Shinya Mizoguchi used to loathe the start of the week. “Everybody hates Monday. It’s not a positive day of the week,” he says via Skype from his home in Los Angeles. His perspective changed over the past year, however, when he quit his job as a project manager at a tech company to focus solely on his musical endeavors as starRo.
Now, he sees the positives of Monday, so much so that his first full-length album is named after it.
“People are motivated, and it’s easy to get a hold of people,” he says. “That’s when things start rolling.”
“Monday,” which is out now internationally and will be sold in Japan from Oct. 26, serves as a confirmation that starRo can certainly stand on his own two feet. Originally a Tokyo-based creator juggling art with a regular job, Mizoguchi relocated to LA, where he says the starRo project really got going. He used music website SoundCloud to share original songs and bootleg remixes melding R&B, jazz and beat music together into what many now refer to as “future R&B,” eventually hooking up with LA-based music collective Soulection, who pushed his tunes to an even broader audience.
“I wasn’t sure I could make a living off of music,” Mizoguchi admits. But then he started touring more and more, and found he was pulling in solid money (and using up his vacation days at work).
Mizoguchi has seen his stock rise since leaving his day job. He has teamed up with Japanese major label Toy’s Factory for the release of “Monday.” He’s constantly zig-zagging around the globe for shows. Actress Chloe Grace Moretz tweeted about his playful song “Yams” to her 2-million-plus followers earlier this summer. The week before we talk, Mizoguchi went to New York for an interview and performance on “Sway in the Morning,” an influential radio show hosted by former MTV reporter Sway Calloway.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” he says of his radio appearance. “Sway is an iconic MTV host and I grew up watching MTV. Just being in the same room, but also being there as a guest, and getting interviewed and giving a guest mix was definitely insane.”
Despite all these developments, Mizoguchi didn’t deliberately make any major changes to his sound for “Monday.” It’s still very much a “modern interpretation of R&B and soul music,” as he puts it, full of clattering beats, shimmering synth melodies and pitched-up vocal dollops. It’s not far removed from his previous EPs and SoundCloud tracks, but Mizoguchi thinks the idea of changing just to appear more experimental isn’t for him.
“When I listen to music, I don’t sit down and analyze what all of these people are doing. I’m just trying to vibe with music,” he says. “I left all my ego as an artist and made something I would enjoy as a listener. I feel like this is the first project where I really achieved that purpose.”
Key to his future-leaning style, though, are soulful singers, who bring human warmth to his creations. Nearly every song on “Monday” features a vocalist, the bulk hailing from LA as Mizoguchi says he prefers going into the studio together so they could be on the same page (for the few songs where they worked long distance, he says he got lucky — everybody killed it). One of the biggest names making a guest appearance on his debut is J-pop singer Chara, who provides vocals on “Kakurenbo” (“Hide and Seek”), available on the Japanese release.
“I’ve been a huge fan of her for a long time. For me, she is the Erykah Badu of Japan,” he says. After Chara and her management approved of the demo track, the two plotted out ideas via email. They then spent half a day in Tokyo recording her singing.
“It was more about the melody, which I kind of like. I’m more musical, I like lyrics that really sound musical. She’s exactly that kind of artist,” he says.
That collaboration came about primarily because of Toy’s Factory, who could get the two in touch. Mizoguchi thinks being connected to a major label in Japan is a necessity, whereas in the U.S. he believes artists can remain independent and thrive.
“Working with Toy’s Factory makes sense to me, it’s a great way to achieve some of my creative desires,” he says. “The Chara thing is one of those great examples.”
Yet the path the starRo project followed to reach these heights appears to be closed now. The same week Mizoguchi traveled to New York, his SoundCloud account was hacked and his account began reposting a bunch of random tracks. Although he admits it isn’t a huge deal — “I’ve been really busy, so I haven’t touched SoundCloud” — it did lead him to tweet about the “good times” for the music sharing site, emphasis on the past tense.
In 2013 and 2014, he says it was about “sharing music, joining a community, without having to worry about any of this business bulls—-. Remixes are always the starting point for electronic producers, if you’re a nobody. People are always looking for different versions, so it’s a very good way to take off.”
Mizoguchi adds, however, that major labels have entered the picture and are cracking down on those remixing their artists’ work while simultaneously using the site as another way to promote already established names.
“I have two strikes, and I had to take down all of my remixes,” he says. “And that’s how I made myself who I am right now.”
Mizoguchi stresses he is forever thankful for the site, but thinks younger artists shouldn’t rely on just one site in order to share music.
“With SoundCloud going downhill, the thing I’ve learned is that you can’t rely on just one platform. That’s all you really can do, especially when you don’t have something like SoundCloud. You have to wait for a platform like that to happen again.”
For Mizoguchi, though, things are looking up. “Monday” has charted well on the iTunes charts, and he has a slew of dates — including a few in Japan — coming up for the rest of the year. And he hopes to spread some positive feelings to those who are still not fond of the start of the week.
“I hope those who don’t like Mondays will when they hear this album, they get motivated. This album is all about the positive and good vibes.”
“Monday” is on sale internationally and will be released in Japan on Oct. 26. For more information, visit starRo’s SoundCloud page at soundcloud.com/starro.
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