Madoka Yonezawa singing career (part 2)

An album that encompassed “the essence of Madoka Yonezawa”

Interviewer

—And in the resulting solo work, well, you didn’t hold anything back. Throughout the album, the heroine chases after her escaped pet birds, encountering a colorful variety of songs, from fusion rock to invigorating guitar rock and even electronica, giving us a story in a wide, fully realized “world.”

Yonezawa

My idea to make my debut the sort of CD that only a voice actress could make. I wanted to sing all sorts of songs, to make use of the various voices at my disposal. And, frankly, I have no idea whether I’ll ever be able to put out another CD, so if I didn’t do absolutely everything I wanted to do with this one, it could all go to waste. (laughs)

Interviewer

—Don’t be so pessimistic! (laughs)

Yonezawa

I’m kidding, of course. (laughs) But the first CD is important, so I wanted to pack in everything I was capable of, with a special focus on the idea that this was a CD I could make because I was a voice actress. The first, fifth, ninth, and thirteenth tracks are all narration, tracks with just spoken lines, and I think that’s something I can do precisely because I do voice work.

Interviewer

—Why did you decide to make it a story?

Yonezawa

Right after work had started on the album, I had a discussion with Suzuki-san from Clumsy [Creative Team], who did the sound and story production, and decided that while I wanted to sing a variety of songs, I didn’t just want to jam everything I wanted in there without any meaning or reason. In order to give the album a meaning, we wanted a coherent story concept to run through the whole thing. But not like a character song. This story needed to be something that expressed “Madoka Yonezawa” as a person. So, during this meeting with Suzuki-san, he said, “If someone were to ask, ‘What is the essence of Yonezawa-san?’ how would you answer? Let’s make this album something that aligns with that image…”

Interviewer

—So, what is the essence of Madoka Yonezawa? (laughs)

Yonezawa

The first answer that came to me was “birds,” but apart from that, I wasn’t really sure. (laughs) So I figured that if I started out by just writing down everything about my personal history, my personality, and so on, something would start to take clearer shape as my “essence.” I took what I wrote to the next meeting, and Suzuki-san said, “Let’s make all of these different sides of you into a story.”

“Looking back, it hasn’t all been good”

Interviewer

—Then, the lyrics of each song on the album were made to fit your past and present self, even though you didn’t write them yourself?

Yonezawa

Yes.

Interviewer

—So, it seems like you had a lot of mixed thoughts about the past and present. (laughs)

Yonezawa

You can tell? (laughs)

Interviewer

—I think anyone who reads the lyrics booklet will be able to tell. (laughs) You have the heavy fusion rock of “Kimi to sekai elegy” [“Elegy of the world with you”], with “elegy” suggesting a lamentation or a funeral song, and the first lines are, “I looked away, longing for something I didn’t have.” While the bright, guitar-focused rock song, “Ashita no shiori” [“Bookmark for tomorrow”], says “I’m still singing today, in the same room where I always was,” seeking hope in “tomorrow.”

Yonezawa

As I was looking back on myself, I realized that my life has been full of both good things and bad, and this was the result. (laughs) Out of the nine non-narration tracks, the first one (track 2) is meant as the opening theme of the story, while the last one (track 12) is the ending theme. The seven tracks in between create a story that was meant to show my many thoughts and selves.

Meeting birds of many colors in a parallel world

Interviewer

—Then, with “Kimi to sekai elegy” as the opening theme, and “Heartful Dreamer,” a bright, clear pop tune, as its ending theme, does that mean you make it out all right in the end? In “Heartful Dreamer,” you sing, “I know I’ll be able to fly tomorrow,” and in the final narration track, “-Saisho-“ [“-Beginning-”], you say, “Tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.”

Yonezawa

Right. (laughs) But there were a lot of ups and downs on the way to that mindset… Also, this is really more like a parallel world, rather than all of these things happening steadily. For example, “Bousouka” [“Flower for forgetting feelings”] uses lyrics about the four seasons to tell a story about lamenting feelings that one cannot express. On the other hand, “Rengoku Scarlet” [“Purgatory Scarlet”] is about learning to like yourself and spreading your wings, even if you don’t have much self-confidence. Each song on the album has its own theme bird, but this is a story in which singing about my past and present self equates to meeting birds who have the same feelings as I do, and I sing the ending theme of the album, “Heartful Dreamer,” after each of those doubts and worries has been erased.

Interviewer

—Like you said, each song takes a certain bird as its theme—“Bousouka” has the bullfinch, “Rengoku Scarlet” has the pink cockatoo, “Gitai Smile” [“Mimic Smile”] has the peafowl, and “LINKS” has the cockatiel. How did you go about choosing these birds?

Yonezawa

In general, I just went along with the image of whatever bird came to mind for the story of each song. For example, I find the name of the bullfinch [“uso,” or “lie”] interesting on its own, and as an actual word, it has its own meaning. So, I put it with “Bousouka,” which is about lying to your own feelings. The pink cockatoo, for “Rengoku Scarlet,” is considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world…

Interviewer

—So why did you attach the most beautiful bird in the world to a gothy, slightly harsh hard-rock song like “Rengoku Scarlet”? (laughs)

Yonezawa

Ahahahaha! (laughs) Well, this may be obvious, but the ones who call the pink cockatoo “the most beautiful bird in the world” are the people around it, rather than the bird itself, so I thought there could be some cockatoos who don’t see themselves that highly. That’s why I applied it to “Rengoku Scarlet,” which is flashy musically but is about lacking self-confidence.

