Cuushe is the stage name of Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi. She’s been releasing music from her record label home, Flau Records, since 2009, garnering attention both in Japan and overseas for her synth-laden dream pop and airy vocals. Her latest album, “Waken,” is scheduled for release on Nov. 20, showcasing a bright, brilliant evolution of Hitotsuyanagi’s characteristic style.
1. What did you study at university? My major was English literature. In my seminars, I studied Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth in particular.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a cartoonist. Now, I specialize in reading. When I’m sad, I read comics to escape to a different world. When I read comics, people are surprised that I’m so focused on them that I can’t hear the voices around me.
3. Why did you start making music? I’ve been playing the piano since I was a child, and I started to improvise naturally. But for a long time I had never completed a single song. It wasn’t until a friend recommended that I get some software and I was able to do multiple recordings that I was finally able to finish the song.
4. How did you decide on the name “Cuushe”? From the book “Kutze, Stepp’n on Wheat” by Shinji Ishii. Kutze in Japanese is kūtse (クーツェ) and I misread it as kūshe (クーシェ).
5. What was the first song you ever made? The song called “Laundry” from my first album. I was inspired by the 2002 Japanese film, “Laundry.”
6. Where do you find inspiration? I really want to write songs after watching a movie, or when I hear a beautiful piano piece. And also when I’m feeling sad. That’s where my songs come from.
7. How has COVID-19 affected you and your creativity? I didn’t think it would change much, since I’m often shut in and working, but there are times when COVID-19 makes it even more depressing to not see anyone else. That’s when a song is born.
8. Do you ever feel nervous when performing? I get nervous before I sing, but once I start singing, the nervousness goes away.
10. What’s the one thing you can’t live without? Of course, family and friends. I’m making more phone calls than I used to.
11. What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music? I hope it moves their emotions.
12. How do you feel when you release new music? It’s nerve-wracking, liberating and fun. I feel grateful for all the people involved with the new album right now.
13. Describe your upcoming album in three words. Morning, strength, will.
14. What do you miss about living in Kyoto? Having forests in the neighborhood. It looks like the world of “My Neighbor Totoro.”
15. What do you like about living in Tokyo? I’ve met people with different ways of life, so there’s less of a “this is how it has to be” feeling.
16. What’s your go-to band or artist that you will always listen to? American musician Julianna Barwick.
17. If you could work with any other artist, dead or alive, who would it be? Jeff Buckley.
18. How do overseas fans’ reactions to your music differ from those in Japan? They give us more direct feedback than in Japan. Both live and online. It’s amazing that people from far away are listening to my music.
19. What is your favorite konbini (convenience store) food? Takoyaki (octopus dumplings).
20. If you had one day to yourself, with no responsibilities, what would you do? It’s hard to get together right now, but I’d like to pause the COVID-19 pandemic and have a picnic with my friends.
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