Kylee Interview @ Yoshi's in Oakland June 2013
Recently, Kylee Saunders had a chance to perform her first U.S. headliner at Yoshi's in Oakland, California on June 21, 2013. She performed a number of her hit songs including, "Crazy for You," "Vacancy" from the fantasy-mech anime series Xam'd: Lost Memories, and a surprise and heartfelt cover of Katy Perry's "Firework." Find out what she's been up to since our last interview with her back at the 2012 J-POP Summit Festival in San Francisco, along with her personal impressions of her freshman year at Stanford University.
T-ONO: The crowd seemed very energetic today. How did it feel to perform in front of such a lively audience?
Kylee: It was crazy. I felt more in my element because there were more English songs, so it came more naturally to me, but at the same time, it was more never-wracking because I could not see anybody. It was my first time performing at a jazz club stage, which is completely different than Japanese stages, where everybody rushes the stage and is going crazy while having fun, jumping up and down. It's a little bit different [here] as everyone is sitting back and relaxed while we're rocking out on stage.
T-ONO: Was it different having your friends in the audience?
Kylee: It was definitely fun and I enjoyed it, as I always love singing on stage, but it was even better hearing my friends' shouting their support - even though I couldn't see them. Even though I'm usually shy, they've got [a chance] to see another side of me outside of school.
T-ONO: Since this is your first big gig here in America, how does it feel to have actually accomplished that?
Kylee: It feels good, as I feel like this is my first step and that I'm going to keep pushing forward [with my career]. There are things that when I got off stage I began to think 'Oh I could've done this better, could've done that better', but that's something I usually do anyways. After this performance, I now know what I have to work on more but it's not just because I'm in the States, but because I'm much older now and I'm trying to progress as a person rather than just a nineteen-twenty year old. So now, I can focus on what I need to do now and I want to do it again but better. That's what one of the great things about performing tonight. There's a lot of learning and growth because I always go back and watch the tape to see what I could've done better.
T-ONO: According to your Twitter feed, you were pretty nervous before you got on-stage tonight...
Kylee: Before I was, like thirty minutes before as it was like peaks I hit - and I just happen to hit one of those peaks when I Tweeted that out, to show my fans that I'm human too when I get nervous.
T-ONO: How do you mentally prepare yourself for concerts like this? Any special techniques that you can share with us?
Kylee: I actually called my dad before I went on stage and he managed to calm me down. It usually helps to talk to people who know me - talking to my family or my friends, just letting it all out and having them give me feedback and advice helps. I also say a prayer with my band as that helps too.
T-ONO: Can you explain to us a little bit about how the gig came about?
Kylee: I don't know the full details, but we recently got a booking agent who was looking around for places and talked to different people. Eventually he was able to get it [here]. So it was basically through him.
T-ONO: How did you choose the specific set list for today's concert?
Kylee: I got together with my bandmates and we were prepping the setlist months in advance, particularly talking about what songs we wanted to sing and how we wanted to arrange everything. In the last two weeks or so, we set everything and last week was spent with a lot of rehearsals.
T-ONO: Any personal or special reason why you decided to perform Katy Perry's "Firework"?
Kylee: I picked it because it was a fun pop song that I could connect to the lyrics. The song is mostly about being confident with yourself and loving who you are. Whenever I sing that song, I remember how much I've changed in the past year at Stanford because at first, I was a real big baby about meeting people. But now, I've gotten more confident with myself because of my friends and family as well as my college experiences. Since I met all sorts of different people with their unique qualities and surrounded myself with them, it made me realize that I shouldn't be afraid to be myself and go for what I want. So I chose this song because I felt that it communicated the lessons that I've learned.
T-ONO: Since you just completed your first year at Stanford University, what did you like or not like about it? How have you adjusted to student life?
Kylee: Mainly it was the people that I liked, whether it was the teachers or students that I met. Everyone was so different and had their own special stories, interests and different backgrounds. We all had our ups and downs in life and we all realized that nobody was perfect. Even if they were a bunch of geniuses, they all had the same problems that we did as well as learn that we were all good and bad at different things. When I was at Stanford, I felt like there were so many people who were better at certain things than me but felt that I was better at other things than them. So that really was my favorite part - just meeting new people as I felt that it was worth my time to talk and get to know them.
T-ONO: With meeting all these people from all walks of life, not to mention your experiences in Japan, do you think that it's shaping the direction you want to go in? And do you think you'll be drawing from different types of music and try incorporating it into your own music?
