Suzuki Airi for BACKSTAGE PASS February 2020 issue

She has completed her second album "i" ! It contains 12 varied tracks, including her first single, her first collaboration song with Official HIGE DANdism, a cover of wacci's famous ballad, but also the studio recordings of many tracks she performed during her tour. We talked a lot about this album, filled up with herself.  

How are you lately ?
I've been catching colds a lot, but I'm good now ! I heard that this year's colds are pretty strong, so be careful everyone (laughs)

I'm glad you seem okay (laughs) I'd like to ask you about your album now. When did you start making "i" ?
This time, it's not like I've worked towards making an album. That's simply because I didn't have studio versions of many songs I've introduced during my tours. The number increased, especially from the "PARALLEL DATE" tour. There's only "Dissolution" which is a completely new song on this album, all the other tracks have been introduced during the "PARALLEL DATE" tour or the "Escape" tour, and "Watashi no Migigawa" was first performed during my Budokan live. It's just that I was finally able to record them properly.

It definitely sounds like "Suzuki Airi".
It does. They were songs that I've already recorded, and some that I've recorded later. However, as I was always singing them in lives, I really felt like I owned the songs and they were pretty easy to sing.

The transition between "Break it down", "Dissolution" and "Escape" is really artistic, and it feels like the construction of the album was made on purpose.
That's right. I've decided of the track order with the staff at the very end, but as I really love "Dissolution", and as soon as this song was completed I already had the image of how the album was going to be organized around it. As for "Break it down", it was provided to me by Official HIGE DANdism at the time I was making my first album. It was even before they made their major debut, but I loved their music and invited them on my radio program. I asked them "Please make a song for me !". As I loved their funky beats, I asked them to make a song which goes in that direction. It's a song that was put aside for a while before being recorded, and I really wanted my fans to listen to it. All of the members took the time to be there for the recording !

Your singing is pretty relaxed, and it feels like you're putting your voice on top of a worldview created by the instrumental.
Fujihara-san's singing voice sounded amazing in the demo. He also gave me directions during the recording, and it became an ideal track for me.

I think "Dissolution" really fits the current Suzuki Airi.
I know, right ! It has been made by my band members, Maa-kun and Ami-chan. I truly love this song. The members who are supporting me since my solo debut told me they'd like the Airi I am now to sing this type of song. "We wrote this for you, how do you think about it ?". That feeling made me so happy. It sounded incredible when I listened to it, I really wanted to sing it from the intro already. I learned a lot during the recording.

These 3 songs gives the image of a powerful woman.
Because they're love songs. For example, "Break it down" has lyrics referring to the moment after a break-up. I think many people will be able to identify with them.

"Betsu no hito no kanojo ni natta yo" is also a sad love song, but its atmosphere is completely different.
It made me realize that a song can be very different according to the arrangement and when the way of expressing the feelings also differs. Even if you sing about the same type of feelings or about the same moment, it's different. "BetsuKano" talks about a sad love story, from the perspective of an inexperienced person. I've talked with wacci's vocals Hashiguchi-san and there are two ways of understanding the song : sharing the same feelings as the protagonist, or feeling pity for the current boyfriend of the protagonist. (t/n : check out the album translations lyrics to understand what she's talking about). 
I never had such experience, but it really made me sympathize with the protagonist. You can't listen to it without thinking "Wait, did I experienced a break-up myself ?", because it's easy to get sucked-up in the worldview the song's sharing. I don't know why, but singing it also made me really sad. It's a really beautiful song.

The image of the album changes from the track "Hanauta". You were involved in the lyrics and production of the song. I particularly liked the "Namae no nai kankei" (t/n : an unnamed relationship) line. 
It looks like I love sad stuffs. Some fans have been telling me "Airi-chan, you're doing too much break-up or sad songs, it'd be impossible for me to put a song of you at my wedding ceremony. Can't you try to sing more happy songs ?" (laughs) And I realize that they're right (laughs)

Your singing in "Hanauta" made me recall your voice when you were in a group.
I did my best to sing in a cute way. I have three type of natural singing voices, and during the recordings, I take time to figure out which voice I'd like to sing that particular song with. For "BetsuKano", I sat in a high chair in a pitch black room, as if I was the only person in the world. There are times where I sing like I talk, some times when we're having fun with the band mates. I believe I can sing like that because I'm in such specific conditions. For "Kimagure" for example, I've put the mic in a lower position than usual.