“I really like birds!”

Interviewer

—Now, for the most basic question: Why did you give each song a “theme bird”?

Yonezawa

Because I really like birds!

Interviewer

—That makes sense. (laughs) You even used your pet bird, Kinako-chan, to advertise your debut (Ref: Madoka Yonezawa Announces Major Debut Through “Spokesbird,” Kinako-chan). So, what made you like birds so much?

Yonezawa

The apartment building where I grew up generally didn’t allow pets, but birds were fine, so I got a pet bird when I was in elementary school.

Interviewer

—So, at first, you just wanted a pet, rather than a bird specifically, and birds happened to be the animal you could have where you lived? Was it like that?

Yonezawa

At first, it was. But then I realized, Whoa, birds are adorable! And we continued to have birds after that. My family actually still has a budgie…

Interviewer

—And you have Kinako-chan, yourself.

Yonezawa

After I moved to Tokyo, I resisted buying one for a while because I wasn’t sure I would be able to take care of it properly on my own, but an old friend and fellow bird-loving voice actress of mine, Kumiko Itou, recommended that I get one because she had one herself. That was when I bought Kinako, who is a Monk Parakeet. My family home has a budgie, like I mentioned, but budgies are a bit small. So I went for a bird that has a little more bulk, and the ability to talk.

Interviewer

—Is “bulk” an important thing for you when it comes to pet birds?

Yonezawa

I wanted something that would feel nice and heavy sitting on my shoulder. (laughs) Something that would make me go, “Oh, there’s someone there!” Since budgies are so small, you can barely feel them when they’re sitting on your shoulder. That’s why I chose a Monk Parakeet, which is larger than a budgie, but really, all birds are wonderful to look at, not just Kinako. The feathers lie so nicely, and their heads are smooth, like an octopus, which is really cute!

“Try smelling a parrot some time”

Interviewer

—Then, could you just adopt an octopus…?

Yonezawa

No, that’s not the only wonderful thing about birds! For example, birds have their eyes on the sides of their heads, so when one is looking straight at you, it looks like its eyes are protruding out, which makes it look a little silly and also adorable. That’s why they tilt their heads when they’re looking up and down…

Interviewer

—Ah, I see. Since its eyes are pointed directly horizontally, if it were just to look straight up and down, its line of sight would stay to the sides.

Yonezawa

Yes, exactly. The way they move their necks to match the direction they’re looking is very charming, and they smell nice, too.

Interviewer

—What?! You mean the birdcages aren’t the strongest-smelling things in the pet shops?

Yonezawa

The cage doesn’t smell if it’s maintained properly. (laughs) It’s common knowledge among bird lovers that parrots smell nice, to the point that there’s even a community around their smell on the internet. Their backs smell especially good.

Interviewer

—I get the feeling that a really giant bird, like an ostrich, would have different smells for different parts of its body, but Kinako-chan…

Yonezawa

Kinako-chan is about 130 grams. But the smell is completely different depending on the spot. Birds have oil all over their bodies because if they get wet, they can’t fly, but that oil is produced from their backs. That’s what smells really good. I’ve actually bought a perfume called “Miwaku no Senaka” [“Captivating Back”] that smells like parrots. It’s a great scent, so you should definitely smell it for yourself when you get the chance!

Interviewer

—Understood. (laughs)

Now: a sense of burning quietly

Interviewer

—And so, together with your beloved birds, you have completed this album that reviews your past and present. What will you do with the hope for “tomorrow” that you found in the album?

Yonezawa

What will I do? (laughs) First, I’d like even more people to listen to the album, I think.

Interviewer

—What’s the best way to get more people to listen?

Yonezawa

Pray, maybe? “Sell, album! Sellll!” (laughs)

Interviewer

—If that could make albums sell, then I’m sure every musician all over the world would be praying for something right about now. (laughs)

Yonezawa

I guess I’ll just play a show, then. (laughs)

Interviewer

—You guess? (laughs)

Yonezawa

I’m not kidding about that, though. Since I’ve come all this way to make a good album, I want everybody to hear the songs live and in person.

Interviewer

—Do you have any particular visions for the type of show you’d like to do?

Yonezawa

I want to have birds flying free inside the venue!

Interviewer

—I have a feeling that their droppings would get to be a problem with the audience…

Yonezawa

You don’t think people would go, “All right! This must mean luck is on my side!” and all become bird fans?

Interviewer

—Unfortunately, no. (laughs)

Yonezawa

I guess you’re right. (laughs) The thing is, to this point, I’ve performed White Album 2-related events on the stage of Tokyo International Forum Hall C, and I’ve done K-On! shows the Saitama Super Arena and Yokohama Arena, but that was probably because I had the power of the anime themselves behind me. So I want to challenge myself, and see what kind of show I can put on by my own power. Just like how I didn’t flip out and go “Yay! My debut!”, right now I’m at the stage of thinking about what kind of artist I’m going to become from here on out. It’s a feeling of burning quietly.


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