With a captivating clear and deep voice, Yui Nishio (ゆいにしお) stands out in the Japanese pop scene with her blend of nostalgic and modern sound, and notably, her vivid lyrics that capture the everyday life and emotions of Japanese youth.

Despite being a relatively new face, making her major debut in October 2022 with the album tasty city, Yui Nishio has already gained broad recognition and been featured in adventure anime series such as “Shin no Nakama” and “Eiyuuou“. Recently, she released her second full-length album titled, weekday, which continues to capture listeners with the charm of everyday life portrayal.

Let’s dive in as we explore Yui Nishio’s unique inspirations from her roots in Shibuya kei and folk music, and discover how her international fans motivated her to release an English version of her hit anime song, routine life.

Could you tell us about your musical style and influences?

I was influenced by this kind of music that’s known as Shibuya kei. It’s a pop genre that I got to know through my father when I was a child. As for specific artists, I can name a few examples, like Tatsuro Yamashita, Pizzicato Five, and Kenji Ozawa.

My own music has gradually morphed in style, but in the beginning, it was folk. As I was writing folk songs, I was also inspired by an artist called HAPPY END, which kept my mind centered on this acoustic flavor of sound.

I’m now weaving in Shibuya kei from my childhood roots more and more these days, and I try not to remain too particular about any genre when I write. I can say that the themes running through all my work are the lyrics that I hope resonates with the day-to-day lives of women of my generation.

I see, and you mentioned influences from “Shibuya kei”, how would you describe this genre?

Shibuya kei is pretty loosely defined. I’m not sure how fans who are really into the genre would feel if I were to give my own take here…

For me, it’s the entirety of the movement that occurred in Shibuya, Tokyo between the 1980s and 1990s. There’s a lot of influence from western music, and it feels slightly distant from all the Jpop that led up to it. In a way, it points to a genre that’s kind of rebellious and cynical.

I mean this all in a good way! I love how you can catch glimpses of the flippant attitudes of the youth during that era, as they saw a familiar cityscape begin to change.

Even today, there are huge redevelopments in Shibuya that keep transforming the city. I think about how the youth of today can still carry those same emotions from the past. These are the feelings that draw me to Shibuya kei.

While you don’t remain too particular about any genre today, what was it that drew you into blending folk and funky pop tunes?

With folk songs that I listened to, like the ones by HAPPY END, the music was fantastic. But the songs that I love the most are the ones with lyrics that I can relate to. I suppose you could say that I didn’t really connect with the lyrics from HAPPY END. I felt like I understood them, but they didn’t resonate with me.

It was important for me to work on material that could connect with the lives of women of my generation. I felt that if I blended this with folk songs that I grew up with, it would lead to this new style that felt fresh but was still easy to listen to and absorb.

ゆいにしお「セルフハグ・ビッグラヴ (Selfhug Biglove)」Official Music Video―TVアニメ「英雄王、武を極めるため転生す 〜そして、世界最強の見習い騎士♀〜」ED曲

Reflecting even further back, would you mind sharing what led you to pursue a career in music in the first place?

I was 19 years old when I decided to pursue my career as Yui Nishio, so it’s been seven years now. Back then, I wanted to form a band and had even joined student activity groups during college looking for other musicians. But I wasn’t great at chatting with strangers, and I ended up being shy and unable to recruit members for my band [laughs]. So, I did what I could as a solo act, and that was the start of Yui Nishio

It turns out, I felt surprisingly comfortable performing on my own. I also did end up playing in a band from time to time, and I learned that I preferred to create my own world rather than work with other people. From there, I wrote many songs and played live, and after several auditions, I landed on my current management and got to where I am today.

And these days, you’ve been featured in anime, like “Eiyuuou”, and recently on “Shin no Nakama” with the opening theme song, “routine life”. Could you tell us about the song “routine life” and how you accommodated it to the anime?

The biggest aspect that sets apart my songs for anime, from the rest of my work, is the story that’s already been written by the anime’s source material. My songwriting is usually based on observations from my own everyday life that I jot down on my phone. I then take these piecemeal thoughts and piece them all together into a song, like a collage.

With anime, I need to really read into the original story and extract a few things that I think would make for good ingredients for me to digest and turn into my kind of music. So the approaches are a little different.

Hm… I guess the common thread between the two processes is that connection that I try to make between my life and those of my audience. Even with a backstory already in place, I never completely reproduce the anime universe and rather aim to write with lyrics that tie back to my own life in mind.

Does “routine life” also reflect the characters in the anime in any way?

This is my second time writing for Shin no Nakama. Since I also wrote the opening theme back in season 1, I felt even more drawn to the characters.

