Q. The announcement of °C-ute's disband was made on August 2016, and you announced you would pursue a solo career 2 weeks before the disband, on May 27th, 2017. I remember you saying you would sing forever long before the disband's announcement thought. What were your thoughts during that long period?
Airi: Fufu. That's about me saying I would like to become a newscaster isn't it? In fact, at that time, I also said I would like to continue singing, but it's the caster thing that got picked up in the news, to the point I myself thought "Should I really become one?". I couldn't deny it in such a place, and I said I would like to experience it if I had the chance, as I also graduated from college. But it seems the impact of my words were stronger than I thought.
Q. So that's what it was...
Airi: At that time, I hadn't completely made my mind about wanting to continue singing and couldn't properly say that it was the only thing I wanted to do... Many things happened during that period. I thought that if I would only sing from times to times, then it was better for me not to sing at all. Singing and dancing is what I love the most, therefore I didn't want to do it if it would become an incomplete activity. I dedicated my whole life to °C-ute and worked very hard, so I needed some time to prepare myself to think about the fact I would pursue this same path but alone. I thought that if I couldn't become better than who I was in °C-ute, then it would be better to start something else from zero. However, after having a lot of talks with the staff, my state of mind changed to "Maybe I'll be able to do something that suits me after all". It was pretty unexpected. I thought I would only be able to sing during events and such, but when I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel like "What if I make singing and dancing the main parts and make an entertainment show?", it made sense that singing was the only path I would like to follow. Thus, I thought "Let's dedicate my life to it once again". And then I made a presentation.
Q. You made a full presentation by yourself?
Airi: Yes, with what kind of activities I'd like to do, what kind of stuff the office would allow me to do... I would take the file home and would make a new one... I also asked my parents to accept my resolution, and prepared for the worst.
Q. You thought about other options, but then suddenly saw the light?
Airi: When each member had individual meetings (t/n with the office), I thought about telling them "I would like to follow another path". Even though my true desire (t/n to sing) wasn't gone, I kept telling myself "it is". But from the moment I opened the door, they told me "Suzuki, we would like you to continue singing and dancing". The words "Sing and dance" resonated in me, because there hasn't been any graduated member who did this kind of activities until now. However, as I thought about other options, I really hesitated a lot that day. But when I thought about it calmy after going back home, I thought "That's really what I wanna do hun..." and after asking the staff what could I do, they let me participate in every single meeting. That's when I brought my laptop and did presentations as if it was a test at university.
Q. You told them about what kind of songs you'd like to perform and such?
Airi: More like the lives' image, my image as an artist. I made PDF, showed them some YouTube videos. As there isn't any other person in the world who did it like I wanted to do it, I tried to explain it to them the best that I could, and showed them some music clips that could let them imagine what kind of stuff I'd like to do.
Q. That's when it really started.
Airi: Yes. Just before °C-ute's disband. Just before it, I did that presentation, and I deeply thought that's what I wanted to do in the future so I could finally say proudly that I'd continue to sing.
Q. That's linked to the various announcements after the disband. I would like to ask you more about the period between the disband and your spring tour as well as your album release. I believe a lot of preparations were done under the water but it took a long time for these activities to be unveiled.
Airi: I took the time to go to various artists' lives. I wanted to feel like fans when they came to see us. I bought the tickets by myself, went to the venues by myself, lined in the goods line, checked my penlight's battery (laughs).
I'm the type of person who loves being busy, so of course it was very hard not to release anything during that period. It lasted half a year and there was a time I was so confused. All the other members were working and I was the only one who seemed not to do anything. To put it in order, °C-ute disbanded. Then, members had a graduation trip in Hawai. Then, when I came back home, my mother fainted.
Airi: It's the first time my always fine mother fainted. As it was at that particular timing I was able to assist her, and I took some personal time to take care of her for a while. There was this, and also, it was the first time our family was able to gather together. I never really got to experience any family time with the 3 of them, it's only after the disband that I could enjoy it. I always knew about the importance of family, but there were a lot of things I understood only after the disband.
Q. Is your mother fine now?
Airi: She is. She really scared me though. I really thought that us, her children, have to take care of her during that time. Parents age too...
Q. So you got that much time with your family only after becoming an adult... But it was pretty difficult for you.
Airi: Well, in between those things, I started picking songs for my album from the middle of June. Before the real recordings, I tried to make provisional versions.
