Japanese singer-songwriter MIZUKI OHIRA

No one had expected the pandemic to come crashing in on the remarkable beginning of the Reiwa era. With large events being cancelled and postponed in lieu of the emergency declaration, idols, artists and musicians are experiencing a turbulent season of activities.

These days people naturally come to music for refuge even more – “NO MUSIC NO LIFE” has taken on a new depth. During this time Mizuki Ohira announced her new album “IN ANY WAY”.

She was one of the many artists who faced an inevitable release delay, but even in the midst of adversity she made use of the stay-home period to capture the attention of listeners and fans. Such is the story of a heroine who became known for her adventurous heart and courage.

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Her second album “IN ANY WAY” comes four years after the release of her first album in 2016, “TRUE ROMANCE”.

Influenced by singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, Ohira makes an impact in the Japan audience with her alternative guitar music together with the clarity and passion of her smoky vocals. The album is a gem of a piece putting together top hits including “Mujuryoku”, the theme song of “Denei Shojo: Video Girl Mai 2019”, “Karamaru” by KERENMI, and the duet “Moonlight” with Tavito Nanao.

We interviewed the talented Mizuki Ohira about the new album “IN ANY WAY” on her thoughts as an artist carving her way through this pandemic season.


Discovering Mizuki Ohira through her 2nd Album “IN ANY WAY”

Contributor Wanted!!

TGU: Nice to meet you! Congratulations on the release of your 2nd album “IN ANY WAY”. We came across the music video for “Moonlight feat. Tavito Nanao” on YouTube, and experiencing that movie-like atmosphere with the enthralling vocals and the sound of the wind that remains at the end, we listened to the rest of the 2nd album in order to get to know you a little more as a person.


Meeting Tavito Nanao

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TGU: You’ve collaborated with many artists even right up till this album. How did you meet Tavito Nanao with whom you worked on “Moonlight”?

Ohira: I met Tavito Nanao four years ago when I was supporting LUCKY TAPES and we were on the same live circuit event. We happened to be in the same dressing room and that’s where we first met. I was amazed to see Nanao in person after listening to his music all this time and boldly gave him a demo of my first album “TRUE ROMANCE”.

I received a kind DM from him on Twitter that said “You’re the coolest out of all the singer-songwriters I’ve listened to in these couple of years. Please reach out to me if you ever want to do a duet song”. Since then he’s helped to promote my songs on social media and radio, and I was so happy to see my own work being heard by a musician I so admired. He even willingly accepted my invitation for him to be a guest performer at my one-man live. Despite it being a busy period he made songs with me in a studio and out of those we performed “Don’t Say Good Bye” (performed exclusively live) together.

For this album we put together the pieces of songs that had created in the studio and recorded them. (Moonlight feat. Tavito Nanao)

TGU: What kind of positive comments did Nanao have about you?

Ohira: In the first album he told me that it had a lot of depth as a singer-songwriter’s album. Although it was stylish and easy to listen to, there was a delicate thread of joy and pain that conveyed through the music. I was told that the song “Everything Gives me Chance What I Love It” expressed a feeling that most Japanese people couldn’t. We’ve also talked about how the melody and intonation was similar to what he liked, and he praised my strumming technique on the electric guitar. I’m encouraged every day by the warm and impactful words of support I receive.

TGU: It seems like you formed a deep bond of friendship in a short time. The both of you must have been on the same wavelength in music to have produced that many songs in your first studio session. Were there notable new learnings when creating music with a musician that you admire?

Ohira: Although I do wonder how and when a musician establishes themselves as a professional and think that you need self confidence to start with, it definitely feels like walking a tightrope. When I was still fumbling for answers, hearing those words from a musician I’d always admired helped me to walk with my feet firmly on the ground. I’m really grateful that Nanao encourages me to believe that I was able to bring myself this far with confidence in myself.

In the first place there is no greater musician I consider than Nanao. After deepening our friendship, I’m honored and happier than ever to have a real musician like him to chase after with ambition. I often admired how capable he was. I’m not very capable in many things.

TGU: What parts of yourself do you not believe to be capable?

Ohira: Expression. It’s important anywhere, but also in conversation and social media. Maybe I’m just worried if I was able to fully express myself. With music you can leave emotions that words can’t, and convey emotions that you can’t with words. I believe that I chose music. There are many parts of me that became honest only after starting music.

TGU: I see, those incapable parts can push you to become a musician too. Although you’re a solo artist you worked with many musicians. I feel that you were able to bring together many people with a single piece of work.

