is to go to all the prefectures in Japan. I sometimes get fan letters or tweets from all over the world asking me to tour their city. Because all those fans write to me and support me, I would love to go perform any place where people are waiting for me!

How exciting is it for you to be performing your first tour and solo events in North America ?

I went to America for Anime Expo 2 years ago, but this will be my first solo tour in America. I'm excited that I have much more time to spend with everyone than 2 years ago! And I really wanna go to American grocery stores. They have more colorful things than Japanese grocery stores. I bought pancake mix last time I went to America! American pancakes are more tasty and chewy!

You watch a bit of anime and you've said that you really like Accel World (which you sing the OP for); do you have an all-time favorite anime?

Sailor Moon! I used to play Sailor Moon when I was little. And of course I took Sailor Moon's role. (laughs) When I was in kindergarten, I went to karaoke with my mom, my friends, and their parents. Then one of my friends was singing "Moonlight Densetsu"! That's how I first got to know Sailor Moon. So I guess I found my favorite anime through music too!

When you began your career, you had many role models (like Namie Amuro). How did you find your own unique style as a performer?

I've loved singing and dancing so I always try to perform without forgetting what I love. I've always liked R&B and dance music, so when I first debuted, I used to sing more of those songs. But since I met Yoko Kanno and worked on Macross Frontier, I realized that my voice sounds better with rock music. I want to create my own rock music with all the influences I'm exposed to, and I want to keep looking for my own style.

You've performed a fair amount of anime theme music, but you of course have a lot of your own original music. Do you feel any difference when you are creating, recording and performing theme songs versus non-theme songs?

I always try to feel each character's heart when I sing an anime songs. When I sing "HEAT of the moment," I'm singing with the passion that I have for my dreams, and when I sing my newest song "Chase the World" (from Accel World), I try to convey the message that I want to change, I wish I were different. Some songs are about strength, and some show weakness. Some songs are sexy, too. I want to show the many different sides of "May'n" at my concerts.

How important is the anime side of your career to you? What do your anime fans mean to you?

No matter how tired or sad I am, I can still find energy inside music. I've been singing since I was 3 years old, but all of my fans made me love music even more! I sing, dance, laugh, cry, and when I feel the energy of music together with everyone, I love music more and more. My fans told me, "Your music can bring the world together. Thank you for singing." I want to tell everyone, "Thank you for singing together with me. Thank you for giving me chances to sing for you."

May'n will return to America in June 2012 for two live performances in Los Angeles and San Francisco. May'n will perform with a live band and meet American fans at a special autograph session for VIP ticket holders.

Thursday, June 21 - Key Club, Los Angeles
Saturday, June 23 - Yoshi's, San Francisco
Ticket information: maynusa.wordpress.com

Worldwide dates: www.mayn.asia

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