Kylee: Sure, because I feel like I've grown up more and it's shaping my choices when it comes to music, what songs I want to sing and where I want to sing them. I definitely want to become more of an international singer now and I just want to sing songs that are fun rather than stick to one genre of music. As long as the songs are fun to sing and dance to, that's all that matters to me. I definitely want to try different things because what's the point in holding back and not trying when it's not going to hurt anything.
T-ONO: What's been the most difficult thing to adjust to? What steps did you take to adjust?
Kylee: Being away from my family was a killer as I had nights where I was bawling my eyes out because I was so sad and emotional. These instances would always happen after I left them after a break, like when I would get ready to leave and my mom would shoot me a look that just triggered all of these emotions. That was the hardest thing for me as it was a bit different than when I would leave for the summer for Japan, because my family wasn't there. It's definitely been a big push for me to become stronger as a person though because I've realized that this is what it's like to live on your own and that you have to figure it out. Becoming more independent also made me realize that it's okay to be on your own, but I'm not totally alone because I'm surrounded by my friends who help me get back on my feet when I'm feeling down.
T-ONO: What type of advice would you give to any incoming freshmen?
Kylee: I can't really because... Well, maybe that don't feel like it's the end of the world. I don't know, because I feel like every person's experience is totally different from one another's and that we all have to fall down and pick ourselves up when it happens. I guess my advice would be that life goes one, no matter how many walls you hit, there's always a tomorrow so don't put yourself down. Life is not all about grades, school or stressing yourself out because it'll hinder your ability to do more. I think it's better to try to open yourself up to being more optimistic and out there.
T-ONO: You've had a chance to live in the Bay Area for about one year now, have you found any awesome or fun places around the Stanford/Palo Alto area that you like going to?
Kylee: Not really, because when you're at Stanford, you're kind of stuck in a bubble so you don't really have any places to go. I have found some really great crepe places though - like this one place called Crepevine. I went there with one of my best friends as she took me out there for my birthday, they had amazing crepes so I recommend going there. There's also the Stanford Theatre, which is an incredible old-style theater. I went there about two months ago for the first time and watched 'On the Waterfront', which is an old, classy black and white film. I'm really glad to have gone there. I don't really go out much but when I do, I usually go to San Francisco or Los Angeles, rather than roam around Palo Alto though there are more places now that I think about it. I also go to frozen yogurt places as well as a hot chocolate place called Monique's (Monique's Chocolates). There is also a gelato place, but I can't remember the name of it...
T-ONO: What's been the most memorable experience of the past year?
Kylee: That's too hard as there's been so many this past year, so I can't just pick one. I've learned a lot, but I can say that this has been one of the best years of my life - even though I haven't lived very long. I've grown so much as well as fallen really hard at many points this year. But I've been surrounded by many people and friends to help me so I feel really blessed.
T-ONO: You recently performed a duet with Sam Tsui in May 2013, how did that come about?
Kylee: It kind of came about through manager relations, I think. It was basically like [Sam Tsui's manager], "Oh hi, how are you doing and who are you working with?" and then my manager was like "Oh I'm working on this with my artist..." and then they started talking until things just happened from there.
T-ONO: Are there any other artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Kylee: There are a ton but I'd be open to collaborating with anyone. The fun thing about collaborating is collaborating with people who are different from you, especially since you can 'feed off of one another'. I guess any artist who's not 'not' working on the same kind of music as me would be cool.
T-ONO: Are there any upcoming projects that you can discuss with us?
Kylee: On July 1st, my album Seventeen (17) comes out and has two cover songs in Japanese, but I recorded them in English. One is called "Bluebird" and the other is called "Sanbun no Ichi no Ginjo no Kanjo" (sp?), which are both really famous anime songs. Also my song, "Crazy for You" but in English. And the songs will be available in twenty different countries on iTunes, which is like my first step towards being more international because it's difficult to get your songs out in the Japanese market which is kind of frustrating. So I'm really glad about this.
T-ONO: Do you have any messages for your fans who couldn't make it to tonight's concert?
Kylee: Hi O-Network readers and Kylee fans, this is Kylee. And I am currently at Yoshi's where I just finished my performance with my band and was so much fun. For those of you who couldn't come, don't worry as I'll be doing a lot more in the San Francisco area as well as more internationally. I have a new release coming out on July 1st, so look out for that and I'll be releasing a lot more things from here on out. So definitely come check out my things and I hope to develop more of a relationship with my fans so check my Twitter, my Instagram, my Facebook and all that good stuff. I hope to see you guys soon. Bye!
Interview conducted by J.M. Alcala and Jason Young of The-O Network Online.