Konnichiwa readers! We hope you’re having a lovely day or night, wherever you are in the world reading this. Today’s interview is a bit of a throwback for us as the interviewee is someone our head editor has been listening to since middle school, and though this person isn’t as active as an artist these days, we had to jump at the chance to speak with her. Without further delay, allow us to introduce/re-introduce the Japanese R&B pop songstress known as Emi Hinouchi!
Emi Hinouchi (also written as 日之内エミ, born September 7, 1982 in Osaka, Japan) is a Japanese R&B pop singer and songwriter. Making her major label debut in 2002 under legendary producer and m-flo member Taku’s Tachytelic Records with the single ‘Magic/World’, Hinouchi has been in the industry for roughly 15 years now. She’s collaborated with the likes of m-flo, Epik High, MAKAI, Nycca, Hiromi and more. She was also responsible for writing many of the songs of the famous and now defunct female R&B duo Heartsdales. While mostly sticking to occasional live performances and writing songs independently, Hinouchi has been exploring other interests in her spare time. Let’s find out what she’s been up to!
For those who aren’t familiar with you, please briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Emi Hinouchi and I’m a singer and songwriter. The type of music I work on is based on R&B from the 90’s, jazz, dance music, soul and funk.
How have you been these days? Aside from live performances here and there, you’ve been pretty under the radar in terms of releases.
I’ve been studying psychology these days.
Your last major album was released in 2011 as an independent release. Do you feel like going independent was the right choice at that time? Or do you see more benefits in the label system?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t think there was much difference for it. Instead, I think I didn’t do enough radio and magazine promotions.
So you’ve been active for over 15 years as an artist. Since your debut, what is the biggest thing that has changed in terms of your passion for music? Has your passion grown or lessened in that time?
Hmm. I see myself enjoying the actual music as I did before I started working as a singer in the industry. When I started singing as a professional, I had to face to reality about the earnings and I wasn’t able to do what I really wanted to. I also couldn’t tell the staff what I really wanted to say because I was still young and this made me enjoy less of the actual music. Even now, I’m not 100% sure what my style of music is, but I won’t try to lose my feelings of good music.
What has been the biggest change in the music industry that you’ve witnessed since your debut?
This is not only in Japan, but it is getting hard to earn money from selling CDs. Because of this, in Japan, I feel like singers such as idols are putting added value to their CDs. This is why they are called artists instead of idols. I’m personally not interested in this, but otaku culture is very popular and getting bigger in the Japanese entertainment industry.
Over the course of your career you’ve worked with many well known artists, probably the most well known of your collaborators being m-flo and Epik High. If there is someone you’d like to collaborate with now, who would it be and why?
Bruno Mars and Jamie Cullum. Or maybe I just told you my two favourite singers haha. If it were Japanese singers, I’m a big fan of KIRINGI, but Yasuyuki Horigome and Shikao Suga would be the two people I would collaborate with.
As I recall, you are also a songwriter. Are you working on any big projects right now for other artists?
Honestly, I haven’t been making any.
Can fans expect new music soon? Any plans for touring or promoting abroad?
I would love to do tours or promotions abroad if I meet some nice promoters.
How did your love for music come about?
I know there are many hobbies, but for music, I just liked it for no reason and it has always been there. Or should I say, I gravitated towards music.
Is there any other facet of the industry in which you would like to get involved in eventually? (ex: acting, start a record label etc.)
I’ve never thought of this until you asked me, but if I get an offer, I would think about it. When I sing on stage I express myself in a way that is similar to acting. When I am making music, I make it while I’m thinking about the images and the feelings, and I think that maybe acting is very similar. But personally I am shy, so in that case I don’t want to be in the spotlight so I’m not very interested. I would say, if somebody needs me to do a job, I would do it.
You lived in Taiwan during your childhood. If you could live abroad again for a short time, where would it be and why?
If it was somewhere in Asia, I wouldn’t hesitate because it would have similar foods and lifestyle. If it was about music, I love the English-speaking countries such as America. I’ve never lived in one so I’m interested. I’m don’t really enjoy the cold, so Hawaii would be amazing. I know a lot of people would say that though.
Having been in the Japanese music market for around 15 years, there’s been a lot of new artists that have come and gone in Japan in that time. For someone new to Japanese pop and/or R&B music, is there anyone you would personally recommend to new listeners?
If it was Japanese music I would recommend KIRINJI and Shikao Suga who I mentioned earlier too. If it was some famous people, I would recommend Kazumasa Oda, Yumi Matsutoya, and Tatsuro Yamashita. They all have amazing voices and their music is full of originality.
What are your hobbies these days?
I am really into cooking these days. Every time I find a new rare vegetable at the supermarket, I make new dishes with it. I can feel relaxed when I make new dishes and also when I make the food I want to eat. I’ve been riding my bike lately, and I play with my pet bird a lot.
What are your five most played songs currently?
Sorry, I didn’t figure out a way to check that.
When you have spare time, what do you do for fun?
I tend to think too much about one thing and so to avoid that, I cook, sleep, and drink. Also, not as a singer but as a human being, I want to confront my bad habits in mind so I am studying psychology.
Any advice for aspiring singers out there? Especially those looking to break into the Japanese music market?
I experienced that the generation is constantly changing as it was when I first started to work as a singer; what is popular at the time, and how the sales are. The power of being not familiar to many things before becoming a professional is actually huge. You should take advantage of it and do whatever you want to do. Once you do it, you will face difficulties but I think it is always better trying than not doing anything.
Any final words for the readers/fans?
I haven’t been working as a singer lately so I’m not sure if you are satisfied with my answers as it is an interview to a singer, but thank you for reading my interview. Special thanks to rhythm.connection for interviewing me.
Special thanks to Emi for taking the time to read this, as well as a special thanks to Hinata and Elijah for translation assistance! As always, this has been a rhythm.connection exclusive!