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Merlion Marks 15 Years of Solo Activities: The Ideal Path to Pursuing His Musical Passion




Merlion is a prolific and personable singer-songwriter known for his direct and sincere delivery of messages through his music. In addition to his musical pursuits, he has been consistently updating his podcast for over five years, showcasing his talent as a conversational entertainer. Merlion is also a multi-artist, involved in the design of artwork and merchandise, and organizing various projects and events with the help of those around him.

He began his career in 2009 with the theme “smiling while listening,” and this year marks his 15th anniversary. His career is built on a strong desire to create, take action, and, above all, entertain people. His sixth full album, “Gokigen,” released in May 2024, is a culmination of his journey, supported by those he has met along the way. It is his first self-produced band sound album, aiming to be a definitive pop album and an introductory piece for new listeners.

To coincide with this milestone, we are presenting an interview that serves as an introduction to Merlion. Reflecting on his 15-year career, we discuss not only his album but also his recent 7-inch release featuring Yasuji Miura (□□□), his solo concert at Shibuya WWW in Tokyo, and his jacket/artwork exhibition “Gokigen-ten” at HMV Record Shop Shibuya. These projects highlight his plans for the year. I, too, have been captivated by his cheerful and passionate personality, as well as his music.

Born on Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) and raised in Yokohama, Merlion is a singer-songwriter and the head of NIYANIYA RECORDS. Since 2009, he has been actively performing live, producing music, writing, acting, and podcasting, crossing genre boundaries primarily in Tokyo. To date, he has released a total of 12 albums through diskunion/DIW label MY BEST!, Sogabe Keiichi’s ROSE RECORDS, and his own label, NIYANIYA RECORDS. His latest full album, “Gokigen” (2024), was released digitally on May 22, 2024. On June 12, 2024, he will release a 7-inch record, “Umi e Umi e Umi e,” featuring a remix by Kosui Miura (□□□). From June 15 to June 30, 2024, HMV Record Shop Shibuya 2nd floor Bankrobber LABO will host a jacket and artwork exhibition “Gokigen-ten” with 17 participating artists. To commemorate his 15th anniversary, he will hold a solo show at Shibuya WWW on June 27, 2024.

A Quick Look Back at Merlion’s Journey

-Looking back on your career to date, what phase do you think Merlion is in now?

Merlion: We are in the fourth phase. The first phase was from the age of 16, when I started performing under the name Merlion, until I graduated from high school in 2011. At that time, I met many people who later became successful, such as Hirohisa Katoh (Inokashira Gramophone), who also participated in this album, atagi (Awecome City Club), Sekai Kan Ozaki of Creep Hype, and Kaonashi Hasegawa, and I received a lot of stimulation. I was very much inspired by them. I also asked Noko-san (Sacred Stickman) to write the obi comment for my second album “Nichijo” (2012). As for my musicality, it was a period in which I was just screaming out with an impulse I didn’t understand, while being terrible at singing and playing instruments.

-Did you always think of doing it as Merlion from that time on?

Merlion: No, I never thought about it, and many times I wanted to change my name (laughs). I applied for the audition “Senko Riot” held by “SCHOOL OF LOCK!” (TOKYO FM) at the time, and I failed in the second round, but my song was played on the radio. After that, I posted on Yahoo! Chiebukuro, “I can’t forget the song that was played at what time last month on ‘SCHOOL OF LOCK! I don’t know whose song it was, but it was definitely mine.

-That’s a great story. What is the second phase of the project like?

Merlion: It was a period when I was ready to start my music career. I made a live album “19 Sai” (2013) and started hosting events every two months at Colored Jam (now Music Bar rpm) in Shimokitazawa. Wataru Sawabe (Skirt) and Satoko Shibata also performed at these events.

-This April, you remastered and re-released “19 Sai,” which contains live performances of Merlion in their rough teenage years.

Merlion: Keiichi Sogabe praised the album at the time and invited us to a joint recording event. So I wanted to take this opportunity of the 15th anniversary to give it another listen.

-After that, from November 2014 to January 2015, we released three consecutive albums in three consecutive months: “Bukitaibun Dake Boku ni Tsuyoku Naru,” “Boy Meets Girl,” and “Ma Toda Rai Toda Ooong! and there were also three consecutive months of album releases.

Merlion: I feel that this is also the second phase of the project. The year before, tofubeats released his first album “lost decade” (2013) as if it was his graduation project from college, so I took a cue from him and finished it just as I was graduating from college.

-That’s a hell of a creative drive.

Merlion: I guess it was a reaction to that, I fell into a slump for a year or two and couldn’t write any songs.

The third phase started in April 2015, when I entered my current lifestyle of usually working and doing music. Then I managed to get out of the slump and made “Bara Ice” (2018). It was around this time that I finally became conscious of making music properly instead of “screaming”.

-I first encountered Merlion’s music in “Bara Ice”. I had the impression that he sang honest and cute songs. And what about the latest fourth season?

Merlion: it’s from 2019 through Corona Disaster to the present. I’ve come to realize that I’m good at a lot of things, not just music. First of all, I started a podcast “Merlion’s Niya Niya Radio” in May 2019, which I’m still doing. It was also during this time that I started working on merchandise. I like that people are happy with the projects I come up with, and with the actions and results that come along with it, I’ve been able to work hard like a fish out of water.

-What made you think you were suited for this job?

Merlion: Ever since I started performing live at the age of 16, I have always been more determined than others to entertain the audience, and I have been speaking desperately as an MC. So speaking alone was the best way for me to express myself. Also, right after the disaster, there came a period of time when I could not perform live at the Corona Disaster, so I could not let my speaking ability decline during that time! I also felt that I could not let my ability to talk wane during that period!



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