Suzuki Airi for Livedoor News "She has never missed work. 'I am not strong', tells Suzuki Airi"

Airi Suzuki, an active member of the idol group ℃-ute(キュート)until 2017, who has started her solo career in 2018. Her activities are still expanding, to the point her solo Yokohama Arena live has been announced for next spring.

In parallel of her music activities, she is also an exclusive model for the women's magazine "Ray", and thanks to the gap between her look and wonderful performance, coupled with her soft and gentle side, it's not surprising that she's admired by women and men. 

Even though she has such tough activities every day, she hasn't missed a single work day since her ℃-ute era. We talked about her professional attitude towards work, and her thoughts about singing.

Taking a break from voice training, trying to sing like herself

During your tour "Suzuki Airi LIVE 2019 'Escape'", you were able to perform for 90 minutes without any MC, which shows your powerfulness is increasing. Is that because you put a lot of efforts in your voice training ? 
When you interviewed me last year, I was in a position where I couldn't sing alone for 2 hours. So I reconsidered how to use my throat with a voice training teacher, to be able to sing for a long time.

But lately, I'm thinking I want to let more of "myself" into my singing, so I'm taking a break from voice singing lessons. It's like a time of self-search to learn how to sing like myself.

What do you mean by putting more of yourself into your music ?
I'm pretty stubborn, therefore I don't want to stick to the theory that because I can now sing for 2 hours thanks to voice training, I have to stop there. I thought it'd be great if I forget what I learned for a bit, and try to sing my own way.

Since I became a solo artist I'm using ear monitor a lot more, when during ℃-ute I was singing by hearing the sound of the speakers on stage. As I'm used to it, it feels more like "me", with a sense of freedom. That's why during live, I also try to remove my ear monitor to sing along with the speakers.

No matter which live or stage I'm in, if I sing in an environment where I enjoy to sing, I believe it's easier to convey your music to the audience. That's why I keep searching for my own way of singing.
Lately I started thinking it'd be great to show the real Suzuki Airi in my music, rather than showing a disguise. Sharpen myself up and show it to everyone…

Putting up with my mood swings in a good way

I heard that you never missed a single work day, including when you were in ℃-ute. How do you manage your physical condition ?
The thing is to not rely too much on your physical condition. I always think "I'm not strong", and if something happens, I immediately deal with it.

If I have stomachache, then I'll eat something like grated daikon radish... It's important to listen to your body. For example, they always say that if you feel your shoulders are stiff then it's alright, but if you don't feel it then it becomes chronic. That's why I always try to deal with things before it becomes bad.

Thanks to this, I became sensitive to many things. I even started to feel when my pelvis is dislocated. I do my best to not ignore the signals my body sends me, and do what I can for it every single day.

It's very important to deal with the fact "it can happen". 
That's why it's important to exercice moderately and eat good food. When I was an Idol, I had many activities and rehearsals where I could move a lot, but my amount of exercise dropped dramatically when I graduated ! I would've gain so much weight if I didn't do anything about it. That's why I did some walking and running at night, and tried to move my body as much as possible.

Are you doing it every day?
Yes. If I can't go to the gym, I do some walking, or I exercise at home. Also, I always sleep after warming up the blood vessels around my eyes or my stomach for 20 minutes. No matter how late my sleep schedules is, it helps me reset the fatigue... In reality, it's about your age. I wasn't doing such things at 18 years old (laughs)

It's also important to take care of your heart. Sickness and health start with the mind. If something makes me feel painful then I let myself feel painful. Because the more you think of it the worse it gets.

What do you do to take care of your heart (mental health) ?
If I act like I'm hyper, then I overcome these feelings, so I try to be as joyful as possible at work, and when I come back home, I take time to reflect on myself.

However, as I grew older, I realized that there were times when I couldn't get over with just being hyped. Last year, my mother also lost a lot of her physical condition. That made me realize again that I have to do everything I can do now to take care of myself for the future.

This kind of mental care is important, especially since you sometimes run into hurdles.
That's right. When I was working in a group, I had some subject to compare myself with, and I sometimes envied some members. However since I'm alone, I started to feel "That'd be great to be like that" more often.

There are many times I feel like I'll break, feeling envious about everything and anyone... But I do my best to get back on track by meeting former ℃-ute members, going out with my friends or cry my eyes out. I believe that in a good way, it's what's associated with emotional relief for me.

About being admired by others "I'm glad, but it's embarrassing" 

You've been appearing in a lot of modeling shows since your debut as a solo artist. Did you gain more female fans ?
Even in private, there are more people telling me "I'm looking at your Instagram" or "I've watched ℃-ute's music videos on YouTube !". Being watched by males and females gives me another sense of aesthetic.

There must be a lot of people telling you "I want to be like you !", right ?
A lot. I always tell them "Look at the mirror once again and you'll see you don't need that !". I have many cute girls fans. I'm really proud of it. They have beautiful skin, are good at make-up, stylish, or have a cute smile. There are many times when I ask them "Where did you buy this eyeshadow ?" during handshake events. I also receive a lot of stimulation from them.

What do you think about them admiring you ?
I'm glad, but it's embarrassing.
I didn't care much about fashion before becoming a model for "Ray", to the point I believed the school uniform was the best thing that suited me. However I started to give more consideration to my style, because I'd be embarrassed for making people looking up to me if I dressed like a slump.