Q. "Preprocess" right?
Airi: Yes. The first was "Kimi no sukina hito", and I didn't have any particular preference for microphones so I just used the one I had, but my voice never sounded like I wanted it to sound. I was really depressed thinking I wasn't able to do anything alone, but then the staff members told me "Why don't you buy a recording set for your home?". I bought it without thinking. A recording microphone, and an interface you connect on the laptop. I also bought better headphones and tried to make provisional recordings demos at home.
Q. You went that far? That's incredible.
Airi: Thanks to this, I was able to tell what lacked in a song, how I'd like to change it. "I want to leave that part", "I want to make it cuter", "I want to make these harmonies radio-like" and such... I would send the data to the staff, asked what I wanted to do until the real recording. It was pretty different for the dance songs because I needed a more professional hand to modify them but for most of the band-like songs, I recorded a demo at home. Thanks to that, I was able to have confidence in my voice again, and decided to follow voice training courses. I didn't go when I was in °C-ute.
Q. It's pretty amazing you didn't go.
Airi: I don't like anyone to give me instructions on how to sing. I had that kind of weird pride, but as I'd stand alone, I had to learn how to deliver my voice properly and thus, tried to follow courses. The teacher I picked is someone who can work with your power points. She's a really great person. She's someone I can trust so I'm still going to her classes now.
Q. You tried a lot of new things.
Airi: I couldn't continue but I also took english lessons (laughs) I also thought a lot about what to do with the dancing... I asked my best friend from highschool KANATA to create all of the choreographies. Because it's thanks to my connection with people that I'm able to do what I love, and I spent this half a year thinking about it. There was a time I felt so down more than I've ever experienced before, but it made me more human (laughs) My state of mind violently oscillated.
Q. Feeling like you finally gathered your emotions?
Airi: Yes. Felt like I was reborn. Even though I love singing, I spent 15 years being judged by people and to be honest, I lost the reason why I loved to sing in the first place. Of course it was because it was fun. There was a spot at home where I used to sing before entering Hello! Project Kids, when nobody judged my singing abilities. I loved the corner of the spiral staircase (laughs) The echo there was pretty awesome! As there is not any karaoke nearby, it was my favorite stage to perform at. After leaving Hello! Project and going back to a normal daily life, I remembered this episode and tried to sing there again. A lot of memories came back to my mind. I remembered that this is why I love to sing.
Q. That's a really great episode!
Airi: I succeed to reset myself in a good way. I couldn't reflect back in an objective way when I was in °C-ute. Also I understood the importance of my family. When I talk about it now, I realize that these 6 months were truly important.
Q. By doing the recordings yourself, you got to understand a lot about sound balance right? You also participated in the mix sessions for this album.
Airi: It was so fun. I also was there for the recordings of the instruments. I love the thing you can do with the bass!
Q. The slap?
Airi: That's it! I loved this technique so I asked to participate to a lot of recordings (laughs)
Q. Another thing that happened after the disband that was interesting is your diet, that you detailed on your blog. You said you were trying to gain weight and fat, then muscle it all back.
Airi: I did this. I thought it'd be a great opportunity to try that out during this 6 months break. As I had modeling activities I could see how it'd turn out and such. Even though the staff scoled me (laughs) I wanted to break the circle. By eating 3 meals properly, by sleeping at 10 every night, I started to gain fat pretty easily (laughs) It looked like I was rejuvenated. I would buy vegetables at the station, and to increase my feminine hormons, would eat figs. They're pretty cheap in Chiba!
Q. Pretty rare for people to love figs (laughs)
Airi: I also didn't exercise, to lose these chicken-like muscles I've used for 15 years.
Q. Where did you learn all of that?
Airi: By myself, and by intuition! I bought some books, and tried out things that would suit me. I also tried a few gyms and picked out the one that seemed good.
Q. You seems to like doing things logically and adjust really small details.
Airi: Well, it's true (laughs) Because I wanted to change every single trivial habits I had. In reality, I got rid of all these muscles pretty easily. But as soon as I started the COTTON CLUB rehearsals, even though I was eating a lot, my weight dropped very fast. So fast that I was so angry thinking "Where is all the fat I tried to gain in these 6 months?". I want to have a beautiful feminine rear! It's not good to have a floppy back when you're standing alone on stage. As Ray models are doing it, I have to make it beautiful too. It's pretty difficult but, I'm going to the gym specifically for that.
