The veteran Lia graces Anime Festival Asia for the first time. Most famously known for her openings and endings for many Key visual novels, most notably “Tori no Uta” for the PC game Air, often dubbed the “National Anthem” by the Japanese fanbase, she continued on her career with multiple hits, including songs for Initial D and Beatmania II DX . While she took an official hiatus in 2009 to get married and give birth to her daughter, she nonetheless continued releasing songs for recent anime and games, including Sega’s Shining series and most recently, “Bravely You” for the anime Charlotte, which continues her continual collaboration with Key products. We couldn’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to chat up with her, understand her history, and learn more about her and her own Vocaloid, IA.
You have been active for 15 years. how do you feel having come this far in your career and can you share some of your future plans.
Lia: Its my pleasure to be able to sing for a long time, and it has been 15 years. I really appreciate the support from all the fans around the world. This is my first visit to Singapore and I’m so happy to be here and be able to sing overseas.
In the future, hopefully I will also have more opportunities to sing in other countries as well, as this is my first music/anime festival overseas. Please invite me!
You have used to sing eurobeat songs in the past, and now you are mainly singing in a different genre for Key. How do you feel about the difference?
Lia: It is a totally different genre, and I think my voice is more suitable for animation songs, but I think it is a big challenge to do other genres as well. I really like trying things and since I like anime therefore I really want to try as many things as possible in my life. So I think its fun.
You worked a lot with Maeda Jun in the past, may we ask about your experience working with him?
Lia: Well, the first time I met him was in Osaka in their studio (Visual Arts), and he was such a quiet guy who don’t talk much. He had long black hair hanging over and covering his eyes and he was so tall. To me, he was like a tall shadow, so quiet. I recall the first song with him, Natsukage and Nostalgia for the single. I asked him like “How do you want me to sing these songs?” he whispered back “Maybe the boy soprano kind, kind of like a little boy singing” which really make the whole situation awkward and difficult as he was such a shy guy.
Nowadays, he has become more outgoing, which I think it’s pretty amazing because he has changed a lot. He is in the media talking and with the guitar singing for the lives. I think it is really a big change that he is more opened up, he have changed in a good way that he now open up to the world. So to sum it all up, my first experience with him is that he is really quiet, but he is really a nice guy.
Since we are in the topic of Maeda Jun, are you considering any projects with him in the future?
Lia: Well, it is up to him as I don’t have much say, but hopefully he has something for me again. For Charlotte, he had asked me to sing the opening theme. I was really surprised and honoured to sing again for his projects. I hope he will ask me again in the near future.
How did you feel when you were asked to participate for the animation Charlotte?
Lia: I was totally surprised and honoured by it, there are also many new emerging artistes in Japan and I’m one of the older artistes now (laughs), but Maeda-san asked me to sing for this new animation so I was really really honoured by his request.
Credit by lejosdelcosmos
You have sang many songs for Key Production, which is the one you think that have left a deep impression to you?
Lia: Oh well, this is really difficult. The first song I sang was “Tori no Uta” and it was really difficult recording. It was done in Los Angeles, California. I was living there at the time and that was when I got a call asking if I wanted to sing for Key. At that time, I did not know anything about Key, but I agreed. I sang 3 songs in 2 days. “Tori no Uta” has so many chords and harmonies, what was worse was that I had to sing so many times that I almost cried “I don’t know if I can take this any more” (laughs). But because of the help of the staff, I finished the recording. I had no idea back then that it would become this popular. Now people in the world know “Tori no Uta” and Lia, so I’m really really glad that I took on that recording because if I have hadn’t said yes than, I would not be here. So i think “Tori no Uta” is the biggest surprise for me.
The most difficult recording for me is probably “Toki wo Kizamu Uta” because of the timing changes. At first when I listened to it and i couldn’t count. So I asked Maeda-san to write me the score so I can see. When I looked at it, I was like “Oh, ok, 5, 4, 3, 5” so it was really hard to get into the music, but now it has become my music so it is easy for me, I m glad that everybody likes that song too.
