(TRANSLATION) Suzuki Airi for Townwork magazine

Walking a new path based on her own history

―― You've been called "The Idol admired by other Idols". But has anyone ever told you they admired you ?
There is. There was a time someone from a group invited in my program told me right towards the end "In fact, I'm a big fan of you. Could we take a picture together ?". I was like "Tell me that first !" (laughs)

―― Is there anyone you're admiring yourself ?
I entered this entertainment world because I loved BoA-san and SPEED-san. Since I became a Hello! Project Kids, the person I admire the most is Takahashi Ai-san. Watching her rehearsal, I loved her singing and dancing self, and the quality of her facial expressions.

――Is there a person you want to aim for in the future ?
There isn't anyone. I've experienced the career of an Idol and I'm not a solo artist who started with nothing, so I'd just like to open new opportunities based on the history I have been creating.

Haven't missed work for a single time in 18 years

――You've had quite a reputation for singing since Hello! Project Kids. Have you ever struggled when trying to improve yourself ?
Many times, and I'm still worried about things even now. Can't you see it ? (laughs) I'm good at thinking positively, and I believe that you can grow more by aknowledging the things you lack of. During my Hello! Project Kids days, the fans made a sort of poll, and I was placed at the 15th rank out of 15 members. The primary schooler I was was pretty hurt by that (laughs) But that's the truth. I was so bitter about not being choosen for the unit ZYX that when I was selected for Aa! I thought "I have to do my best here" and took many lessons. Even after ℃-ute was created, I did a lot of research to reach that "This is Suzuki Airi" appearance.

――During your ℃-ute days, the other members told you you were good at dancing and singing because "you're a genius", and you replied "No, I'm making efforts". 
I've been called "genius" and "honor student" since many years and I hated it. About these efforts, it's simply because if you don't have a good physical condition you can't do anything as an Idol, so I thought a lot about my nutrition.
As an Idol, you're singing and dancing, and meets fans a lot, which are most often once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Everytime, I thought "this may be that fan's first meeting with me, or this fan's last meeting with me". So I thought it was rude to take a day off in such a case, and it's not good for me neither. Physical strenght was the key for it. The only thing I can brag about proudly is that I've never missed any single day of work since 18 years.

――That's amazing. What are you eating ?
As both of my parents are athletes, I'm always eating healthy meals, but even if I'm dieting, I'll never remove rice. I've often been told "I'm not eating carbs", but you'll completely fall if you're doing this as an Idol. Don't overtrust your physical abilities. Thinking about the time where my condition was the worst, I did all the preventions I could, and made it sure I never catch a cold.

Feels like winning when she's told "I've never seen that", "We can't do that""

――As a solo artist, are there any things that differs from your ℃-ute days ?
Almost everything is different from then (laughs) At first, I imagined it would be like walking alone on the same road, but I've noticed that everything was so different, it felt like I was starting my second life. When I was in ℃-ute, we had to think about what we looked as a whole, but the world is so big when you're a solovocalist, it's full of things I don't know yet. I really feel like a newcomer.
When we were in ℃-ute we received a song, recorded it at the studio, and the CD was done. Now I'm picking the songs, participating in all the meetings, and I understood for the first time that a recording's not done in simply one hour (laughs) Hello! Project has a lot of members, so one person have to record in one hour. So it was the first time I spent the whole day recording anything at the studio. I'm also thinking about the lives by myself, so the things I have to think about drastically increased (laughs) To the point I don't want to think about anything when I come home. It's a really fruitful rotation.

――So the "Escape" tour was your idea.
Right. It was the same for last year's "PARALLEL DATE" tour, but I really want my concerts to be places where people forget about their daily lives. I really want to make a theme that's completely different from the usual routine. We're using project mappings to make that kind of entertainment. Many people of my teams are former Hello! Project staffs. If during our meetings they tell me "We've never seen that", "We can't do that", I feel like I won (laughs) It's exciting to do something that veterans have never seen before. About how to shape these ideas, I'm deciding selfishly (laughs) We're also doing the meetings in various places such as yakiniku restaurant. I really want to talk in places where adults can feel at ease. I really like that feeling when everyone's like "Let's try !".

Doing solo activities that fits her true self

――Even when you started as a solo singer, it seems that you made a presentation to the staff with what you wanted to do in PowerPoint. Was it a thick plan ?
As it was on my computer, I don't really know if it was thick or not. If I'd write it on paper, the way people perceive it would be different, so I wanted to unify the recognition of what I wanted to do by adding photos and videos.

――You're talking like a career woman (laughs)
My former college classmates are doing presentations now that they're working, I also took marketing classes and loved business books that helped me. The book "Ichibun de hanase" is really good.

――You're steadily realizing what you wrote in that plan.
I'm in the process of doing it. I'm working in a very nice environment, and all I have to do now is working on my ability to do it.

――Are there any things you're caring more about now than you're a solo artist, comparing to your Idol days ?
As I'm doing a 2 hours live by myself, I had to redo my whole voice training. Last year I was pretty worried because my voice wasn't stable at all, but lately it has stabilized and I just have to fine-tune it.

――You sang 18 songs without any MC during your tour.
I can't stop talking during MC since I became a solo artist. When I was in ℃-ute I was the shy type, but I really became wild (laughs) If I talk in the middle of a live performance, the worldview I created would be broken, so I don't do any MC and instead talk for 20 minutes during the encore (laughs) I'm also doing talk-only events.

――Asides from the music, it doesn't feel like you're an "artist".
I know right. Doesn't that feel awkward when you enter a room and you're like "Good morning" with a really low voice ? (laughs) When I was 20, I started to think about the person I wanted to be as an adult and decided to be more mysterious. I spent one week doing only a really shy smile, but it was so boring I gave up (laughs) I wanted to laugh more and thought "Let's drop that image" (laughs) I really tried a lot of time but finally gave up at 25. I'm living being true to myself.

――One year has already passed since your solo debut, but are there any walls you have to overcome as a solo artist ? 
There are many. I don't really know how to say it and maybe I shouldn't do it, but I've become more low-spirited since I became a solo artist. There are many times I feel the same bitterness and immaturity as when I entered the entertainment world, and even though I'm pretty positive, I cry a lot at home. 

――How do you recover ?
When I'm really busy, I go to the gym or try something different to change my mood. I believe that reset is really important. When I went to school, I was able to reset my mood naturally, but now I only have work so I try to take all of these feelings somewhere and not be overloaded with them. 

Believing that dreams can come true if you imagine them

――Finally, please tell us your secrets to make your dreams come true.
I believe in the law of attraction. If you can imagine a dream, it'll come true, so I try to always have that image in my mind. If you do so, you'll make efforts towards it, and the way you're living your live will change too. It's important to be excited and happy when you imagine it.

――Have you ever realized something that you imagined ? 
Usually, the happiness I got was beyond my imagination. However, there are some that couldn't come true, like ℃-ute performing at Tokyo Dome...

――Will you try to realize it as a solo artist ?
I can't imagine that yet (laughs) When your heart easily breaks, it's important to fulfill your everyday goals more than thinking about the future. "I'll definitely make the laundry today" is a fine goal (laughs) Anway, I'll do my best for next year's Yokohama Arena performance !