Tomohisa Yamashita on ‘Sweet Vision’ Album & Taking On New Challenges Without Fear: Interview


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Tomohisa Yamashita‘s latest album, Sweet Vision, is now available for streaming. Yamashita, who began his career in 1996, has achieved a fabulous level of stardom. He’s a household name in Japan and a famous musician and actor throughout Asia.

He has appeared in shows streamed around the world, such as Netflix’s Alice in Borderland, Max’s TOKYO VICE, and Apple TV+’s Drops of God. Although he has recently focused on acting, he has taken a step in a new direction as a singer with the release of Sweet Vision. What kind of future does this album depict, and what kinds of hope does it convey?

In the early 2010s, you performed a lot of songs written by other famous Japanese artists. Your sound changed dramatically, though, with your last album, UNLEASHED, which you released in 2018. You wrote the lyrics for almost all of the songs on the new album, right?

Tomohisa Yamashita: By taking part myself, I was able to create songs that I felt more comfortable with, and the process was more enjoyable. I wanted listeners to get a bit of a sense of where I am now. When I’m filming TV series or movies, I don’t really have the time or energy to think about anything else, but with this album I was able to devote time to working on the music. I’m happy to have been able to focus on preparing the music to perform in future concerts. I really wanted to share the music and concerts as a single, combined set.

What kind of message did you set out to share when you made the album?

Tomohisa Yamashita: I always wanted to convey a message of hope, and in creating the new album I wanted to make music that provides people with a brighter vision of the future. If you don’t have a clear vision in your mind, you can’t make that vision a reality. I’ve turned my own visions into reality. I believe that what’s important is how clearly and powerfully you can conceptualize, and I hope through the new album to provide an opportunity for people to create their own wonderful visions. If I didn’t want to put on a concert, or if there weren’t people who wanted me to put on a concert, these shows would also never become realities. There’s a lot that I can’t achieve all on my own, but I’ve done what I could to turn my ideas into reality, and all kinds of miracles have occurred to help make that possible.

The lead single from the album, “Sweet Vision,” includes the lyric “People cannot stay free of blemish.” What do you mean by that?

Tomohisa Yamashita: If you’re 100% unsullied, you won’t even notice that you’re pure. When you get hurt — when you get scuffed and scratched — you get stronger. It’s better to be hurt, because it strengthens you. I think that taking on new challenge after new challenge, without seeing failure or pain as negatives, ultimately leads to love.

You’ve talked about failing multiple auditions. Honestly speaking, wouldn’t you rather make it through life free of damage?

Tomohisa Yamashita: You get used to being hurt. You lose your fear of pain and of failure, and when you lose that fear, your likelihood of succeeding improves. I’m a voracious learner, and I feel like taking a proactive stance also makes me better on an emotional level. It provides me with greater depth as a person, and I think it’s important to keep going forward, without fear.

Are there any rules that you apply to your own activities? 

Tomohisa Yamashita: I always try to stay honest to myself. Also, over the years, I’ve really come to feel that maintaining this level of activity is no easy feat, so I’m constantly trying to take on challenges so that I don’t give up on myself.

On the Amazon Prime show SEE HEAR LOVE, you played a blind character. Considering that role and your own life experiences that have been in the album, “vision” is really a word for what you’re talking about.

Tomohisa Yamashita: The album has a lot of different elements and a lot of different influences. It’s a collection of all kinds of things I find pleasant at this point in my life. It also has an element of serendipity, and it flows naturally.

The first song, “Anima,” felt like it was announcing that the album was going to provide a window into you. What were you trying to convey by making this the first song?

Tomohisa Yamashita: I thought it would be a good opening number for live shows. I also thought it would be perfect for expressing the atmosphere and concept of the album. The song’s title is Latin for “soul,” and in my recent work, that word, “soul,” has come to have a special significance for me. I need to do things that bring my soul joy, and this song is the best song for expressing where I am now, and my desire to love again from the bottom of my heart. Everything is so convenient in the digital society of modern Japan. I feel like people’s souls — their passion and their excitement — are getting weaker. When I deal with people overseas, I feel their passion for life — their soul. It feels like they’re living with every fiber of their being, and that’s given me energy and stimulated me. It’s also made me recognize that I’ve been getting weaker. When I wrote the song, I felt this spirit of, “Okay, here we go!!”

In July, you travelled to various countries in Asia to promote SEE HEAR LOVE. What were the reactions from local fans and media like?

Tomohisa Yamashita: I was welcomed really warmly. I felt grateful and also felt a strong desire to visit even more places. The whole atmosphere of the shows I appeared on during the promotional tour — the tempo, the language, the structure, the background music — felt different than Japan. It was a good experience. I hope to be able to visit countries in Asia again and to really bond with my fans there.

So Sweet Vision is your first step to becoming a border-spanning musician.

Tomohisa Yamashita: It (going global) will take a lot of energy and time, but I’ve got the determination, so I’ll keep sharing what I have with the world, led by this powerful ambition.

Going forward, what kinds of projects would you like to take on as an actor?

Tomohisa Yamashita: I’d like to maintain a good balance of sweeter works and more evocative works. If all you do is make sweet works, it just becomes sugary. You need to add a little spice. I’d love to be able to work on all kinds of projects in all kinds of locations with all kinds of directors.

–This interview by Mariko Ikitake first appeared on Billboard Japan

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