by Jonathan Mays,
You're a big anime fan, but still, how weird was it to sing two full albums of anime themes in Japanese?
You know, I got to suggest half of those songs so it wasn't weird at all. They were a lot of my personal favorites. Oh yes, but the Japanese barrier was a little weird, yes. I know very little when speaking and listening. I can understand a bit, but when recording it, I had some help from a coach. Also, I listened to the original songs a billion times to get the tones right and such. It was important that we did it as true to the originals as possible, as well as adding something new to it. You know?
You got to pick your songs? How did that all work?
It was great! There was a set list to begin with that had all unfamiliar songs to me, except "Every Heart." I got to suggest "The Real Folk Blues" "Dearest" and "Find the Way."
Before we get to the review, let's get some background. Your sister is a pretty big star in Vietnam, right?
She's actually biggest in the Viet communities here in North America. She tours all over the world.
You must have some pretty good stories from that.
Oh, do I! I used to go with her on gigs and we encountered, probably everything possible. She lives a pretty crazy life. Though I would venture to say that mine is catching up.
How about an example?
Hers or mine?
Oh goodness, it's hard to pick one out. I generally try to forget these unpleasant memories.
Ah, it can't be all bad.
I just remember dragging our bags around and staying with random people sometimes. Often times, we'd be stuck at some haunted hotel room with no contacts for food. And room service will have been closed by the time she's done her shows.
Yeah, that's all bad.
We got lost a lot. Missed planes, lost luggage. This one time she lost her luggage that had all her performance clothes in it, so she ended up singing in the same clothes she wore on the plane. It looked funny, like she was karaoke-ing her own songs.
I guess it sort of would. How dumb is it to ask if you have any influence from your sister's music?
Not dumb at all! I think, yes. I mean I hear her all the time, and I hear my Mom all the time, so I think my voice just naturally bends in the same way.
What's her music like?
She sings that really traditional sound. You know, ummm... it sounds a little bit like Enka and Chinese opera.
That's an interesting combo.
[Laughs] Now that I think of it...yes! She goes pretty modern sometimes but generally I'd call it Vietnamese country music.
Cool enough. So where were you in school when you started taking singing seriously?
I was at Wexford High School near Toronto, and I was 17 when I started. It was really something I was trying out, I didn't think it would have come this far.
So then you did the double life thing all through college...
Oh yes! It was really hard in my last year because I majored in Acting so in our last year we were onstage the whole time. Or we were in rehearsals for our stage shows which I meant I couldn't leave campus... ever. So, in my last year at York U, I didn't sing much. I did a lot of writing in my procrastination though.
That's a full plate. Student, singer, procrastinator.
Well, someone's gotta do it. I'm nuts though, I can't sit still for too long so I always take on more than I can handle. Ellen (the comedian) said that we were all meant to live in the moment, and that's why procrastination feels so darn good.
Still, I think it probably motivates you more when you're balancing so much. Rising to the challenge...
It's not good when I want to relax and rest because I always take a few days to just cool down. Sleeping is hard to do when I am not exhausted. So if I haven't been crazy busy the whole day I just don't sleep.
Which leads me to my next question: handling the drastic life change when school was suddenly over.
That one hit me pretty hard, actually. When my classes ended I went straight into the studio for AnimeToonz. And when that was done, I started to fidget and panic. I felt really lost and aimless for a little while until I went back to New York and finished my next album.
That's tough to handle.
I'm a little silly. I was freaking out because I had time to chill and rest. I should have just enjoyed it.
Well, you lose a lot of security when you can't slink back into school mode.
You forget how safe school can be, how badly you need it! I didn't really want to admit it. But don't get my wrong, I like not having classes and exams.
Through all the highs and lows in the whole music career thing, school kind of keeps everything level, I think.
I'm learning to keep learning things even after school. I was feeling really... what's a good word... stupid, a few months after school ended.
Finishing up our delightful Life Story segment...where are you now?
I think I'm searching for knowledge again, and this time without an institution. But yes, that Life Story segment was pretty awesome. Someone notify Oprah of our great story.
Already on it.
Alright, time to talk about the Animetoonz review.
Yup, I got to read it actually and I really like it. No sugar coat.
First, that crazy high-pitched voice in the Urusei Yatsura theme. I thought it was kind of cool, but man, where did that come from?
[Laughing], my anime knowledge? Plus, I really got into that side of my singing. It was really fun! That song was pure fun! You can hear my cracking up in the beginning of DJ Jinnai's version.
I thought that was intentional.
It was so not! But it was kept. They cut out my laughing after every time I had to sing that "um hm" between the "suki yo suki you" parts.
It makes sense that you picked Find the Way, because you really nailed that one.
I love singing ballads.
Your pace sounds more comfortable in ballads.
Yup, that's my thing. I write ballads.
With other styles...You can be inconsistent.
It was a trickier to sing in Japanese and keep track of all these other things. Plus, the originals of these songs are pretty kick ass. Doing this album helped me get into my newer original stuff, though.
I bet you're real happy with me right now.
Well you know, I would not have enjoyed it if you just said, "it's really good work." and I can barely tell if you even listened to it at all. Plus, you get points for liking Real Emotion. I can't listen back to that these days. I like, "The Truth Is"— the ballad.
Seriously, it was a good review. We worked on that project in a very short period of time and all the things you pointed out were pretty on it. We are very proud with how it turned out. Hopefully people will enjoy it as much as we do!
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