Ohira: Not at all! My mother might have influenced my desire to create with others. No matter what happens, she always takes it to be a message to you and sets about with curiosity towards anything. I have the most fun creating music with people.


Connecting with people and facing herself, and welcoming people indiscriminately for the first time

TGU: On social media you can find out everything there is to know about a person these days, and the ways of listening to music and connecting with it is constantly evolving. With so many artists out there to react to and think about, do you ever get tired? You must have had to face many people and opinions with the making of this album. Was there anything that you were determined not to lose?

Ohira: I definitely get tired (laughs).
But I’ve come to think that you can’t begin without trusting in people. It’s just that while making this album I noticed a part of me that might have relied a little too much on that. I realized there is a difference between trusting in people and clinging onto them.

I wasn’t good at having my own opinions so even making decisions was hard every day for the indecisive me. But I persevered and made sure that little by little I made those decisions myself. Recently I’ve started live streaming by myself and I’ve come to believe that there is nothing I can’t do myself.

When it comes to interacting with people, ever since I began to discover more about myself I feel like I’ve become more open to being around people. In my early 20s I sought after people who would come along and do all the things I wanted to do. When I was 25 I wanted people to offer me support and lead me when I lost my own way, and subsequently I lost sight of myself. Now I believe that there should be a balance.
My stance on working with people is that I should first understand myself before I can have a meaningful conversation with others. In the end I end up thinking seriously no matter what the subject is.

TGU: I see, that way you start to become surrounded by people you can trust. What kind of people did you come to rely on when you were working on this album? In what ways did you trust in them?

Ohira: (immediately) Their good sense!
The five of us incuding me, the sound producer Shuhei Itou, art director KAZUKI, designer Taguchi and supervising director Yabu, all worked on it together but everyone had their own brilliant perspectives and it was always interesting to be with people constantly brimming with ideas. KAZUKI the art director allowed me to learn things in every nook and cranny of the job. She was my friend from university, and it had always been a goal from the start to work together with her. Apart from art direction she even did the catering herself, preparing right down to the minute detail such as making sure the food could be eaten easily with one hand, or that there were no additives, or that it was a healthy menu. In this way she always brought light to the venue. She was a colleague who could sympathize and share favorite things with me, and bring ideas to fruition quickly.
These 4 people spared no effort in making this album and I’m grateful. It’s these 5 people that made Mizuki Ohira.


Passion-fueled music and past complexes

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TGU: It seems that you managed to create the best work in the best condition!
What were you most passionate about in this?

Ohira: I’d say singing. It’s been 4 years since my first album and since then I’ve come across many different types of works and people and had to come face to face with myself. I think my singing has evolved the most. In the place I had a complex over my voice where I didn’t even want to listen to my own recording. Although I found my place in music during my middle school years when I joined a band, I was on guitar and not vocals. On occasion I sang because I wanted to, but my voice had such an eccentric quality that I couldn’t even do the chorus. But when I wrote songs for the first time and let the band members listen to it, I put my vocals in it and eventually realized it was faster to just sing the songs myself. That’s how I came to pursue the path of a singer-songwriter.

During high school I also took voice training at the encouragement of my father. I was told by the teacher, “Your voice has something special so let’s do this together”. Within a year I was able to experience a change in my voice, and from there I eventually grew to enjoy singing more and more. The encounter I had with this teacher at this time was significant.
However it was only four years later that I would be able to understand how to properly enjoy singing. During a recording of a cover of Fishmans’ “Ikareta BABY”, I learned how to take control of my own singing and it transformed everything at once.
Up till the recording I practiced countless of times and studied it.

Contributor Wanted!!

Up till now I had been happy singing my own songs by myself, but once I sang covers I discovered the parts of my singing that were truly my own. When I was recording KRENMI’s “Karamaru”, Tsutaya encouraged me to utilize the unique characteristics of my voice more. I was able to come to know myself and it felt like I had finally seen the results of the training I had done going back to the basics. Rather than leaving everything to chance, I feel like I gained confidence in myself by learning to control my voice, finding a style that connected my voice and my electric guitar playing, as well as finding a passion in my own stance.

Contributor Wanted!!

TGU: Can you tell us about a time you were deeply moved?

Ohira: I suppose when I was doing mastering at kimken studio and we were counting the seconds between songs right at the end.

TGU: Now that you’ve created a bestseller-worthy album with such variety, how do you envision your next moment of glory?