In season 2, the main character Ruti abandons her season 1 role as Hero for a carefree life, in a completely different environment. She leaves a hard job. It was a rewarding job, but it was also stressful. As I thought about ways to convey this imagery of being liberated from painful responsibilities, I thought about how people in real life who pour their hearts into their work could one day hit a breaking point. I think a lot of us have experienced this.

The song reaches out to the people who’ve found themselves in this position, and it also remains true to the messaging from the original story. I think the way these elements tie together remains in my mind.

ゆいにしお「routine life」Official Music Video

Similar to how the main characters in “Shin no Nakama” are pursuing their ideal lifestyle, if you could choose, what would your ideal lifestyle look like?

Hm… If I were to pick an ideal lifestyle, I’d like to live in a home that’s a little bigger than the one I’m in now [laughs]. Right… I need to be realistic about finances and all that, but if I truly had a choice, I’d like to be somewhere in Tokyo that’s lush with nature. I could get greedy and say I want to build a big place that still has quick access to the Shibuya and Shinjuku neighborhoods [laughs]. And it would have room for a home studio, which would let me work on my music as I’d go about my day.

I also want to get a big dog [laughs].

So even in an ideal lifestyle, you would still continue working?

Yes, that’s right. I’d like to keep working.

There are times when it’s hard to be both a full-time employee and a musician. But the essences from work definitely feed into my lyrics. I suppose I can be employed in some form of work that’s not necessarily a full-time role, but I feel I’d like to keep working as I pursue my career as a musician.

That’s very inspiring, and we imagine as an artist with folk influences, it’s not easy to navigate the anime music landscape that is largely dominated by fast-paced pop rock songs.

When I first received the offer of penning a song for an anime, I also had the impression that I had to write a brisk, intense piece that we typically associate with opening themes. But then I realized that if the creators wanted that kind of music, they probably wouldn’t have thought of Yui Nishio when making the request! So I wrote it with the mindset of remaining entirely true to myself, and that’s how the theme for season 1 of Shin no Nakama came about.

We all wondered what kind of feedback we’d actually receive once the series began airing. We heard that people felt it sounded close to anime music from the 2000s. They couldn’t place a finger on the genre, but it fit with the vibes of the anime. Much of the responses were quite positive. These voices made me feel so relieved that I decided to keep writing songs for other anime, like Eiyuuou, and season 2 of Shin no Nakama, in my own style. I fell into a place that’s both a breath of fresh air and at the same time laced with a bit of nostalgia.

I don’t have much experience writing music for battle scenes in anime. You could say that it’s not my style to write combat music. Well, maybe I don’t really know, and it’s just that I haven’t written anything like it. I’m not sure if I’ve reached this level yet, but I think I can meld with the anime more by thinking closely about the lives of each character [laughs].

Do you intend to pursue more opportunities in the anime scene?

Hm, there’s nothing finalized yet for my next move in the anime scene. I do feel like I want to work on more projects for anime. Because the songs I’ve written have all tied into everyday life, and because the source material mostly came from light novels, I’d also like to contribute to other genres of anime.

We hope to see that happen, and so far, your music has been primarily in Japanese, but “routine life” has received an English version. Can you tell us more about that?

This is the first time I’ve recorded an English version. It was actually my manager suggested this.

Around the time I had worked on the music for Season 1 of Shin no Nakama, we saw a huge growth in international listeners. Most comments coming in on YouTube were in English. On my livestreams on Instagram, there were so many people commenting and even requesting, “Sing Beautiful Day!” that even fans in Japan posted their comments in English [laughs]. With so many listeners overseas, I wanted to approach my music in a language other than Japanese, and I decided to include the English version on the album.

ゆいにしお「routine life (English Ver.)」Official Audio―TVアニメ「真の仲間 2nd」オープニングテーマ

What were some challenges when performing the English version?

English isn’t my native language, and I don’t have much experience speaking it either, so I struggled with the pronunciation. I got help translating the lyrics from Azusa Suga, who’s written a lot of lyrics for his own band. His interpretations were close to how I’d pronounce the original lyrics in Japanese, so that made things easier to sing for me. At the end of the day, it was all for naught if you couldn’t make out what I was saying, so I looked up ways to pronounce each word on Google several times before they stuck in my head.

Pronouncing words in English was an important piece, but during recording, MIZU GUCCI, who worked on the song’s arrangement, reminded me that remaining true to the nuances from the Japanese version would give my English singing more weight. I kept in mind the emotions I’d felt from my Japanese lyrics and tried not to deviate too far from them.

