Japanese-American singer KYLEE made a live concert appearance at J-POP Summit Festival in front of thousands of cheering fans. Come for the concert coverage and stay for our exclusive interview with this rising star.
Sony Music Japan artist and Arizona native, KYLEE, has done everything from having her songs featured in Japanese television commercials, anime, and films to appearing on NBC’s The Today Show and has performed in front of President Obama as well as at NBA and MLB ballgames. If that doesn’t impress you, she signed her first record deal at the age of 13 and has traveled between Japan and America while balancing her music career and going to school full time. Oh, and she’s now attending Stanford University on top of all that.
Born to a Japanese mother and an American father, KYLEE applies her multi-cultural background into her music, often times mixing both Japanese and English lyrics. While KYLEE is already well known in Japan having been featured in films as well as concerts, she now has her sights set on the States and beyond. On July 5th, she performed in Paris, France at this year’s Japan Expo and came back to America to appear at the J-POP Summit Festival in San Francisco on the 27th and 28th. On the first day of the festival, she sang at Peace Plaza in Japantown and on the second day, she took to the stage at Union Square in front of an audience that swelled to become over 6,500 strong. For both performances she sang a mix of her original songs as well as American and Japanese covers such as an English version of ”Sanbun No Ichi No Junjou Na Kanjou,” a song originally from the anime Rurouni Kenshin.
We had the opportunity to chat with KYLEE about her beginnings, being a pop-star and student, her newest project, and how she feels old. (Yes, old at 19.)
GEEKEXCHANGE: Being a native of Arizona, how and when did you take your singing to Japan?
KYLEE: When I was 11, I sang the national anthem in front of thousands of people at baseball games. It was my introduction to performing in front of a large audience and I ended up really liking it. At the age of 12, my mom and I decided to try to see if anyone liked my voice enough to do something with it. Because I was too young to go on programs such as American Idol, my mom and I researched different record labels and found the only one at the time that was accepting audition videos was Sony Music in Japan. We made a video, sent it to them, and they actually contacted us back. We just said to ourselves, “Okay, let’s just see where it goes.” When I was 13, I ended up signing a contract with Sony Music Entertainment Japan.
Now that you were going to sing in Japan, was language going to be a problem? Were you always fluent in Japanese?
My mom and dad both speak Japanese and spoke to me in Japanese when I was growing up. I did go to Japanese school on Saturdays up until 5th grade and also spent summers in Japan with my siblings where we attended school there as exchange students until junior high. All that really helped my Japanese.
How do you have find time to pursue your music career while being a full time university student?
During my winter, fall, spring, and summer breaks in high school I would go straight to Japan and dedicate my vacation time to making music. That worked out really well. Now that I’m in college, it’s a bit different and there have been scheduling difficulties. It’s a work in progress right now. We’re still trying to figure out how it’s all going to work out.
Along those lines, going to school full-time while pursuing a singing career must be difficult.
Education and music are both important to me and to dedicate time to pursuing both full-time requires making sacrifices. They both affect one another, but the sacrifices are worth it.
At 19 years old, you are still very young. Have you decided that singing is what you want to do? Where do you want to take your singing career?
This is something I’ve thought a lot about. My dad always tells me, “You don’t have to be a singer, you can be whatever you want.” Doing well in high school and attending Stanford the past year, I know that I have other options. But I really think that music is the only thing I want to do as a profession. It’s the only thing I’d want to dedicate my life to. It’s my passion and it’s the one way I can really express myself. I’m all in and want to see where it takes me.
Do see yourself developing your career more in the States or Japan or are you trying to split it?
I really want to try for the States right now. I wasn’t sure if I could do it before since it is really different from Japan. But I want to give it a shot here since it is my home.
What project are you working on now?
I’ve got a new YouTube channel that I’m working on with my Music Director, Troy, called KyleeChannelUSA where we will be posting newly produced music videos at. Check it out!
What’s the best way for fans to stay in touch with you?
I have my YouTube Channel, and also Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and I also just started up a Keek account.
With all those accounts, it seems like you’re all over your phone then?
Yes, I am all over my phone, you kind of have to be now! [Laughter] It’s crazy. I feel like I’m in that transition generation where we went from TV being the main thing now to smart phones taking over. I can only imagine how the younger kids are now being born into the smart phone age who are already intensely connected to social media. I really have to try to keep up. I feel so old.
For more information on KYLEE and the J-Pop Summit Festival:
KYLEE Official Website
KYLEE Official Facebook
KYLEE Official YouTube Channel
KYLEE Official VEVO Channel
KYLEE Official iTunes
KYLEE Official Twitter
KYLEE Official Instagram
KYLEE Official Keek
J-POP Summit Festival