Ohira: Honestly, I was hoping to do a nationwide tour before it became impossible. If the situation allows it, I want to tour with the band. Even if it’s just singing to my own playing, I want to go to all corners of the country. But it’s also great being able to play to a worldwide audience no matter the location when doing livestreams.

Contributor Wanted!!

TGU: It’s also important to be able to do a real live isn’t it. With so many livestreams happening, there’re even more recordings we want to see in person. Although livestreams became more popular because of the coronavirus, what do you think of the distance between you and your audience when doing Instagram lives or YouTube lives?

Ohira: I’ve been streaming on Instagram and YouTube and handling the video, audio and camera switching by myself. Compared to a live outside I do get more comments from the audience. There are times during a regular live where I get worried if they’re having fun or getting sleepy (laughs) but on a virtual live I get an immediate reaction that shows me how they’re receiving my performance, and it motivates me.

TGU: The response time from the audience is fast, huh.

Ohira: Yes, so sometimes I also arrange the set list of the day based on those reactions and comments. I get requests, or I talk about how a particular song was influenced by another and perform it along with the flow. You can’t do the same at a normal live.


The Sudden Arrival of Coronavirus
The world doesn’t share the same feelings!!

TGU: The release got postponed with the declaration of emergency. How did you feel in the moment it was decided? Did it motivate you in any way?

Ohira: I did feel down for a moment thinking about how it was the first album in four years. With the delay it would also mean I couldn’t do other promotions because of clashes with other releases, and the more I thought about it the more negative it seemed like it would be. But I decided I just had to swallow it down. I just have to accept it as a message to myself!! That’s how I switched my mindset, and then I was able to concentrate on streaming and creating songs “IN ANY WAY” with positive thinking.

TGU: After adjusting your feelings like that, were there any walls you ran into when starting something new?

Ohira: YouTube lives were harder than I expected. But even if I found it difficult I had time, so there was no excuse to escape. I just had to work hard to learn and create a good space to deliver my songs from!

TGU: That must take courage. It’s a hard struggle to not only create music daily for someone but also consider how to deliver it.


Knowing myself after rediscovering what I love

TGU: Where there any books or music you discovered during this stay home period?

Ohira: I streamed reading sessions in quarantine. It was hard to pick one book from an overflowing selection, but I chose Mieko Kawakami’s essay “Sekai Cookie”. I slowly read through one essay, and I feel like I discovered again what I loved. Because going out was restricted, there was less noise and more chances for me to come face to face with myself.

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#bookcoverchallenge  今私がおすすめしたい一節は 川上未映子さんの「世界クッキー」。  この前CINRAの企画に呼んで頂いて、 初めて朗読をしましたが、 声に出して何度か読んだら 改めてこうゆう見方素敵だなっ好きだなっと 再認識してストンと落ちました。  ‪2020年がこんなことになるなんて‬ ‪全く予想外だったけど‬、 ‪コロナの終わりも‬ ‪おうち時間の終わりも‬ ‪いろんな終わりを考えたりすることで‬、 ‪飽きてきてしまったおうち時間も‬ ‪少し波打つかも‬?  ‪「"終わり"をとりあえず演じてみることで‬ ‪永遠に続くかのような人生にも、‬ ‪一回性のきらめきとおそろしさが生まれる」‬ (「ときがみえます / 終わりの不思議」より)  他のエッセイも、 世界のちょっとした見方が楽しくなるので ぜひ読んでみて欲しいです。  KAZUKIからもらった、 本紹介バトンでした🙆‍♀️ 何冊か私の好きな本、 ポストしたいと思います!📚💫   #ssw #singer #歌 #trackmaker #guitar #singasong #tokyo #stayhome #おうち時間 #cover #エレキギター #弾き語り #ギター弾き語り #soul #alternative #soulmusic #voice #np #YouTube #session #川上未映子 #朗読 #終わり #世界クッキー #本 #エッセイ

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TGU: What is the biggest change in yourself since entering this coronavirus phrase?

Ohira: Not having any regrets and wanting to be stronger, as well as the desire to succeed in my work no matter the situation. I subsequently started trying to improve my self management skills. I felt like my individual strength was being put to the test. No matter the environment or whether or not there was someone there, how could I support someone by my own hand or give them joy?

TGU: When it comes to self management, do you have a routine that you keep yourself while continuing music?

Ohira: Every day is different, and even though it’s difficult to keep habits I make sure I always write a journal by hand.

TGU: The ways of listening to music have evolved greatly, but I’ve come to appreciate the value of CDs when listening to this album during this quarantine period. It feels like because of the coronavirus, artists can see again the importance of music and art as well as the joy of putting something into your hands and supporting someone.

