During the second half of the past decade, the Disney Channel aired a popular program titled "Hannah Montana", a show about a girl who leads a double life as a high school student and a pop star. Little did Americans know that living in Arizona was a real life Hannah Montana.
Kylee Saunders, more commonly known by her stage name Kylee, is a rising pop star in Japan, selling thousands of records, performing in front of large audiences and getting her music recognized by the Japanese public. For most of the year though, Kylee is just a normal Asian American student, preparing for her first year of college at Stanford University.
While she may not be well known by the American public, the singer has caught the attention of the organizers of the J-pop Summit Festival who will be bringing her to San Francisco on August 26th. Get to know the girl behind the music in this exclusive interview with JpopAsia.
JPA: You're 1/2 Japanese, 1/2 American and spend significant amounts of times in both countries. How has that influenced your music?
Kylee: Because I am both Japanese and American, I incorporate both English and Japanese in the lyrics of a lot of my songs.
JPA: You've been called the real life Hannah Montana because you are a pop star in Japan, but in America you live a normal life. What has that experience been like for you?
Kylee: This experience has been like no other; it has molded me into the person I am today. I am who I am now because of the two lives I chose to maintain in two separate countries. It has definitely opened my eyes to so many things that most people are introduced to after college. Thanks to my career in Japan, I was introduced to the business world at the age of 13. Thanks to my normal life in Arizona, I was able to have the whole high school experience. Trying to manage both lifestyles has been a challenge over the years but it has strengthened me and made me the person I am today. I feel lucky to have been blessed with such an opportunity.
JPA: Do you ever wish you were famous here in America like you are in Japan?
Kylee: On many occasions I’ve dreamt about becoming famous in the states; however, I would never trade my experiences in Japan for fame in the states. I have learned so much from this career in Japan and I have been blessed with so many opportunities to develop my Japanese-self. I’m not just an American; I am also half Japanese. My career here has allowed me to grow and develop myself as a Japanese person and to learn more about the culture. Being Japanese is part of who I am and it’s not something I can hide away or try to ignore and forget.
JPA: Since you live in America and know the language and culture well, do you have any plans to try to break into the American music industry?
Kylee: I would love to be involved in the American music industry one day; however, right now I could never ask for anything more than what I have here right now in Japan. Right now, when it comes to music, my main focus is Japan.
JPA: You’re attending Stanford University in the fall. How do you plan on balancing going to college and being an artist in Japan?
Kylee: I did it once in high school and I am going to do it again in college, no matter what it takes. I have no idea what challenges I’ll have to face along the way but I’m willing to do whatever it is I must do to push myself to balance the two. Up to this point, my experience balancing high school and music made me who I am right now: a fighter. I am not going to say that I will make it all the way through this hectic four year circus show without tripping, losing my balance, or falling flat on my face. I know it won’t be easy but it’s what I want for myself. So to answer the “how” question...to be honest, I don’t know how I am going to do it. No one can really know how. It’s a whole new world that I will be entering into starting September. I don't know how...but I’m going to do it.
JPA: How do you feel about transitioning from high school to college?
Kylee: The word terrified doesn't even begin to describe how scared I am for this transition. Over the summer I did live on my own in Tokyo for a couple of weeks just to get used to the whole “being on my own” lifestyle. Of course I am nervous but I am also pumped. I cannot wait for college! Yeah, maybe I am nervous and scared but more than anything else, I am excited.
JPA: What are you majoring in?
Kylee: I haven’t officially decided what I am going to major in; however, I am interested in business and international relations.
JPA: Your latest video “Mirai” was shot at a beautiful location. Which video has been your favorite to film?
Kylee: My favorite video to film was definitely “Crazy For You.” Something about the song and the atmosphere during the shoot that day that just made it so much fun to shoot! It was a lot more natural shooting “Crazy For You” compared to “Never Give Up.” The “Never Give Up” music video had choreography (by the way I am horrible with choreography) and lots and lots of outfit changes. “Crazy For You” on the other hand was as I said, more natural but still had more of a story to it and a little more “emotional acting” involved as well. It was definitely my all-time favorite!
JPA: The lyrics to your latest single “Mirai” were filled with sad images of crying, hurt and loss. What was your inspiration behind the song?
Kylee: I didn't write the lyrics to this song; however, I still relate to them on a very deep level. I am probably one of the most emotional people on this planet (cheesy over-exaggeration but it’s necessary) and especially during this whole new-beginnings/ goodbye-hello time of my life. With high school being over and college starting soon, I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of close friends who I won’t be able to see as often anymore. I will also have to say goodbye to my parents and siblings soon too! All these goodbyes have made me an emotional wreck but the idea that I try to keep in my mind while all this is happening is in the lyrics of “Mirai.” It’s important to be thankful and grateful for all the people that have made an impact on you; no matter how hard it is to say goodbye, life will carry on.
JPA: A recurring line in your lyrics says "笑えるまでは 泣いたっていいから" (It's okay to cry until you can smile again). What was a moment in your life where all you could do was cry? What made you smile once again?
Kylee: My sister and I got into this huge, never-ending cold war once. We love each other so much, so when we fight everything is a thousand times more painful to take in. One time we clashed and we both just fell right on our backsides and broke down. The break down escalated from smart mouthing to yelling to screaming to hitting and lastly, to sobbing. At the end we were so tired of fighting and crying. When we tried to remember why we started fighting in the first place, we couldn’t even remember! At that moment when we weren’t even able to remember why we were angry, our sobbing turned into laughing. We hugged, apologized, made up and now we’re closer than ever!
JPA: You’re performing at the 2012 J-pop Summit Festival on August 26th. What is your favorite song to perform and why?
Kylee: “Crazy For You” is definitely my favorite song to perform because it’s one of those fun belting songs but I am also in love with the lyrics. When I sing this song I turn into that teenage girl who’s crushing and falling faster and faster for her prince charming.
JPA: Your music tends to have an upbeat, energetic vibe. Is this a reflection of who you are in real life?
Kylee: The energy and power in my songs reflects the real me. I am extremely shy at first; however, once you get to know me you will come to see how crazy and energetic I actually am. When I’m on stage, my music style allows me to cut to the chase and lay it all out on the table; it allows me to just immediately turn on my power button and present the real me.
JPA: Some of your songs have love as its theme. Do you have any experience being in love?
Kylee: I have had the butterflies, the heartaches, and all that good stuff but never have I been in love. It’s not like I’m shutting out love, my heart if always fully open and I am more than happy and open to making new friends and relationships!
JPA: Were your parents supportive of you starting a music career at such a young age?
Kylee: Yes, my parents were supportive from the very beginning and they still are. My mom was the one who found the record company I’m signed with right now and sent them my video. My dad has been with me every step of the way when it comes to staying on top of school while working as a singer.
JPA: What is your favorite aspect of being a singer?
Kylee: I love being able to make people happy. It brings me so much joy to see that I can make a difference in other peoples’ lives.
JPA: Do you have a final message you’d like to give all your fans?
Kylee: I love you all! I cannot thank you enough for all the support. You guys are what keep me going when times get rough! I hope you know that you’re never alone in this world and whenever you do feel down, I hope my music can lift you up! In this world, we have to fight for what we want. Together, let’s never give up!
Kylee performs for free on August 26th as part of the 2012 J-POP Summit Festival. For more information, visit their website at www.j-pop.com/2012.
|Real name||Kylee Saunders|
|Birthday||25 May, 1994|
|Debut||17 October, 2008 (active)|
|Main occupation||singer (active)|
|Bookmark||Create account or login|
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