Credit by aniplex
Can you tell us a bit more of the time that you were living in the States and what are some of the memorable moments when you were there?
Lia: Well, I actually went to school at Boston Berklee College of Music, and I graduated majoring in performance professional music. After graduating, I moved to Los Angeles, where I had a 1-year visa so I wanted to try something, and to do something while I was there. I was doing my demo and recording my songs in the home studio which was owned by my friend who went to the same school as me in Boston. I was recording there and I got a call from Key saying that they would like to use the studio. I was doing the translation of the conversation to my friend who was not a Japanese and the person who called couldn’t speak English either. They were going bring a singer from Japan but it was cancelled somehow, so Key approached me and asked if I could sing for them instead. I was questioning that as they had not heard me sing before, so I thought they might not be a professional company since they had not even heard me sing before. Thus I sent my recording over and when they heard it, they loved it, and that was how I got this job. It was a coincidence that I answered the phone and translated for my friend and they why I’m here. I have never thought it was going to lead me here, sitting here (in the interview room), and that Tori no Uta was going to be such big of a hit.
So later when I found out that “Tori no Uta” is a big hit when one my cousin know “Tori no Uta” and he was like “Oh my god! My cousin is Lia?” So i though maybe I’m really famous. The incident in Los Angeles was really a big surprise.
You have a family now and you have 2 children, how do you manage your work life balance?
Lia: It’s really difficult! I have 2 kids now, a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old boy. The boy is crazy. I’m telling you he is like a monster. It’s hard to manage both (singing and children) at the same time so I’m trying to concentrate with them one at a time. Right now I’m concentrating on singing so I’m Lia. When I’m at home, I’m “Mommy”. So I think I have to be a different person when I’m here, I’m sorry to my kids but I try to forget that I’m a mum or else it will be crazy and hard to do both at the same time so I will tend to switch my mind.
What are the attributes that drive you as an artist?
Lia: Well you know, having fans and meeting fans always inspires me, because there are people out there that want to listen to my music. If there is no one, it would have felt like singing for fun. But there are actually people saying like, “I love your song, I love your singing” so that totally drives me. The fans keeps my passion going, so I’m really thankful to my fans.
You mentioned that you like to try new things and you have worked a lot on different anime and game songs. What do you think is the important aspect of a theme song?
Lia: Animation have nice stories to them, so when I sing, I don’t try to push myself or my character into the music. I will mostly listen to what the producers and writers have to say about the music and I will suit my style to the music. I will put all my voice to it, and try to make it “Lia-like” but also put more effort to get into the world that the producer is trying to portray, for example I would call Maeda-san’s world “Maeda’s World”. I try to paint on it, since originally the world is monotone, thus my voice is the colour I would put the effort to “paint” the world with so that the song will have more colour to it.
You have also lent your voice to a the popular vocaloid IA, could you tell us what inspired you to do so and what are your thoughts about her?
Lia: The president of my management company, she being my first manager, asked me after I had my first child that she had heard about vocaloid and wanted to make one of mine. Initially when she asked, I said “No, I do not want anything like me because I’m here”. But when she mentioned that since I have a child and I might want to rest, and I replied “Yes” to that (laughs). She mentioned that the vocaloid will be able to help me when I am not working and it can work for me. That is how it started.
Now it is really working out, where the vocaloid is working, while I’m cooking at home (laughs). Many people know IA but don’t know that IA is my voice, so I have to tell them that. At first it felt scary for me to have my vocaloid, especially when I have the thought that IA might become more popular than me and people might forget me. But now I feel that there is a good balance that while she is out there, but the president of my management said that nothing can beat Live Lia. I trust her words, so that’s why I made the vocaloid. Hopefully people who like me would like the vocaloid as well.
Do you have any favorite songs from IA?
Lia: Yes! Erm, actually IA had a concert in Japan, and she sang this new song called “Diamond Days”. I have listened to it and it is really a nice song. so I’m actually thinking of covering her song! (laughs)
Credit by IAPROJECT