The English version of “routine life” is also included in your second full-length album, “weekday”, that was just released last month in March. What are the things you’d like the listeners to pay attention with this new album?

As the title states, this album weekday is about the things we associate with as we go about our week. As such, I’d like listeners to pay close attention to the contents of the lyrics, which I’ve packed with emotions from my own weekdays. Some parts may or may not align with the experiences of the listeners, but it will make me happy if they at least serve as triggers for recalling some fond memories for everyone.

In terms of the songs, I think the previous records had a distinct live band sound, but there’s more use of pre-programmed tracks this time around. There are moments when my singing feels relaxed and others when I have to stay pretty tight with the programmed beats, so I hope people take note of the contrast in my voice.

What did you want to achieve with this particular album?

It filled me with joy to be able to write with artists and music arrangers whom I’ve wanted to work with. For example, I’ve been listening to music by Haruno, and I was so happy to have him arrange the third track Sakura. Also, bringing in music arrangers whom I’d worked with previously, I feel like the album pursued new sounds while still retaining the classic characteristics of Yui Nishio

ゆいにしお「さくら」Official Audio

With the release of your second album, “weekday”, do you find that your relationship with music has changed over time?

At the core, I think it’s mostly been the same, but the things I’ve tried to express through music have seen gradual changes. In the past, I wrote songs like I would entries in a journal. “These are the things that happened today”, or “I’d been so hurt from this romantic relationship”. It was as if I were reading out of my diary.

Little by little, I introduced stories about my friends. Or I’d scroll through social media and write songs that reflect what people there are feeling. On top of these, I’d pull out that diary and extra words or scenes that I think people could relate to and work those into the lyrics. My music started out as just my own diary, and now it’s transformed into a journal that we all log together.

Considering the everyday life aspect that “weekday” explores, how does your music help people cope with their everyday life?

I’d love to hear directly from people who feel supported by my music [laughs].

Like what I just mentioned, I hope that people will hear about my many pleasures of going about my week from the lyrics throughout [the album] weekday. They don’t need to empathize with me on every observation, but I’d want my lyrics to be reminders of their own day-to-day or the things they used to love growing up. The moments that bring us joy probably didn’t change that much as we age, so maybe we’d recreate them after tapping into our memories, or maybe return to a familiar place to feel reinvigorated. It would make me happy if my music nudges people to make that one small step forward.

As for yourself, in your everyday life, have you found yourself drawn to any new hobbies or interests?

I’m into craft beers [laughs]! I’ve always liked beer, but I started drinking craft beers sometime last year. As I discovered several beer bars, breweries, and microbreweries in Japan, I got so into craft beers that I ended up qualifying for a grade 3 license as a certified Japanese beer expert.

That’s incredible. Craft beer is quite trendy in Japan these days, right?

That’s right. It’s gaining popularity these days. I like going to beer bars on my own, and noticed that there are several women patrons about my age there. It’s not all folks who are older than me anymore. The pastime seems to be making its way into the younger generation too.

Can you share any memorable experiences or highlights from your performances or interactions with fans?

At my shows in Japan last year, I noticed the different ways fans connect with my music. These expressions really come out in a live setting and help me realize which parts of each song resonate with the listeners.

I also appreciate through social media the lengths fans go to explore their own ways of having fun. For example, I often post choreography for my own songs on TikTok, and I was shocked to find that multiple people perfectly copied the dances, move-for-move. I should probably put a little more effort into coming up with the moves [laughs]!

Lastly, please share a message to our readers overseas.

Thank you for always listening to music from Yui Nishio.

Since most of my lyrics are in Japanese, it might be difficult for many of you to follow along in a foreign language. But reading over all your comments, I deeply appreciate how you interpret and absorb each word. In the future, I hope to be able to write songs entirely in English and even tour overseas. If I ever have shows in your country, please come see me.

And I hope you keep enjoying my music!

Just like Yui Nishio’s music, our conversation was interesting and relaxed, and hopefully this interview captures that as well. We want to extend our thanks to Yui Nishio for taking her time to chat with us.

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  2. yyyymmdd
  3. routine life
  4. さくら
  5. アイシャドウ
  6. おいしい温度
  7. 帰り道ランウェイ
  8. me&cat
  9. morning walk
  10. BFF
  11. routine life (English Ver.)
  2. mid-20s
  3. スパイスガール
  4. sun shade
  5. チートデイ
  6. suitcase
  7. Rough Driver
  8. パレード
  9. 息を吸う ここで吸う 生きてく
  10. スポットライト
  11. タッチミー (2022 Ver.)
  12. ワンダーランドはすぐそばに