Interview with lecca
After the release of her fourth full album 'City Caravan', JaME held an interview with the young reggae/dancehall singer-songwriter.
Thank you very much for granting us this interview. For our readers who aren't familiar with you yet, could you please introduce yourself?
lecca: It’s nice to meet you. I’m lecca, a singer and a songwriter.
When did you first think you wanted to try a career in music? Was there a certain someone or a specific event that made you decide this?
lecca: I had a vague dream when I was a 19- or 20-year-old college student. Meeting a lot of people was what really prompted me to pursue a career in music, I think. I participated in a singing club and often met organizers, singers, rappers, DJs, seniors, friends and even teachers. And I met people in Canada and the US. Because of all of those people, I am who I am now.
What attracts you to reggae music? In general, it's not a mainstream genre in Japan, so what made you decide to go into this direction?
lecca: Huh? I thought that reggae is a very popular genre in Japan. I thought 'American country music', which is another genre I like, is quite minor... I think what caused my addiction to reggae is that a Rastaman in Canada told me "reggae is free, so sing as you like." No matter what style, no matter what language, everything is okay. I fell in love with that broad-mindedness of being able to do whatever I can express.
How do you usually compose your songs?
lecca: I'm part of the 90's generation, who listened to records, so basically I make a track (riddim) first. Then I look at the instrumental part and play it really loud while I think about what kind of song I'll put on it. I like to add chorus rather than a solo vocal.
Who are some of your musical influences?
lecca: I could never even come close to his music, but I think no one is better than Ludacris, with his tricky lyrics, flow and earnest message. He is persuasive, but his sounds are perfect. He is a king. Mary J. Blige expresses sentiments particular to females. If I talk about reggae, Chevelle Franklyn, who made some of us think she was a sister of Aretha. As for dancehall, Sean Paul, who sang in a peculiar way and quite druggy, Buju who could change his expressions as he liked, Lady Saw who sang aggressive songs praising females, and the earnest, warm messages of RYO THE SKYWALKER. As for making tracks, it changes, but I was influenced by hip hop a lot.
Do you have any specific themes or messages you would like to transmit with your songs?
lecca: I want to say that there is not only one solution. There is no rule. If you don’t give up but keep trying you will find a way. Don't talk down others, but praise yourself. Never look down on nor attack others, but try to work hard to become a better human.
It is said that you write your songs like you would write in your diary. Have you ever felt uncomfortable with the thought of displaying your private feelings to an audience?
lecca: I have never felt that writing songs was painful. I think that I want to reveal myself more. It's more painful to me to be remembered by only one song: "lecca is like this". I'm human, so am multi-faceted. I'm weak, but sometimes strong. If you picked up just my strong side and said "Never show any weak behaviour because you are a strong woman!" I would object firmly. I would say, "Don't you know that the female heart is like an autumn sky?!" I also write like my diary, but recently I sometimes write about stories that I hear from my friends and so on. I like to set the scene like a drama and express the feelings of the main character. So I always think I might be better to be a creator than a singer, because I have too many sides.
On your Otaku girls no Utage and Urban Pirates album, there are a few songs centered on giving confidence and courage to girls, such as the song What a Girl Can Do. Have you ever experienced problems as a woman in the Japanese music industry, which seems to be mostly dominated by men?
lecca: Before I entered the music world, I experienced a lot. Whenever in Japan, Canada or New York, when a singer sings in a club, there is sometimes a girl who gets along with a person of importance and climbs up the stairs of success. There are cases in which a girl who goes out to a party to find a special supporter finds the way to success earlier than the girl who works hard making songs everyday. And also, there are many men who tell lies, offering connections and opportunities to attract these girls. I wrote that song as I wanted to cheer on those girls and tell them not to get hurt easily by those men, because I know there is a lot of that out there.
In this period after your graduation, you stayed in New York and Toronto for about half a year, where you also performed in local clubs. How was this experience for you? Do you think that you learned something by being part of the US music scene that you wouldn't have in Japan?
lecca: I have never been good at performing, but did it for people around me telling me to. I think I sang while concentrating on putting my heart and soul into songs like "just listen to me!", but looking back now, I'm a little embarrassed. Every day, I was asked to sing suddenly whenever I was in a club, café, studio, room, or in a car, so I simply thought American (or Canadian) people were awesome. Often after I sang there I was asked to perform so that kind of flow in a conversation seemed very real and natural. I learned a lot from their attitudes.
Speaking of the overseas countries, would you like to perform overseas as well? Which countries would you like to perform in, and why?
lecca: Well, putting the word 'performance' aside, I want to go to Africa, India, Asia, or Morocco, where the traditional music was formed and established. And I want to play with people in those places. I also want to touch folk music connected to prayers and festivals.
At the end of July, you released your third full album, City Caravan. Did you have a concept in mind before starting this album? If so, which and how did you realise it?
lecca: As the title shows, the concept is to become one of a caravan and travel in daily life. Originally, I thought of the idea about four years ago when I made the oldest song, City Caravan, for this album. My prompt was that I thought Tokyo had everything but it was similar to the desert because it was difficult to live in.
