Interview: May'n

by Heidi Kemps,

There are some very recognizable names of singers and musicians in the world of “anison” - the genre of songs made especially for anime production. Many well-loved acts have contributed their music to the anison world, and conversely, the anison genre has helped garner budding musicians more mainstream attention. May'n is one of those rising stars who gained a huge worldwide audience thanks to her breakout role as the singing voice of Sheryl Nome in Macross Frontier. She's since gone on to provide memorable music for numerous other anime series, as well as perform her music at venues across the globe.

We had the opportunity to speak with May'n briefly before her concert at Slim's in San Francisco, which was the closing performance of the 2014 J-Pop Summit. Read on to learn about May'n's insights into the world of creating and performing anison, and check out our exclusive photos from the concert!

You've been performing music for a while now. Can you tell us a bit about the path your career has taken?

My debut was ten years ago, but it was seven years ago that I took the name “May'n.” Since then, I've met a lot of people, and become more involved in the “anison” business. A lot has happened during this time, but what's important is that I'm doing what I want to do.

So what compelled you to change your stage name from your real name?

When I debuted ten years ago, I wasn't doing any music for anime. But when I was asked to start doing anison, that's when I changed my name to “May'n.” It's a play on the English “Main.” The reason is because I want my songs to become the “Main theme” in the eyes of the audience. I'm going to be your “main” singer.

Your breakout in the world of anime was as the singing voice of Macross Frontier's Sheryl Nome. When you are performing Sheryl's songs, do you perceive yourself to be singing as you – as May'n – or are you singing as the character?

When I started doing the role, I was always trying hard to “become” the character. It was always on my mind. But then the music producer, Yoko Kanno, said to me “Don't worry so much! Just try to feel the character for yourself.” So I stopped trying to act so much, and let myself be Sheryl. I grew to like the character – and the role – a lot more as a result.

Do you think you'd ever want to try your hand at full-on voice acting, rather than just singing as characters?

Hmmmmmmm… I'm not sure. Ever since I was a little girl – since I was three years old - my goal was to be a singer. I feel that through my music, I can inspire good feelings in people.

Do you feel that there is a distinct difference between standard J-Pop and anison?

I don't really perceive one as being very distinct or superior to the other. But on a personal level, singing anime songs opened up a new world to me. The wide array of emotions, ranging from fierce Fighting Spirit to despair… J-pop music doesn't really seem to focus as much on those “stories.” Anison tells these stories through a combination of music and pictures. I love the world it creates!

I find that quite interesting, given that anime in general seems to be something of an “underground” interest when compared to typical pop music. Does that fact bother you at all?

I feel as though that perception has improved in the seven years that I've been involved with anison. Foreign audiences in particular seem very receptive to this type of music.

Previously, you've performed at Anime Expo and Japan Expo in France. Have you noticed any particular differences between Japanese and international audiences?

My general impression is that Japanese audiences are a lot more shy. I think the more “individualistic” cultures of North America and Europe gets them more engaged with the performances. They want to sing along, they want to shout, they want to move, and they'll do it all when they want to. It's quite different from Japanese performances!

Of all the anime projects you have been involved in, which have you found the most enjoyable?

Hmmm, that's a hard question to answer, because I record the songs before the actual animation is done. But when I get to see the final product – the music and images meshed together – I feel so elated! And when that animation spreads around to world and allows me to connect with fans internationally… it all makes me very happy.

That's an interesting comment, since usually voice work for anime is done after the actual animation [unlike in the west, where the voices are done first]. Was the sound in Macross Frontier done before the animation, then?

The music for the show was done first, yes. They actually based a lot of the animation on my own movement during my performances!

Finally, what do you think would help make anison more popular both in Japan and abroad?

I can't really speak in the broader sense – I can only talk of my role in creating and promoting anison. But I'm certainly trying to help! I'll be singing and performing to the very best of my ability. The great thing about anison is how it encompasses multiple genres – pop, rock, hip-hop… there's really something there for everyone. And I'll do my part in working to bring this wonderful music to audiences worldwide.

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