Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katy Phillips (Australia)
One day our friend told us about a female singer who was singing near Harajuku Station. “She continued to perform for 2 hours and didn’t stop singing and performing at all even though just a few people looked at her.” That singer is today’s interviewee, Katy Phillips from Australia.
We were moved by what we heard and became interested in her. We decided to hold the “Interview in public” with her since our friend who introduced her to us said that he had a space for 10 people that we could use. We sent a message to Katy thorough Facebook Messenger and she responded quickly, allowing us to schedule the event on the same day we heard about her. We later found out this was right before she left Japan.
Now we are sharing with you her story of how she became a performer and how she became interested Japan. This is a digest of the interview, so click here to watch its full version.
*Interview in Shinjuku
*Co-organized by Masaomi Takahashi
*Uncredited photos: Taken by Daniel Smadja
I live in Australia, but actually I was born in the UK. I moved to Australia from the UK in 2008 when I was 12. I’m English by birth and still miss fish and chips (LOL).
My mom used to act on stage, sing and do musicals. I think this is part of the reason that I became a singer. I’ve been singing, dancing and performing on stage since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I started to perform in groups and took part in school musicals and productions as well. My mom and I were part of a performance group and sang in places such as nursing homes.
I first encountered Japanese culture when I was about 10 or 11. I went to a bookshop and found manga books.
Later I encountered an anime which I really loved when I started school in Australia. That anime was “Naruto”. A lot of people love Japanese culture in Australia and I made friends who watched anime. They were the ones who told me about Naruto.
When I watched it for the first time, I quickly became a fan. I remember thinking “Wow, ninja! Magic! Power! This is amazing!” I always loved fairy tales. I loved Naruto’s opening song called “Fighting Dreamers”. After that I started to go on search other J-pop songs on YouTube.
I started to listen to songs sung by Hatsune Miku, a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application called “Vocaloid”. I loved other J-pop artists like Ayumi Hamasaki too. At that time, I was only involved in school musicals in terms of performance. Additionally, you have to get a permission in order to perform in public, and it is often expensive. So I was singing J-pop songs only in my room or my house.
“I try to be a singer no matter what happens to me!”
About 2 years ago, I was quite stressed because I had been sort of told, “If you try to go into a music career, it would be very difficult. You’re probably not going to be able to be a singer. So you will just end up with being a teacher or doing background work.” People told me NOT to be a singer. That upset me quite a bit. I was thought things such as “What do I do?”. In the end I decided, “No matter what happens, I’m still going to try to be a singer!”
I was studying psychology as my major in my university at that time, but I transferred to Japanese studies because I love languages and it gave me a chance to learn Japanese culture. My mom understood my feeling and supported me.
I began to write my own songs and I started performing solo. I began doing my solo performances at a bar in my university right before I came to Japan. They held “Open mic nights” there and I could sing a few songs in front of an audience. I debuted my original songs there.
Deciding to be a singer in Japan
However, Australian-style music is very different to what I was making at that time. Because of this I thought that it would be better if I tried to become a singer in the Asian pop market. I also love K-pop (Korean pop songs) since 2012, so I tried to audition for a talent show in South Korea. But I was told that I didn’t have enough power in my voice. My voice is quite light, I suppose: I can’t sing like Adelle or Jessie J. When I write a song, it’s more J-pop than Western pop. But instead of being disheartened, I realized that I could use my Japanese skills to write and sing Japanese-language songs.
I decided that probably it would be a good idea to become a singer in Japan. I was already passionate about the Japanese language and I wanted to come back to Japan. After high school, I was able to come to Tokyo for 4 days and from there I confirmed that I wanted to come and live here as a singer. “Yes, this is where I want to be, this is what I want to do!” was how I felt. I was at home here.
At the end of 2014 I decided to come here on exchange, arriving in September 2015. After I started to live here, I realized that I could possibly sing and dance here while I’m here on exchange. I started street performance when I came to Japan in 2015.
Friends keep my motivation going
Being a singer has always been my dream job: the job that I would feel the most fulfilled doing. Singing has always made me so happy. When I sing, I hope to make other people happy. This goal has been very important for me and I always feel better for singing.
The biggest factor that keeps my motivation going is my friends. I do have occasions when I feel everything I’m doing is going to be useless. That makes me quite sad. But I luckily have really, really good friends who always say, “We believe in you!” ”We think you can make it!” “We support you!” – I’m so touched by their words. It makes me want to give back to them. And that makes me want to work harder on my songs.
I’ll be back again
I’ve been in Japan since September 2015 as an exchange student. I was performing near Harajuku Station in Tokyo 2 or 3 times last October, but unfortunately I had to do a lot of university work so I had to stop for a while. The next time I was able to perform was on Christmas. Then I started performing again 2 weeks ago, around the beginning of February 2016. I’ve been performing on Saturdays and Sundays since then.
Lost in the Wind (風で失せる)
*Filmed by Masaomi Takahashi
I perform in Harajuku because I went there a lot during my first trip to Japan, so I knew where it was and how to get there. I always saw people performing when I went there, and I thought I should probably perform there because a lot of people would pay attention to my performance.
After I graduate university the end of this year, I hope I can get a part time job that allows me to come back to Japan. And I would want to continue to write music and perform in my free time.
What is Japan to you?
I’ve lived in England and Australia, and now I’m in Japan. I didn’t fit in England very well. I fit in Australia better, but still sometimes I feel slightly out of the place.
But I can be myself in Japan.
With her new fans!