You also appeared in the drama "I-Turn" this year. You're an artist, doing model activities but also playing as an actress. There are many ways people can get to know you.
I have many fans following me since my Idol activities, many who know me thanks to Ray, but unexpectedly there are also many people who became fan thanks to the drama.
I also received a lot of good visibility thanks to Yaguchi Mari's Abema TV program "Kayo The NIGHT". Many Idols were invited, and these Idols' fans started to come to my lives. I'm simply glad they know my face, but I'm very happy they also started to like my music.
Whatever's the reason they became a fan, I'm really grateful for it!

About the collaboration song "I want you guys to fully express the identity of the band !" 

Your second album "i" released on December 18.
This time, it's a album composed of songs I've already sung during my tour that didn't get a studio recording yet. As it's releasing in winter, I've also included many emotional love songs. Like "Break it down" or "Betsu no hito no kanojo ni natta yo", there are many type of love songs. Listening to this album is like reading a story. Falling in love, breaking up... I've paid attention to the order of the songs as well.

You're thinking about this kind of details as well.
There are many people who're listening to the songs thanks to streaming services so you may think the order of the songs isn't important, but that's something really enjoyable for people listening to the CD.

The song "Break it down" has been made by Official Hige Dandism.
We actually finished the recording in winter last year, so it's a relief to finally be able to share it to fans ! I'm a fan of HigeDan since their major debut. I've asked them for a song when they were invited as guests on my radio program, and my dream came true ~! They're now super busy.

What did you love about HigeDan songs ?
Their performance is so cool, and I love their groovy rhythms. That's everything I like !
Of course I also love their ballads such as "Pretender" or "Shukumei", but I prefer "Tell Me Baby" and "55", because they feel like HigeDan songs. I asked them to make as song that fully express the identity of the band. When I do a collaboration, more than a song that suits me best, I like to have songs that shows the colors of this artist in particular then jump in their world.

What is your intention with that ?
Because these are special collaborations, I'd rather challenge a new range of music than do what I usually do. That's what happened when I collaborated with SCANDAL and Akai Kouen. But I'm not blindly going into it. We're having a lot of talks before, I'm just leaving the artists I'm collaborating with pick the atmosphere of the song.

Did you talk with HigeDan's vocalist Fujihara Satoshi ?
We did. I met with the 4 of them during the recording. Fujihara-san also directed the recording which made me very nervous. He has a very calm voice which makes you happy when listening to him, but it's even better when you put headphones on. He also gave me instructions with humming, but his humming was so good I couldn't stop listening (laughs)

Since you've collaborated with many artists, did you come up with new ideas for your music as well ?
Of course. I have only worked with people in the Idol world until now so it has been really fun to hear various opinions about music. The difference of details they pay attention to when creating a song, and the things that inspire them are all different too. I realized that music is really deep.
Also, when I'm collaborating, I'm asking the whole band to take part of it, so the recording are all different and I learn a lot. 

What did you notice ?
The engineers are different each time, but there are teams that are very picky during recordings, teams with who I end up finishing the whole song in 3 takes, teams that are able to change the whole atmosphere with the mix editing... Some people like to record all the instruments at once, some others like to record them separately. The level is so high that I'm just here watching like "ooooh !" (laughs)

The fact that it's always changing isn't difficult for you ?
Not at all. I'm pretty nervous, but it's also fun. I'm very grateful that they're doing so much efforts for me.

Sharpening herself up thanks to this album

"Betsu no hito no kanojo ni natta yo" is a cover of the band wacci, who became very popular through YouTube. 
I kept posting the song on my Instagram stories to say that I love it. The producer of my radio program is also linked to wacci-san, so the main singer Hashiguchi-san came as a guest.
After this, I went to see wacci-san in concert, appeared on their radio program, and was allowed to do a cover of their song during my Escape tour. 
It's my first time singing a song where I have to completely identify with the character, and in a way it helped me break out of my shell. It became a very great experience. A lot of my fans told me they'd love to hear a studio version of my cover. 

A long-awaited studio version. 
During my tour, I was standing behind curtains with only a single spot of light on me, which expressed loneliness. It was very easy to get into the feels of the songs thanks to this set up, so during the recording I sat down in a pitch black room. I hope I conveyed that realism.

The title of your album "i", means "I" but also 愛 (ai), "love".
Right. The concept of my previous album was "challenging many type of songs", but this time, there are songs I wrote the lyrics to, and it's an album which helped me sharpen up as an artist. That's also linked to the title of the album, "i". 
There is also a cool song that I love on this album, called "Dissolution", on which I worked with two band members that always support me, the bassist Maa-kun, who created the melody, and the chorus Ami-chan who wrote the lyrics. It has been done by people who know me, what kind of songs I'd like to sing, and what kind of songs I love. I really felt their appreciation. Being able to collaborate with these people and being able to sing songs like this makes me very happy.

You're starting your new tour "Suzuki Airi LIVE PARTY No Live, No Life?" soon, and you have a solo live in Yokohama Arena on April 21. 
All of my tours until now had a concept of "living inside a story", but this tour will be kind of different. More than a tour, it's a “LIVE PARTY”, I wanted to make it a live show where everyone can enjoy music.

Do you feel stressed about standing alone on the stage where ℃-ute performed for their 10th anniversary and Buono! disbanded ?
Of course. It's a stage full of memories for me. I'm still thinking "What should I do ?", but I'll turn 26 next year, and I can't wait to see what kind of scenery awaits. I want to make it the best live possible by imagining various things until the last minute.

撮影/ヨシダヤスシ 取材・文/渡邉千智 制作/iD inc.