Japanese R&B singer Crystal Kay has been expanding her horizons of late. From performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to collaborating with Far East Movement in Orlando, Florida, the 27-year-old singer has been spreading her wings internationally – most recently via “Dance Earth," in which she took to the stage for the first time as a character in a musical theater production.
Born to American and Zainichi Korean parents in Yokohama, Kay debuted at age 13 and has built a substantial following over the years by blending R&B with Japanese pop music. She is about to embark on a set of intimate live shows titled “Crystal Café,” kicking off at Shibuya Duo Music Exchange tonight, and continuing to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Aichi.
BLOUIN ARTINFO caught up with Crystal Kay to discuss her acting ambitions, her coming English-language album, and the decline of R&B in Japan.
Robert Michael Poole: You just completed the Dance Earth stage project. What were the highlights and challenges for you?
Crystal Kay: The highlight was being able to perform every single day for nearly a month. I've never even done that for my own tours, let alone two shows per day.
Of course you get tired but being with fellow performers everyday, feeding off of each other's energy, it was really fun.
My challenge was learning theatrical singing and performance techniques, as it’s very different from the way I usually sing. Theatrical singing requires a lot more attention to delivering the dialogue, like enunciation, facial expressions, and body movements. So it’s not about trying to sing perfectly or pretty, it’s more about how much I can express the character's emotions and deliver the atmosphere to the audience. It’s definitely something I can use as an advantage from now on for own my singing career.
RMP: You went through some pretty rigorous physical training, are you able to take time off now?
CK: I am definitely not chilling out yet! Two days after the final show, I was back in the rehearsal studio with my band preparing for my Crystal Cafe acoustic tour.
RMP: What effect do you think the project will have on you in the future in terms of direction of your career?<
CK: It helped me know more of myself in terms of how to maintain my mental balance in preparation for multiple shows. I now know that I have strong chords that are capable of handling 23 shows in a row! It also felt like I have completed one big challenge, which gives me a desire to quickly tackle another.
RMP: Are you the kind of person who enjoys being outside of their comfort zone and are there other skills or professions you’d like to try?
CK: I've always been interested in acting so I think it’s sparked that interest even more. If there were cool roles and opportunities for plays, musicals and even movies, I would be more than happy to try it out. I actually hate being comfortable. If I could learn more, obtain different skills and see more of the world, I'm down for trying it out. I'd rather try it than regret not trying.
RMP: Usa, who led the project, took extended breaks to travel the world, but you have worked hard for over ten years. Do you think you might take a break some time and if you did, what would you do?
CK: I guess I'm very Japanese in that sense, I always feel like I need to work extra hard to deserve an extended break. I don’t think I’m at the point where I need it but I if I were to, I’d definitely follow in Usa’s footsteps by traveling. I’m very interested in world heritage sites so I would head for Machu Picchu, Brazil, go to see the northern lights in Alaska... the list goes on.
RMP: You are soon back on your own stage for Crystal Café, in intimate venues. What can we expect at the shows?
CK: The concept of this show is to share a more intimate atmosphere with my fans. Just me and the music. It will be very chill and relaxed, but fun. I hope to continue performing in this setting, because I can do this as long as I'm living.
RMP: The strong and healthy market for R&B in Japan seems to have faded in recent years, with many of your contemporaries seemingly disappearing altogether, why do you think this is so, and how have you adapted to the change?
CK: I think Japan has always been pop-culture centered and in recent years, girl groups like AKB48 and K-Pop acts have really taken over the market. Those acts are more relatable to Japan’s "genki" (happy) style of motivational messages, rather than trying to convey seriousness or complicated feelings or social issues through music.
So there aren’t many relatable aspects of R&B and Hip-Hop, and the rawness these genres present, as there is elsewhere.
Anyhow R&B in general has faded everywhere, the world is pumping more and more pop, so Japan being pop heavy from the start means R&B has really fallen off.
I've adapting by mixing J-Pop and the essence of R&B in my melodies. I just hope people enjoy what I create, because I believe good music is good music regardless of the genre.
RMP: What does 2013 hold for you?
CK: This is a year of challenge for me. The first challenge is complete, "Dance Earth," and now I want to start working on overseas work, and a full English-language album.
Source: BLOUIN ARTINFO