Welcome back! I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the first part of our interview with Emi Evans, the singer who provides the sumptuous vocals that are seen throughout the Nier OST. We talked about things like, how her career got started and what instruments she likes to play.
In part two of our interview with Emi, we spend our time looking specifically at her work on the Nier OST. Topics like, how did she come up with the language and what are her favourite tracks?
Also, and I mentioned this yesterday too, but if you're a fan of Emi's music, or want to hear more about what she does, check out one of the songs she wrote in her "freesscape" duo. It was given to help comfort those suffering after the Japanese earthquake: here
GamingUnion.net: How did you come up with the idea of creating a non-language and how have you crafted it over time?
Emi Evans: I was actually asked by Monaca to create non-languages right from the start. Crafting them was easy once I figured out a system! At first I tried to invent a totally new language which was just a mixture of all the languages I'd ever heard of (this is used in Song of the Ancients) but I soon realized that I would have trouble making each of my languages sound different from the other, unless I had a strict system. It was then that Monaca suggested that, as a large part of the game was set in the future, I should take already existing languages and imagine what they would sound like after thousands of years evolving. I researched various language on YouTube until I was familiar with the sounds and rhythms and then just respectfully warped them to become the lyrics that you hear now.
GamingUnion.net: What languages do you find give you the most inspiration when you're writing and are you fluent in any of them?
Emi Evans: While I can speak Japanese and French, English as my mother tongue is the only "real" language which I feel comfortable writing in. However there are days when a language which I understand perfectly can be very limiting creatively. Although there is so much potential to express myself freely in my own language, sometimes I get so bogged down with trying to find the right words or worrying if I will be misunderstood, or frustrated because what I'm trying to say won't fit the melody, that it is easy for inspiration to get fed up and wander off somewhere. However, with one of my made up languages, the meaning of the words is never a problem and just the act of producing different noises and using different facial muscles to those I'm used to, is enough to set off the excitement tingles in some otherwise un-exercised part of my brain-which sparks off the inspiration.
GamingUnion.net: How did you come to work for such a powerhouse like Square Enix? Are there any other companies you've been able to work with in the past?
Emi Evans: Working for Square Enix was just by one big lucky chance! At a friend's farewell party, I exchanged contacts with one of the DJs there and he happened to be friends with the assistant at Monaca, so when Monaca were looking for a native English singer, through word of mouth I got contacted! I am eternally grateful to that friend for leaving! Before Square Enix I dabbled a little with Nintendo on Sekaijyu no Meikyu (working with the great composers Norihiko Hibino san and Yuzo Koshiro san) and that's it as far as games go. As a session singer, I mostly do TV commercials so I have sung for lots of big companies such as Toyota, Panasonic, Mercedes Benz, Cartier, Dior etc, but this is always a one-off recording or event rather than a big "project" so it didn't feel like I was working "with" them as such.
GamingUnion.net: Working on NieR must have been a huge undertaking. How early in the game's development did you start working on the music?
Emi Evans: You're gonna have to ask Monaca about this as I really don't know! I was shown very little of the visuals when I was singing so I have no idea what stage the game's development was at when I was brought onto the project. After agreeing to take part, I wasn't given any material to start working on until maybe two months later. As I recorded each song, I was roughly told where it would be used, or who's theme it was eg. "this will be playing on a metal scrap heap scene" "this is the theme of Kaine who is a bit of a bitch" but no further details. It seems even Okabe san was quite surprised at which songs got used where in the end!
GamingUnion.net: The music and melody lines are incredibly memorable and high quality in every aspect. How did you help the composers with the music?
Emi Evans: The music is one hundred percent Okabe san and the team at Monaca - I created the majority of the lyrics but played no part in the music unfortunately! What I was told was that some of the arrangements were inspired by the mood my vocals had created. I would record on a very bare track and then my vocals would influence the arrangements. To what extent I don't know but it's still nice to think I had some input into the creative process!
GamingUnion.net: Of all the wonderful pieces from the game, are there any tracks that you are particularly fond of and if so, why?
Emi Evans: I think the two tracks which I have a real soft spot for are "Song of the Ancients" and "Grandma".
Song of the Ancients was the very first song I wrote lyrics for and I remember feeling so unsure how to go about creating a new language and just jumbling up all the languages I'd ever heard of together. I started recording this song with no idea how it was going to turn out but as I gradually got used to singing these unusual sounds, my jumble of words became my own real language with emotion and meaning and I was able to sing it with more conviction. At the end of the session, my shy first attempt had actually come alive and turned into something new and exciting. This was such a wonderful experience and the first of many more similar excitements to come!
I love "Grandma" because it gave me such goose bumps as I was recording it, which is a rare thing for a session singer! I'd written the lyrics to this song on a tight schedule, not really sure what it was about and with no clear image to help my inspiration along. However, in the studio Okabe san explained to me that "Grandma" would be played when the characters were remembering some of their saddest and most painful memories, so when recording, I just put in as much anguish and melancholy as I could. I found that the beautiful soaring high melody fitted perfectly into the back of my throat, when I opened it up to wail. I was surprised at how natural it felt to sing this track and it was all recorded very quickly first take. In just ten minutes in the studio, a set of lyrics which I'd written with no clue as to how the song would turn out, transformed itself into a gorgeous and emotional song that was giving me the shivers. And the fact that this transformation was totally unexpected made the impact even greater! This moment is definitely one of my most treasured memories from working on NieR.
GamingUnion.net: Are there any other projects you're working on that you could tell us about?
Emi Evans: My own big personal project is freesscape's single album "Lost Petals" which came out 22nd Feb and freesscape's 3rd album "Now is the point at which I touch eternity", which just released on May 1st. As I got so busy with the NieR project, I had very little time to concentrate solidly on freesscape, so this album took about a year and a half to complete. I am super excited about how it will be received and hoping that NieR fans will also enjoy my freesscape musical world! All details are on my homepage www.emievans.net.
Regarding game music related projects, happy recent news is that NieR has been chosen to be performed at "Press Start 2011" which means singing with full orchestra- another dream come true! It has yet to be decided which song will be performed but Monaca and I are very excited!
Also I've just finished a project with Final Fantasy composer Uematsu san and his band "Earthbound Papas". Their debut album "Octave Theory" came out March 16th and I was very honoured when Uematsu san asked me to be involved. On the opening and closing tracks I am reading the most obscure narration I have ever done and I'm playing cello on one of the tracks. I also performed with Earthbound Papas on 24th April and as freesscape at a charity event put on by Uematsu san for the affected areas in Tohoku, Japan.
Also Yuzo Koshiro san has just asked me to sing for his next project, which I will let you know more about when I am allowed to!
And recently I got my very first overseas commission which I was so happy about - I'm writing lyrics (in my own original languages of course!) and singing for an online fantasy card game. Up until now I have only worked within Japan so it is really exciting to collaborate with an overseas composer and play long distance catch ball like this. I'm hoping that gradually word will spread that Emi Evans is very available and willing to do such collaborations and eventually I can work with composers from all over the world!
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We are very excited to hear what you bring the industry in the future! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
If you want to find out more about Emi, check out her official site.