The J-Pop Exchange - Yuma Asami Exclusive Radio Interview Transcript
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Yuma Asami Exclusive Radio Interview Transcript

Portions of the interview in which she spoke in English are in blue.

SeanBird (J-Pop Exchange): Hi Ms. Asami, thank you for taking time to speak with us.

Yuma Asami: It's an amazing thing for me to have interview in the U.S. radio program. I'm really excited now. Wahoo! So happy!

Hello, my name is Yuma Asami. I was so surprised when I was asked to do an interview for an American radio show. It’s such an honor. I’m super excited, and thanks so much for having me.

SeanBird: Would you mind sharing with us what it was like growing up in Japan?

Yuma Asami: I was born in an area called Gunma in Japan; it’s a landlocked prefecture, and I guess it’s a bit of a country town. My parents owned what we call a “Philippine pub” – do you know what I mean? (Laugher) It’s like a hostess bar with Filipina girls. I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently my parents’ pub was the very first Philippine pub in Japan. Anyway, I was raised in Japan’s first Philippine pub, so growing up, I was naturally surrounded by pretty women and customers singing karaoke every day. And so, since I was really small, like 3 years old, I’ve just loved singing. I would stand on the stage almost every day, and sing for the customers. I was just really happy to entertain and please the customers. So then, from maybe around elementary school, I started having this dream of becoming a singer. I had a pretty happy junior high school, and when I became a high school student, I started working part-time. I had a few different jobs, but when I was working at a burger shop, the store would be playing cable radio quite a bit on weekends, and they played American hits. I got to listen to a lot of different music from other countries, and I was exposed to many other things that way. Then, when I turned 18, I moved out of my house, and moved to Tokyo. I had this vision to live abroad and study abroad when I left my hometown.

When I was a teenager, I used to listen to, you know, on the cable radio, artists like Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Sean Paul and a bit of R&B…and Missy Elliott and music like that. (Laughter)

SeanBird: And what led you to want to pursue a career in music?

Yuma Asami: I’ve always loved singing, ever since I was quite small. Mom would let me go on the stage in the evening at the pub, I would sing on the audience, and people would smile – I just loved every moment of it. So, I did have a dream of becoming a singer one day, and my dream got one step closer when I joined the group called Ebisu Muscats – I was a member of this idol group for 5 years, and well, the group dissolved. But I still wanted to try it out on my own, and continue singing. So, I did what I could.

SeanBird: Who are your musical influences?

Yuma Asami: I’ve always liked western music, and when I was in elementary school - I was taking English lessons at the time – I sang my first English song, which is Unpretty by TLC. So, I listened to a lot of TLC. I used to listen to Destiney’s Child, I liked rock too, and I listened to the Beatles as well… I used to listen to many different genres of western music, so I really can’t decide. I guess I’ve always liked disco music like Jackson 5, the mainstream pop music, but I like all genres. I really can’t decide! (Laughter)

SeanBird: What music do you like to listen to?

Yuma Asami: Hmmm… Do you know Kishida? (Laughter) I really respect that group. The best Japanese band, I think. What else… I like oldies quite a bit, especially the 80’s disco (Laughter), like Jackson 5, Diana Ross and Abba. And I do listen to what’s popular right now, like, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Ed Sheeran…, I listen to K-POP now too. BTS and TWICE, they are good. But really, I listen to many different kinds.

SeanBird: Can you give us some insight into your creative process? How do you go about creating a song?

Yuma Asami: Let’s see… well, I guess when a tune pops up in my head, I sort of hum it and record it with Voice Memo. I would be taking a bath and splashing the water around a bit, you know, keeping the beat, and I hum along –I sent that recording to a composer once by mistake. (Laughter) But usually I use Voice Memo and my smartphone to keep notes and ideas. I’m not used to writing songs yet, so I’d go into the studio with a producer and a songwriter, and we’d, for example, work on a melody together. I still have a lot of people supporting me to make a song. I’m still a newbie, so to speak. (Laughter)

SeanBird: Please tell us about your inspiration and motivation behind the song Re Start.

Yuma Asami: When the song Restart was made, I was recovering from an illness; I developed a serious ovarian disease and I had to remove my uterus and ovaries. I was on anticancer medication, and I am unable to conceive children. And the song was made when I finally resolved to make a come-back as Yuma Asami. Having that experience, I just hoped that it would cheer people up - it certainly was a fight song for me - I wanted to inspire and encourage others – and that’s how I made that song. When I was sick, so many people helped me, and without their support and my fans’ support, I couldn’t have gone through with the treatment, and I certainly wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for them. So, I put lots of gratitude and emotion into that song.

SeanBird: Please tell us about your inspiration and motivation behind the song Ceres.