Seems like your preferences towards your singing depending of the song got deeper thanks to this album.
This year, I appeared in a drama and the director told me he wanted me to be more human-like. For example, he didn't want me to cry in a "pretty" way. It was very difficult for me to adapt myself to this and it made me think a lot, but being able to see the acting of many different actors and actresses made me learn a lot. I learned that it shouldn't be embarrassing to show your emotions. I think you can sense a glimpse of what I learned in this album. Well, I'd be glad if I was able to convey that feeling to the listener.

"STRONGER" is overwhelming and the rhythm is so cool.
I love that song ! I grew up listening to SPEED so I really love rhythmed songs like this. I'm singing it while dancing during my tour, so I think fans may see it as a dance song, but I actually really love the message hidden in the lyrics. I'd like everyone to listen to it while paying attention to the lyrics. I'd like people doing sports, people fighting for something daily, or people who needs something to push their back to listen to it too.

"BYE BYE" is also a break-up song.
Boys don't usually notice girls' contradictory feelings. I think this songs sums up these feelings pretty well. She says "bye bye" but in reality, doesn't want them to break up. Boys, listen to this song and learn about girls' feelings (laughs) Girls aren't simply angry, they want you to understand. You may find it annoying, but that's what's a girl is !

You were also involved in the writing and composition of "Parallel Date".
I asked the arrangement to be done by Saitou Neko-san, so he directed me for the recording. He wrote a lot on the lyrics sheet, so it's like a treasure to me. It's because of these directions that such a lovely song came out.

The last song "Watashi no Migigawa" is a home recording version. You mean that you recorded it at your house ?
I have a room that's arranged like a studio in my house. I recorded it in this environment.

Did you want to record it at your house from the beginning ?
Not really (laughs) I did this just before my first Budokan live. However, I really wanted to use this song for a music video someday. As I'm talking about a yakiniku place in the lyrics, whenever I was going to yakiniku, I asked people to shoot videos of me from my right side. When I searched up for the "yakiniku day", it was on August 29, just one month after the Budokan ! I thought I'd never get on time, thus I created a music video with all the videos friends took of me.

That's the only reason ?!
Yes (laughs) I did the whole music video with smartphone footages. However I forgot the most important thing : even though I sang it at my Budokan live, I haven't properly recorded the song at a studio yet ! (laughs) Therefore I recorded it at home to make it on time for yakiniku day on August 29. I already thought about how I wanted the song to sound like. Not cheap, but not too polished either.

There are times when you want to make things the way you imagine them. I didn't think you were that much involved in the productions of your songs.
I had to appear at Kansai Collection on August 28, but I was doing my best trying to finish that editing on time (laughs) For the real recording, I had a cold and fever but I really wanted everything to be perfectso I went to the studio with a mask on. If the levels of the snare drum were too high, the song would sound too polished, so I asked to make it quieter and so on. It was the first time I gave directions on how I wanted the instrumental to sound like.

Even about such small details ?
Right. However I don't know the technical language so I was just giving instructions with my own words. But that's not enough to properly convey how I want songs to be, so I started to want to learn more about the language of music production. I thought that if I remembered what I've learned during this recording, then I'll be able to tell more about my opinion with the proper words during the next ones. That was a really important recording session.

So you'd like to be able to give more opinions for your next work ?
Yes. That'd be great if I could learn a lot of things for each production.

As I said at the beginning, this album definitely sounds more like yourself, as if you left your footprints on each and every one of the songs.
I think so, too. The title of this album, "i", comes from the "愛 (ai ; love)" in my name, but it also means I, 私 (watashi ; me). It perfectly represents the current Suzuki Airi.

Your first solo concert in Yokohama Arena has been decided for next year's April 21. It'll become your biggest venue until now. Are you eager to perform there?
That'd be a lie to tell you I was not, but the most important thing is to enjoy the best I can. I'm doing lives on December 21, 24 and 25 where I won't dance and will be just be singing accompanied with the band members. I think I'd like to make this Yokohama Arena performance a really different, show-like live. Please come to see me !

Original interview : BACKSTAGE PASS (バックステージ・パス) February 2020 issue
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