Upon listening to the album, it becomes clear that this album has a 'gentler' sound than your previous albums. Was this softer sound a conscious decision, or something that just happened while working on the album?
lecca: I think it's because of my age... I'm less edgy than when I was 20 years old. Now I'm not able to attack society or other people because I found out that I have weak points too. Now, the music which I listen to has vocals that stand out more. Five years ago, I always listened to dancehall music, but this year I listen to jah cure, daville, alaine, kevin micheal, kevin lyttle... I still like dancehall, but I think the mode of my wave lowing in that direction now. I want to be healed and I want to heal others. (laugh)
The artwork for the album gives off a nomadic impression and so does the title City Caravan. What is the story behind the title?
lecca: It was a song title rather than album title. And it was also the core of the concept. I imagined nomads, but I rather imagined the herds in the desert: the Bedouin. The Bedouin are still living in the desert. They treasure their family, their lives, respect their elders, and teach children what is precious. While I’m living in Tokyo, I love my family, and I want to listen to the words of my respectable seniors, and I always think I don’t want to hand down wrong things to children.
The song CIRCUIT BUS has been produced by Jamaican producer Christopher Birch and features the group Voicemail. Could you tell us how this collaboration came about?
lecca: I originally wanted to play a song with Voicemail, and I approached them from last year. When I asked them if we could work together, which riddim was better for them, oniel gave me the name Birch and said that he was no problem at all. The "Military riddim" which was popular at that time was produced by Birch, so I asked him "can he work with us?" and he said "he'll do it because he is a good man!" and that's how it was decided!
The PV ai&lie&wine, which is also included on the album, looks quite different from your previous videos. Why did you choose for this type of PV with lots of dancers, instead of your usual story-type promotional video?
lecca: I like promotional videos that have a story, but with ai&lie&wine, I think that it was thanks to my friends' dancers who performed in it that this video was possible. When I made the song, I imagined a picture in my head where they all appeared provoking the camera. There were some shots and camera work that I wanted to try, but I'm not a director, but I'll try that someday...
The song City Caravan III is split up in two parts, Ieji hajime and Ieji Owari. Could you tell us something about the meaning of these songs and why there are two parts?
lecca: Uhm, this was a suggestion of my director, so there is not any real reason. But I can say that if it were one song, it would have been too long to be the interlude.
The song BELLE EPOQUE features MC Diggy-MO’ of SOUL’d OUT. What was it like to work with him? Who was responsible of which part of the song?
lecca: I thought I shouldn’t make songs with people who I respect very much. Just joking. It became a family treasure. I respect Diggy, so I spent sixty times longer than usual when I made this song. It took me so long because... I thought about "I can't make Diggy sing this with a bad track, and when the fans of Diggy listen to it, I want them to say 'It's cool.'" I spent one month making the track, and another month to write the lyrics. Diggy liked the riddim which I made and we both wrote separately after that. We vaguely decided on the theme 'music is best' and then wrote, so it was very hard. And when we actually sang together in the recording, the lyrics weren't natural in a way, so I rewrote my verse after the recording. In the second day of the recording, we entered the same studio. It was so stimulating that Diggy gave me various suggestions like a teacher. The heart of this song are the lyrics of Diggy's verse! Please check these wonderful lyrics whith so much courage to us all.
Out of all the songs, which one was the most difficult and which one was the easiest to make? For what reasons?
lecca: The most difficult song was belle époque by far. The easiest one was... All other songs were easier, I think, but I can’t say that they were easy... Well, I can't think of the easiest one. I’m sorry.
What do you prefer: working in a studio or performing live? Why?
lecca: Of course I like working in a studio. If I could, I only want to make music every day. I’m serious. If someone could perform instead of me, I think I would leave the person to perform.
You performed quite a number of times on various big events in summer. How does it feel to perform in front of a festival crowd rather than at one of your own shows? Do you enjoy introducing your music to new people in this way?
lecca: Though I don't perform often, singing in a big festival is fun and hot. However, the audience is different compared to singing in a club, so it’s a little bit strange. In a club, I can do an MC, look at the people’s faces, throw out things and hand over something. I wonder whether it's fun to spread my music through events? I don't know well.
What are your plans for the future? Do you already have any ideas in mind for any new songs?
lecca: As long as I have time, I make songs every day. It's a shame that I have to limit making songs when I hurt my throat after working so hard. If I can, I want to make two songs a day and make fifty songs this month. Yesterday, I got a sore throat making one and a half songs, so I stopped. And over these next few months, I will go somewhere for a live concert every weekend, so I want to try and make more time to make songs. I said it before too, but I think that I would be happy just concentrating on making music.
Please give a final message for the readers.
lecca: I'm looking for a person to sing my songs! (laugh) Thank you very much for reading the interview. If you are interested in me, please listen to my music.
Thank you for taking your time to answer this interview!
JaME would like to thank lecca and Avex for making this interview possible.