Born in Kyoto to a Japanese mother and an American father, singer-songwriter Emi Meyer has made the US her homebase since her move to Seattle as a small child. She jumped into the scene by winning the Seattle-Kobe Jazz Vocalist Competition in 2007, and gained popularity as a new generation female singer-songwriter through collaborations with well-known artists and performances in major music events such as the Fuji Rock Festival. Composing TV commercial themes for Toyota Prius and Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities has also furthered her notoriety to the general public of Japan. We met with Emi to talk about her new single Wings—the first to come out since her marriage and childbirth. According to her, this single is a super limited release on vinyl only. We asked her to share with us her intentions behind this vinyl-only release, her love for records, and behind-the-scenes stories from the making of Wings.
— DONUTS MAGAZINE specializes in vinyl culture, so here's our first question for you: have you purchased any records lately?
Well, actually, it’s been a few years, but I bought records when I went to meet Robbie Robertson of The Band. I bought three of his records and a picture book that he and his son made together. My friend who is a guitar player is a huge fan, so I had Mr. Robbie sign all of them as a gift.
— What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
My mother would listen to The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and classical music in the kitchen while she was cooking. So I grew up listening to Western music of that kind.
— I see. Did you have a record player at home back then?
We moved to Seattle when I was three, and I remember that the new house had a record player, and I remember built-in shelves that were made just for the records and the player. I was still very little, so I was into kid’s furniture and things that were built smaller, so when I think of my childhood memories with records, that shelf that was perfectly built for records and the player comes to mind.
©SUNSET LIVE 2018
— What kind of setup do you have for listening at home?
When I am busy, I often just use the easiest way to listen, but when I have the time, I listen through my home speaker system (B&W Zeppelin Air, Bang Olufsen BeoPlay), or I use my computer and listen with my Sennheiser headphones through the D/A Converter of Meridian Audio’s Explorer².
— Streaming has become more mainstream, but what do you think about the difference between music streaming and records?
I think the biggest difference is the thickness and warmth of the sound, and the outlining of individual instruments. Streaming lacks the ritual-like feel and appreciation for music. I think the steps it requires (to listen to a record) are much like ceremonial tea or yoga—you need to regulate the speediness of your everyday life and it’s an act of focusing your energy: you go to the record store, search, find and buy the record, put the record on while noticing the weight of it, and at last, revel in the sound of it. I think vinyl is such an attractive format in this era where everything is spinning faster—it’s not just listening to sound, you have to go through the ritual of getting to the sound.
— Your new single Wings is out on vinyl only. Can you tell us your intention behind this?
Because there are two versions perfect for a side A and a side B! [Laughs.] I wanted this song’s release to feel extra special, and it has a hip hop version, and a ‘70s-style nostalgic version recorded in Nashville that’s mainly me on piano accompanied by a flute. So I decided to put it out on vinyl—both versions had the warm sound that works well with analog. I also think that even though the pressings are limited, I want the person who really likes this song to buy it. It’s like an intimate gift to my fans who have always supported my music. Please receive this gift! [Laughs.]
— The coupled song on the record is a hip hop mix with Nappy Roots.
Yes, they are a hip hop group that made it big with Awnaw and Good Day ft. Nappy Roots by Greg Street, while I was in junior high. Supposedly, they were the bestselling hip hop group of 2002. I used to listen to them a lot, so being able to collaborate with them makes me so happy. They said they want to come to Japan one day, and I would love to perform with them if that happens.
— Wings is a spectacular song that simply combines voice, horns, and flute with its beautiful melody. How did this song come about?
First, I made the piano line and the hook that Nappy Roots would later sample off of. I expanded the song from there. For lyrics, a little bird is the metaphor for dreams and hope. It’s about sometimes letting go of control and spreading your arms to yield to the flow, and eventually coming back to the place you belong to—naturally—that’s the image of the song.
Emi Meyer is a singer-songwriter that is active in Japan and the USA. She was born in Kyoto to a Japanese mother and an American father, and moved to Seattle as a small child. In 2007, she won the Seattle-Kobe Jazz Vocalist Competition. Her debut album Curious Creature climbed to the top of the jazz charts of many CD retailers and iTunes Japan. She was named Best New Artist of 2009 of iTunes Store (Japan).
Her warm and smokey voice can be heard on numerous TV commercials, and she has collaborated with artists such as Jazztronik, Cool Wise Man, Ken Ishii, Trio Ohashi, Def Tech, Yu Sakai, Seiichi Nagai (Sotaisei Riron)., Tomita Lab, SPICY CHOCOLATE, JJJ and DJ OKAWARI, garnering her a wide range of fan support. Monochrome, her 2016 jazz standards album that was recorded in Paris, reached the top of iTunes Japan’s jazz charts both with its album and single. Her new single Wings, on vinyl format only, was released on October 3rd, 2018.
Photo courtesy: plankton
By REVINYL Editorial Team
Translation by Mika Anami