Q. You're using a lot the word "feminine" to describe your body balance.
Airi: Yes. I think it's not good to have many muscles, but I also dislike bodies that are too thin without any muscles. I'd like to have a body that seems soft, but not too chubby. I want to have a body line that isn't overly bulky. I really care about that since a long time ago. There were a lot of people who told me "I love your waist" or "I love your neck line" and to not disappoint them, I want to continue to polish everything. That's where my love for trivial details began. Right now, I'm preparing for the "Girls Award" held on May 19th. It's my first fashion show. After that, I'll concentrate my whole spirit to the Budokan live. It's very hard to keep a great body balance. Last year, I appeared at Hello! Project's COUNTDOWN LIVE and my plan at that time was to gain weight, then to get fit by my solo debut in spring. So I appeared at the live with my biggest body weight! And it was my first time performing. It was all planned. I was even told "You look big!".
Q. So you were aware of all of this?
Airi: I didn't say it because I thought people would think it's just an excuse.
Q. But weren't you told by a lot of people you looked healthier, having gained a bit of weight?
Airi: There were people who said that yeah. But I also saw things like "So chubby w*". People who use "w"are so scary! Please, at least use the kanji "笑"!
t/n "w" comes from "笑い", the japanese "lol"
Q. By the way, did you like this COUNTDOWN performance? It was your first stage in a while?
Airi: The first stage besides the Maccha-zu events. To be honest, I was pretty hesitant about going there. Because it was a surprise. I told all the fans that I would start my solo debut at the start of spring, yet I was going to perform for the first time in a place where they wouldn't be... I felt really bad about it. But there were people who thought "she might appear there", so I was reassured. I also picked an outfit very Idol-like to fit that stage. I thought it would be wrong to appear on a stage where the audience is waiting for Hello! Project idols, why wearing a very adult-like outfit and sing a mature song. That's why I also picked "Mikansei Girl" which is a Buono!-like song. And in fact, as I was in the middle of my diet, I was imperfect at that time, too...
Q. I'm sorry, but it is fine if I laugh?
Airi: I really sang it thinking about a lot of things! (laughs) Also it's a positive song, perfect for opening the new year.
Q. The preparation of your album and lives was still going strong at that time?
Airi: I had recordings until the very last time. I think we started to create the choreographies from February? The timing was really packed.
Q. I was surprised by the various styles of that album. Is that a result of various trials and errors?
Airi: I'm not completely satisfied about it yet, but I tried a lot of things myself, was told a lot about microphone settings and such... The secret theme of the album is "chameleon" so I'm pretty glad you're mentioning the various styles.
Q. How did you come to the conclusion you wanted to make both dance songs and band songs?
Airi: That was my wish from the beginning. I wanted to keep all the things I've learned as an Idol. Because I was told I'm "an Idol admired by other Idols", I thought it would be bad to throw everything away and wanted to make both dance and band styles-songs, like I used to do with °C-ute and Buono!. I also asked the styles of my lives to be separated. From now on I'd like to make more edgy stuff, but anyway, it's all things I really want to do !
Q. You're pretty decisive about what you want to do.
Airi: Some people thought that as I'm pretty average and don't have any particular skill, I wasn't suited for a solo career. I know that because I've done some researchs online (laughs) I'm conscious about it. It was okay being like that in a group but would be difficult as a solo artist. But whenever that thought came to my mind, I tried to switch it in a positive way : can't I call that my particularity? I thought "Let's do my best and polish every single thing I can so I'd be perceived as someone who can do anything". It's one of the reason why I thought about the chameleon theme, and that's why I wanted to mark the difference between the dance songs and the band ones. When picking the tracklist order, I thought it was okay to not have any logical order. That's what I aim for.
Q. And that's what your album shows. Are there any songs not put in the album that you performed live? Or any other songs that you made that isn't on it?
Airi: I still haven't worked on it but, I've been keeping notes I wrote during my highschool days and I've talked about turning them into songs with my university senior, Aoi YAMAZAKI. There have been two songs "Watashi no Migigawa" and "No Live, No Life" that are not on the album and that I've wrote with Aoi-chan at her place. I've asked her if it would be possible to make more like these. Actually yesterday, I sent her every single memo I wrote in the past (laughs) I'd be glad if I could use them to make my next song.
Q. Seems like there are still many things you'd like to do.
Airi: They're all delusional songs though. Because I'm a positive person, I want to make lyrics that makes negative people stronger. However I want to give some punch to them at the end. Like make a song that turns full rock at the end!
Q. You want to keep on making positive lyrics?
Airi: Yes. But it's pretty hard for dance-style songs. For example "perfect timing" gave me such a hard time. Dance songs must have a great rythm. Even though I wrote lyrics, they weren't cool enough.