Yuma Asami: Ceres. Yes, Ceres. I actually struggled with this song. I don’t know how many times I changed the lyrics. Until right at the end of the production, I kept working with the producer to shape it into what it is now. But the underlying theme of the song is Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, or Mother Earth. There is a small planet named after Ceres and there are other symbolisms behind this name, but for me, it’s Mother Earth. In my life I’ve experienced parting with, you know, the loved ones and their passing – well, I’ve lost my father and my older brother, and saying goodbyes like that - I wanted to make a song based on that and in order to do that, I really had to wrestle with that piece. Sometimes just changing your own attitude can be a lifesaver, or make the world a different place – that sort of message and the longing for someone – I put all that into my singing. Separation, death, life, and the existence are what make the base of the song. It was really tough! It’s expressed well in the YouTube video, so I hope you watch it.

SeanBird: Please tell us about your latest music release.

Yuma Asami: Back in January I released a mini album called SCAR Light EP. SCAR Light is a word I made up, but well, the scar means a wound, and the light is the illuminating light. I know that there are times in life when cuts and burns hurt, but I hope that lives will be filled more and more with shining light. I wanted to express that in this album. You can find the song on the iTunes Store so please do give it a listen. Oh, and I may be able to release another CD this year, so I’ll do my best to get that distributed in the US too!

SeanBird: Would you ever consider touring in the U.S.A.?

Yuma Asami: Of course! I wanna go to the United States! It's my dream. Please, please invite me!Seriously. I do wanna go to the states. I’ll need to take my performance up to the next level for that – and I want people to have a good time so, I’ll be just working hard towards that goal, and grow as an artist. Please look forward to seeing me in the US!

I was saddened to hear about your battle with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. Please tell us about your road to recovery (recovery process). I hope you are feeling better!

Yuma Asami: Really, I didn’t think I’d get so sick myself either, when I was only 26. It really did come as a huge shock. I’ve lost my dad to lung cancer but I didn’t even have a slightest concern about my health when I was 26, so when I found out, I just wanted everything to be a bad dream. But it wasn’t a dream and I came to terms with that fact. And at that time, my mentor, my mentor from Ebisu Muscats, told me that “my job is to get better.” From then, I sort of begun to face my illness. I was like: “Am I going to let the sickness defeat Asami Yuma? Is this going to be the end of it all?” I really didn’t want that. I just couldn’t stand the idea that Asami Yuma is going to disappear just like that because of the sickness. And the fact that I simply wished to stand in front of everyone one more time with a smile – that got me go through all the treatments. After I announced my condition for the first time, my fans were so nice and patient. And I received so much support from my family, my friends, and my coworkers. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. So, I was blessed with support from so many people that it must be the biggest factor in overcoming my condition. You know, if you have people waiting for you, that’s really encouraging. It’s also that – this might sound a bit vain, but Asami Yuma was like the sun in their lives. And I wanted to cheer up everybody with Yuma’s cheerfulness. I, time and again, told myself to not lose who I was, and believed that I could smile off the tough times. I truly held onto that mindset when I was facing my sickness. And that’s how I was able to come back here with a smile! Thank you everyone for your support!

SeanBird: Please tell us about your work with the non-profit group "Cancer Net Japan" that helps to promote the awareness of ovarian cancer.

Yuma Asami: Yes. Because of what happened to me, I’m working lots with this non-profit organization called Cancer Net Japan. Mainly, I do charity events with them, and share my story at their speaking events. I also do awareness campaigns. I hope sharing my experience can help others, and I know I’m not that good of a public speaker, but I talk to women, and lately also to men, so that they can learn more about the female body.

SeanBird: Where can fans contact go to learn more about your music? (Website, Twitter, etc.)

Yuma Asami: Ah, I have a Twitter account. My Twitter account is @asami_yuma. Please follow me.(Laughter)And also I have an Instagram account, too, but... ah... SNS, I’m not good with that. (Laughter) I do have a YouTube channel, but I’m just a very much analog kind of person. I’m having a hard time keeping up with all that social network stuff, but I’m trying! So please check them out!

SeanBird: Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?

Yuma Asami: Well. Let’s see…Right now what I’m creating, or the media I’m expressing myself through, is music, and of course I’m involved with composing and writing to some extent but I do want to try something that’s completely different from that…like, having a great producer create a great platform from which I can work on, something like theatre, or a performance. I guess because I’m so full of energy and I like energetic things, and I’m beginning to think that I’d like to do more than talk about my own experience to cheer people up, I want to perform – I can’t explain this well, but I am trying to get a producer to do a production with me right now, so I’m working on it and hopefully we get to release it by the end of this year.

SeanBird: Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us; good luck with everything!

Yuma Asami: Thank you very much for giving me this interview! I really appreciate it. Oh, hope to see you, Sean Bird, and all the listeners of The J-Pop Exchange! Thanks so much, I had a great time! I love you! Bye bye! This is Yuma Asami!