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Interview: Saori Hayami

by Daniel Briscoe,

ANN: Growing up, was singing and working in entertainment always your dream, or was there something else you wanted to do when you were younger?

Saori Hayami: When I was small, I found performing in front of other people a bit tough. I actually avoided it as much as possible. When I would go to one of those sentai shows at an amusement park, the heroes would ask for a courageous kid from the audience to help them defeat the bad guy, and I would never raise my hand. My mother would tell me, “Come on, raise your hand! You can do this!” But I was not one of the “courageous kids.” I didn't want to. At the same time, I loved singing and acting, and I loved to perform things from my own imagination. Now here I am, doing the things I thought I could only imagine doing in reality, through songs and voice acting.

As you began to develop your voice, did you have a moment when that stage fright went away and performing was no longer as scary as it used to be?

It started when I first entered school for training in voice acting. I was still a child who couldn't perform in front of people and couldn't express myself to their faces, but I really wanted to go to this school. I couldn't tell the people around me that that's what I wanted, though. Instead, I left a flyer for the school on the kitchen table. When my mom came home and saw it, she said “What is this?” I answered, “Voice actors seem really interesting these days. I think it might be an interesting occupation.” Then my mother said I should give them a call, and that first step was when things started to change. I realized that I have to be brave and do something in order to change anything. My mother pushed me to make that call and apply, but she was never going to do it for me. It was all up to me, and that was a big realization for a girl that was only 12 or 13 years old.

After you finished your formal training, how long was it before getting your first performance job? Can you describe how you felt the first time someone said “We want you to sing” or “We want you to do voice acting for us”?

I was actually in school for seven years, but our school has a program sort of like an internship where at the end of each year, people who are successful will be chosen to enter the industry. It was at the end of my second year that I was chosen to take my first job, and after that it was a mix of work in the industry and training in school going on simultaneously. It's like before I was even out of school, I was having to face reality, and I was facing the real tests without having learned any of the theories behind the answers. In school, they mainly tell you how to behave and perform in front of the mic, so there was a lot I didn't understand about the much larger process. I was going “Oh no, what do I do? What do I do?” a lot. I was terrified and I was put on the spot a lot, without my mother there. Those first years were nerve-wracking. My parents couldn't be there with me most of the time, and there was just a lot to handle.

What music was influential for you when you were growing up? Do you have an artist or group that influences you still, or maybe one that inspired you when you were younger?

Music was constantly being played in my household, of all types of genres, so I grew up with a lot of variety. My mother especially loved funk or soul music, and I don't think I could tell you the names of the groups, but if I heard the music now, I would know it and I could tell you when I first heard it, because it became such a deep part of me. The music from those times is what I remember most strongly. Japanese music, especially rock-style music, is the kind that I could actually sing along with, so I would practice singing along with those songs. Apart from that, I also learned piano as a child, so I love classical music too.

You've worked with many different directors on many productions. Do you have a favorite to work with, or maybe someone who taught you something new while you were working with them?

That is a very hard question. For every project I have worked on, the staff has given me at least one new thing to take home with me. Specifically, the sound director for the Eden of the East films, Kazuhiro Wakabayashi, is very experienced with voice acting for many projects, and taught me a lot. It's not like he hammered lots of stuff into me while we were working together. It wasn't a series of "No, this is bad!" or "Yes, this is good!" He would tell me how to see a scene or what to do over a dinner, conversationally. He is more like a fatherly figure than a boss. I learned many things from him not just about technique, but as a person. It's hard to choose one person over another when you've worked with so many, because they become like family.

Thank you very much for your time!

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