Q. Also japanese language's sounds pretty cliché for that...
Airi: Just by making the song full japanese will change its whole atmosphere. AKIRA-san and Ryousuke IMAI guided me a lot on every dance songs, about the pronunciation of words, the groove and such... One song takes more than 6 hours to record it, even though everything I've recorded until now always lasted about 1 hour. It was fun to start being able to do things I wasn't able to before. I didn't really like recordings, but it has changed since I've became a soloist. Because I can really see the evolution of the finished product, do the chorus by myself and such.
Q. There were so many chorus, too.
Airi: So much! There were times I had to make 4 different harmonies for one song.
Q. But I've felt many songs were packed with skills.
Airi: Even though I picked the songs myself, they're all so difficult to sing (laughs) I thought I'd like to put songs that becomes familiar to people's ears, that don't make you want to skip them. That's maybe because I received a lot of stimulus from the artists I've been listening since childhood, BoA and SPEED.
Q. I' ve felt the BoA influence during some songs.
Airi: Actually, I passed my audition for Hello! Project by singing her song "Kimochi wo Tsutawaru". AKIRA-san produced it! I didn't know that! We had a talk during the recording's break and when we talked about my audition he simply told me "Actually I produced that song... I think I also added the chorus for it". We talked about the fact that I sort of made a collaboration with his chorus during my primary school days. That's why his chorus are included in "perfect timing".
Q. That's fate!
Airi: That's great isn't it? There's many memories linked to each and every single one of the song from my album. I love all the songs but I've liked "perfect timing" since the first time I heard it and decided to make mature lyrics for it. I tried to write them, and was so moved when I heard the full result. I thought "I'm able to sing this kind of songs"... I also want to be better at fake.
Q. Is there any other episode you'd like to share about some of your favorite songs?
Airi: I learned about the variety of my singing range thanks to "DISTANCE", and also realized how difficult it was to have a good rythm. "Moment" is a song I recorded without modifying anything from the demo I've done at home. We finished it pretty quickly. It's a song that you can easy sing... There are so many things to tell I can't stop!
Q. Like "That happened for that song", "Oh and this one for that song" (laughs)
Airi: There were many episodes for the band-style songs too. I sang "Iin Janai" trying to sound nonchalant. It took me about 4 times to get it done. The staff also gave me many advices for it. I think that if I did it without listening to them, it would've sounded just like my usual ballad songs.
Q. So you changed your point of view for every song. The song "Hikari no Hou he" is pretty unique too.
Airi: The recording with Akai Kouen-san went so quick! It only took a couple of takes. I was directed by the band's vocalist. They've asked me to run just before singing the last chorus.
Q. You ran?
Airi: They wanted me to run on spot, so that I'll be out of breath to sing it (laughs) These kind of experiences too~ The recording for "STORY" with SCANDAL-san was fun too.
Q. That's pratically a SCANDAL song.
Airi: I actually asked them to make it as "SCANDAL-like" as possible. I felt so blessed.
Q. Anyway, your album is fully packed with 15 songs.
Airi: Yes. As I didn't do many lives, I thought I should do a product that would take a long time to be listen to. As I wanted to control every single details and didn't really know how to balance them, I just felt it would be the best to release everything all at once. I was so glad to be able to do what I wanted to do, surrounded by many great people. My songs, my outfits, every single thing was done thanks to peoples' connection, that's why I thought I should take care of everyone surrounding me. I wrote it on my blog already, but everyone's smiling around me, and I've been doing my activities in a very positive environment.
Q. You did a dance side live at COTTON CLUB and a band side one at Zepp, but you're doing both of them at Nippon Budokan on July 9th.
Airi: I'll be doing things I was doing separately until now, and I can't wait to see how it'll turn out. I'm thinking about it a lot.
Q. The activities, as well as the songs, you're doing and releasing are pretty different from your idol days.
Airi: The way you show things has to be different when you're in a group. In fact, my speciality was how I showed myself when I wasn't singing. Before, I was separating the moment I was singing from the moment I was not. However this time, I have no break and I'm always singing, so I had to change my way of thinking and expressing myself. Now, it's not about finding ways to show myself to the camera, but truly enjoying singing and dancing. I don't want to forget about my feelings when I was an Idol though.
I don't see the Budokan performance as my ultimate goal, instead it's my start line. From now on, I want to become an artist who convey her songs in a lot of different fields. Please welcome Suzuki's solo debut!