Ohira: During the process I constantly thought about the possibility this could be the last CD I make. I’m someone who wants to value the weight of things. It makes me uneasy if I can’t see it.
Although I always want to treasure CDs and records, I know it doesn’t mean they’d disappear even if art changes in structure. Although it’s not something so crucial you couldn’t live without it, society is most definitely supported by entertainment. I believe music has the biggest potential to convey a message because so much thoughts, stories, beliefs and convictions go into it.

TGU: In a rapidly developing time where there seem to be no questions and answers, how do you plan to create music with soul that can move a generation?

Ohira: By standing firm and believing in myself. In order to do that I constantly re-assess myself as I interact with all kinds of people, and continue to create.
I probably also shouldn’t look at too much social media (laughs).

TGU: In this day and age where there’s an information overload, people start to categorize and label the content they see and that interception must make it difficult to finish conveying a message. What tools are you using to spread your music worldwide? What do you think of the potential of music?

Ohira: I have to overcome that categorization myself. Looking at it in the long run, I think I can control it. Rather than taking a shot in the dark, I feel it is important to set my eyes on a target to head towards to. I’m interested in overseas streaming tools like Bandsintown and Bitfans.


Daily Life on Social Media

TGU: Your Instagram is wonderful too. Besides music, what else are you most interested in right now? Do you take influences from that in your music?

Ohira: I love looking at lifestyle such as room layouts and dream homes. I don’t particular take direct inspiration from them, but the same vision and imagination used in those areas are also vital to making music so there could be a connection. Rather than music composition itself, it’s linked to the ideation of artwork.

TGU: I see that you’re also making efforts in studying English recently. Do you have overseas activities in mind?

Ohira: When I did a livestream for New York in May, there were almost 10,000 new listeners present. In this subscription age, it’s no question that there’s a certain vitality that transcends national borders so I’m hurrying a little to master English!

TGU: What kind of thoughts went into the album title “IN ANY WAY”? Please give a message to our overseas users!

Ohira: I want to give them the positive word “tonikaku” (in any way) to encourage them to move a step forward. I like it as a word that has a narrative nature to it in conversation, and I like the emotion it inspires. That’s why I titled my album “IN ANY WAY”. It feels like a playlist with songs that expose my bare self with just the electric guitar and my vocal accompaniment, as well as the band, collaborations and club sounds. I hope that it can give everyone daily support as well as passion and healing. “IN ANY WAY”, please listen to it! I hope we can meet somewhere someday!


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【MIZUKI OHIRA PROFILE】
Tokyo-born singer-songwriter.
Debuted as soloist with her mini album “LIP NOISE” in 2015.
First full album “TRUE ROMANCE” released in 2016!
2017 releases “Aloe no Hana”, “Real Love”, “Mienai Ito” gain popularity and becomes a viral hit on numerous playlists! Even now the popularity has not waned, and in January this year “Aloe no Hana (tofubeats remix) was also recorded in DJ To-i’s “TOY BOX Ⅱ-All Night Mix-“, a mix CD featuring Toi Tachibana from the popular band DISH//.
Performed in multiple large-scale festivals including FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL, SUMMER SONIC and GREENROOM FESTIVAL.
Support several artists including tofubeats, LUCKY TAPES and Awesome City Club in commercial songs.

In April 2019 she caught the attention of musician Koichi Tsutaya (KERENMI) and provided featuring vocals in the theme song “Karamaru” for the drama “Denei Shojo: Video Girl Mai 2019”!
In that same year she created a buzz with the song “Mujuryoku” produced by tofubeats, that came with a music video released as a special 15th anniversary edition for the Barneys New York store in Ginza starring fashion model and actress Serena Motola. Following that, she continued to raise anticipation for an album with her Christmas release of the original song “Eternal My Room”.
The intersection of cool and passionate mixed into her smoky singing voice, coupled with her finger strumming electric guitar playing style, she created a unique world that could be both bright and somber. In this subscription streaming era that presents a soulful and alternative city pop generation, Ohira is an upcoming singer-songwriter that is catching everyone’s attention.


Related Links:
MIZUKI OHIRA Official Site: https://ohiramizuki.com
MIZUKI OHIRA Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/mimimizukin
MIZUKI OHIRA Official Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mizuki_ohira/
MIZUKI OHIRA Official YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYj1vfjF9bDTwuHHiz_sUNw?pbjreload=10

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