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Interview: TRUE, The Ever-Evolving Anisong Artist

by Cindy Sibilsky,

Anisong vocalist and lyricist TRUE is stunning -- in terms of her presence, appearance and powerful voice, both as a singer and songwriter. She is disarmingly approachable and sincere, while also possessing great depth and articulation. TRUE is always growing and evolving, she is constantly challenging herself to explore new musical styles and influences. As a highly in-demand singer, TRUE has been praised for her command of music with a variety of styles and dynamic compositions as well as her unstoppable, high-belt soprano voice and the dimensionality she brings to a song emotionally. It is not unusual to see tears brimming in the eyes of her fans, as well as herself, when TRUE sings from the heart. She has worked enthusiastically in collaboration with others since her debut single “Anytime, anywhere” produced by Satoshi shimano. “Way to Love”, the smash hit featured on Love Revolution in 2001, catapulted TRUE to larger recognition and solidified her stardom (she sells out arenas in her native Japan). Her resplendent vibrato, full of feeling, can be heard on opening themes for popular anime titles such as Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Violet Evergarden, and most recently on the anime film Sound! Euphonium – Our Promise: A Brand New Day.

TRUE began writing lyrics for herself and others in 2011 and wrote the opening and ending themes for artists such as Eir Aoi, Kis-My-Ft2, LoVendoЯ, and various [email protected] character songs as well as the song “Beat Generation”, which was performed by the idol group Fairies and won the 45th Japan Cable Awards Music Excellence Award. Her most recent full-length album, Lonely Queen's Liberation Party, which debuted in 2018, is filled with rich musical soundscapes of incredible range and variety -- it's a sonic veritable feast! It is also her most mature and expansive undertaking to date that showcases both her extraordinary vocal talents and her creativity and dimension as a songwriter.

Her performance at Anime NYC 2019 marks TRUE's third appearance, and she is the only anisong artist with that distinction. Though she's been to NYC a few times now, TRUE Is always hungry to discover more influences and inspirations that will feed her singer-songwriter's soul and aide in her musical evolution.

ANN: You've performed at Anime NYC since it began three years ago. How has it grown as a con and how have you grown as an artist during that time?

I have really felt the growth of the event as well as my own growth as an artist these past three years. When I first came here, two years ago, it was much smaller, fewer people when I was here (for the Anime Diva Night at Anime NYC in 2017) with Yoko Ishida and Chihiro Yonekura. Then again last year it was a bigger concert hall, a historical New York concert hall (Hammerstein Ballroom), but this year it feels even bigger because the passion of the crowd feels stronger and I think that kind of passion is what equals an event's growth, so I really felt that. And I think that even more than two years ago the fans who come here are watching a lot more new anime, even brand new series that are being shown in Japan, so that feels really special. When performing in New York, because of the language barrier, there is a communication that has to happen because of that barrier so I think that intent to communicate through my music is clarified in this space and that the audience is very focused on receiving the communication so that there is a connection of heart between the audience and myself that really contributes to my growth as an artist.

When you were last here, you attended a couple of Broadway shows. What was that experience like and will you go again? How important is storytelling in your songs and live performances?

Last year, I was taken by some friends to see these shows (School of Rock and Wicked on Broadway) and it was so amazing and the inspiration I felt after that was something I was feeling for the first time in my life and it made me feel like asking myself, 'What have I been watching and listening to up until that point?' It was that impactful for me.

And because it was so impactful, though I have been receiving vocal training since I was in my teens, because of that experience I started taking lessons from another voice teacher to relearn the basics of how to train my body and how to release my voice. I refocused my training in ways that have deeply influenced my performance in songs like “Sincerely”, for example, and contributed to the depth of the performance of the song, that without that experience last year at that moment, I don't think I would have had this growth.

I noticed that in your performance -- vocally, physically and in terms of acting. There was a moment where you said “this song is very important to me” and “think of someone you love” (during “Sincerely”), then you told the story in your own language while tears filled your eyes as well as most of the attendees because the emotions were so strong and clear. When you see a show on Broadway, it is the reverse -- it's not your native language but you could understand the emotions and motivations just as clearly. That is a very powerful exchange indeed!

I'm going again, and trying to decide.

What are you thinking of?

Hamilton, Jersey Boys, Moulin Rouge, Tina…

I'd say Moulin Rouge. The songs, the story, the tragic, epic romance -- it's like the songs you sing. Plus they use some Western pop songs you might recognize.

Interviewer's note: She went to see Moulin Rouge that night.

Lonely Queen's Liberation Party is a very musically rich album with a lot of variety from gentle, reflective piano ballads to rowdy and rollicking, funky big brass band sounds. Can you tell me more about this album, how it was developed and the musical choices made?

With Lonely Queen's Liberation Party, the title of the album, as well as the title of the main song, was inspired by The Beatles' famous album (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). In addition to working as a singer, I also work as a lyricist and I have a tendency to kind of decide what I am good at, this is what I do, so progressively my world becomes smaller and smaller and when I am working on an album it can be an isolating experience as I am exploring the inner, inner worlds and it can feel smaller and smaller, but when I collaborate with other musicians and creators they help me to break the barriers and expand, so the concept was about finding a new me through that experience. So with this particular album, I chose to incorporate new sounds and genres that I hadn't worked with before.

What's your personal and professional evolution been since you started your career as a singer? What would you like to see more of in the future?

I think with anime songs, you have to start with really understanding the work that you are creating a song for then you express hat musically which is the main difference with pop singers. Because with pop singers they find music that is made for them and express themselves through their music, but with anime singers, the first thing is to understand the work and then find yourself and express yourself within the work itself, through the work. So you have to become close with the work and through that process I feel I have gotten better to bringing myself closer to people's hearts. And that really has enriched my life.

Throughout my career, I've gotten to work on lots of different anime works, but of those, I think that Sound! Euphonium and Violet Evergarden are the two works that I really received so much from that have changed my life. I think that in life it's important to note that it's not just the good, there are a lot of unfair things in life that can happen to people and I'd really like to fight that, fight the unfairness, through music and as an artist I would like to be there to support people's moment of pain or weakness through the music. That's my goal as an artist.

What's your favorite Anime and if you were commissioned to do a song for it, what would it sound like? What would be the mood, feeling and style?

There are so many anime and anime songs that I love, but if I had to choose, there is this one composer, Yuki Kajiura. She is somebody whose work I have gotten to see up-close and she really gets invested in understanding the work as well as the singers, their lives and sensibilities, so if my vocals could meet her music it would be a great honor and joy. She also works on so many amazing projects like Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero so just imagining the chemistry of my voice with her music is really exciting to me.

It was announced that Yuki Kajiura will be working on the music for the anime version of the game Deemo, which was just announced. This has been a huge news item in Japan actually that she'll be doing the music for it.

Our thanks to TRUE, Lantis and AnimeNYC for this opportunity.

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