An Interview With Emi Evans: Part One

By Darryl Kaye on May 1, 2011, 4:02PM EST

Ever since Nier came out, many of the staff (including myself) have been waxing lyrical about the soundtrack. We even dedicated a special episode of Gaming Music FM to the soundtrack, and highlighted the amazing quality of the vocal performance by Emi Evans. So when we had the chance to interview Emi, we jumped at it.

The first part of our interview with Emi covers numerous topics, such as how Emi got into the music industry, what kind of training she has and what she does in the industry aside from singing.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two of the interview, where we'll look at Emi's role with Square Enix. Also, 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 To start off, we would love to know when you started singing?

Emi Evans: I have always sung from since I can remember! My dad used to play his guitar and sing to me when I was very little and some of my first memories are of singing along with him. Maybe because I'm an only child and thus had no siblings to distract me, I spent a great amount of time listening to cassette tapes of nursery rhymes and various other kids songs (in English and Japanese) which I would sing along to, mostly by myself. When I started infant school I remember teaching my classmates a Japanese song which they sang at the school concert and I think my first ever solo was at five, singing the Japanese traditional song "Sakura" a cappella at the head mistresses farewell assembly.

I never thought I would go on to become a singer- as a kid, singing was just another form of playing- another fun thing to do, like painting or riding my bike. Actually my first real musical passion wasn't singing at all but playing the cello, which I fell in love with when I was eight and I decided I wanted to become a professional cellist. My life pretty much revolved around practicing my cello - singing was just a hobby which I enjoyed but never took seriously. Our aspiring vocalists would love to know whether you were self-taught or whether you went through some kind of vocal training?

Emi Evans: I would say that up until eighteen I had vocal training but since then I was self taught. ie. I learnt the rules, broke them and then put them back together again custom made to suit my voice!

I joined my school choir at the age of seven, then church choir at ten. That was the first time for me to have some sort of singing discipline, doing lots of warm up exercises and getting lot of advice on how to breath and hit the high notes correctly. Then from thirteen to eighteen I went to music specialist school in order to pursue my dreams of becoming a cellist and as part of my course I had to take piano and classical singing lessons.

But to be honest, while I appreciated the vocal training I received and respected my teachers singing techniques, I much preferred the way I sounded when sang my own natural style and I became anxious that if I continued lessons for too long, I would end up sounding like my teachers! I'm sure that some of my teachers would shudder to hear the way I sing now as I've ignored most of what they taught me about breath control, support and posture, but what is most important to me and what I strive for is not to be a great singer, but to be a great emotional communicator and I found that breaking a few rules are helping me towards this! What was the first project you ever sang on (professional or sideline)?

Emi Evans: My first project also happened to change my life and cement my future as a singer. This was my duo freesscape. In 2001, while studying as an exchange student in Tokyo, through the chance introduction from a mutual producer acquaintance, I met my now music partner Hiroyuki Muneta and our styles gelled so strongly that I felt I HAD to stay in Tokyo to pursue all the musical potential we had together. I dropped out of my university course in England and have lived in Tokyo ever since, song writing with freesscape and picking up increasingly interesting session singing and events on the way. Other than singing, do you write or compose your own music?

Emi Evans: Yes, I compose a lot of music mostly for my duo "freesscape" and also for the odd TV commercial job. Since fifteen I would spend hours at the piano or fiddling on my dads guitar, composing songs and trying to record them nicely on my rather temperamental cassette recorder. My dad, who loves writing poetry would sometimes hand me his latest lyrics and say "here, try putting this to music!" I love the whole creative process of composing and the buzz which I get from watching snippets of inspiration grow and blossom into a finished piece of music is often even greater than the buzz of actually performing the song. What is your creative process for coming up with the music and vocals that you make?

Emi Evans: Generally it is always the music which comes first. It all just starts from a little idea or a strong feeling and once I begin to fumble around with the piano, things start to happen pretty much by themselves. Once I have a rough musical idea happening then I start singing a melody on top of it, not real words but whatever sounds feel the most comfortable coming out of my mouth! If I do that enough then eventually real words follow and I have another clear idea on how the rest of the lyrics should go. To be honest, the music comes fairly easily but meaningful lyrics, I can be agonizing over for months. This is why I love so much creating made up languages! Outside of vocals, what other instruments do you play?

Emi Evans: As I have already mentioned I play cello, piano and guitar but none well enough to have confidence to play in front of an audience! On freesscape recordings I play lots of cello and piano is a very useful tool for composing but I would be terrified if I had to get up on stage to perform!

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Emi Evans. It'll be specifically about her work on the Nier OST.

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