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MIYAVI – No Sleep Till Tokyo

June 27, 2019

Music | by Jeff Conway


Already a widely popular artist in Japan, musician MIYAVI is quickly making his presence known across the globe.

With his unique finger-slapping style on the guitar, MIYAVI doesn’t look to follow in the footsteps of music legends that came before him, but rather, to pave his own successful path.

Candid’s Fashion & Entertainment Editor, Jeff Conway recently caught up with this rising superstar to discuss the futuristic beats of his forthcoming album, his special relationship with Angelina Jolie and how his positive influence is going far beyond music alone.  

Where did your passion for music, singing and instruments originate from?

I used to be on a youth professional soccer team. I was trying to be a professional soccer player, but I got injured.

I had nothing else to do. I was just hanging around with friends. So, I just thought of playing guitar with my friends. When I touched the guitar, I was able to feel freedom, what I was feeling when I was playing soccer.

I was able to play whatever I wanted and also felt like the fretboard on the guitar was like a soccer field. I was able to create my own thing. That was when I was 14 or 15 years old. Then I started studying great musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy, even Ray Charles.

MIYAVI

You are so impressive on the guitar. How did you learn to play so well?

The thing is that I try not to learn from them [other musicians]. Not to be like them was the key to me.

Technique wise, I learned many things from great guitarists, but with my current style, I try not be like anybody else. The key to me as a guitarist is to find some distinct style.

How would you classify your music? Rock, pop, perhaps something else?

That’s the problem we’ve been having. Trying to make something new. People sometimes describe me as a pop star, pop singer. I am not a singer, but I’m trying to sing with the guitar.

I’m trying to bring back the excitement of the rock guitar music in this modern, current generation. That’s my mission.

You’re also an Ambassador of UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency). What is it about the refugee crisis that makes you so invested in that cause and made you feel like you had to take an active hand in helping?

To be honest, I had no knowledge or experience [about refugees]. To me, I was able to learn and study from Angelina Jolie. When I worked with her for Unbroken, she shared a lot of stuff about the refugee crisis. It was an eye-opening experience.

Then I went to the refugee camp without knowing anything. I just went there with a guitar. The first moment I played the guitar in front of the kids at the refugee camp, their eyes started shining. The energy I felt was extraordinary. I just realized, Oh. There is something I can do with music.

Let’s discuss your latest album that drops later this summer entitled No Sleep Till Tokyo. What can fans expect that’s different from your previous music?

I focused on delivering a message with my vocals and guitar and this time, I mixed up the Japanese lyrics way more than before.

I’ve been feeling that local language has been more familiar to the global market, like a Spanish or Korean or Chinese. Singing in Japanese is really more original.

What differences have you seen in your fans across the world? Have you noticed your fans in Japan approach and respond to you differently than fans of yours in Europe and the US?

Especially female friends react to male artists in Asia a bit different. In Asia, they really behave. They listen to the lyrics and every single word I say on-stage. There’s so much respect.

It’s different from audiences in Europe, America and South America. Especially South America, they just go crazy. The amount of energy is just crazy.

MIYAVI

You have worked with a lot of big music artists before. Is there someone you really want to work with next?

I don’t want to say much until it happens, but I really want to work with Lady Gaga, Madonna, Billie Eilish.

Those charismatic artists, they’re visionaries. Lady Gaga, she’s strong. I really respect her. She is nailing everything. That type of attitude is simply cool.

You are playing ‘Udo’ in the Maleficent: Mistress of Evil sequel that arrives in cinemas this fall. Is ‘Udo’ in this Disney sequel and how was your experience working again on an Angelina Jolie project?

I can’t say much. Udo is one of the characters in the film. It’s not a key role but Angelina made the role. It was a great experience, especially Disney. The professional team, special effects, make-up every day. It’s a great creation with a good message. Working with Angie is always fascinating. She’s like my big sister. I have been learning a lot from her.

You’re also a dad. You have two kids. How is it being a dad and how do you balance career with family?

You learn lots of things from having kids and you see yourself in your kids. The image of rock star is totally different from parents, but it should be the same. As long as you do the right thing, that’s the right way to be a rock star. Thanks to the internet, we do FaceTime and we play games together while we’re talking on FaceTime. It’s also important to appreciate our time together. It’s great.

Read Jeff Conway’s interview with Colby Strong in Film & Entertainment.

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Photography by Ben Duggan, styling by Sky JT Naval, grooming by Anny Kim for Exclusive Artists