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Singer-songwriter Shihori discusses music, mutation, and ‘borderless’ style

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Shihori performing at the Game On Expo in downtown Phoenix.
Shihori performing at the Game On Expo in downtown Phoenix.

Shihori is a prolific singer, songwriter, and composer with hundreds of credits to her name. She has written numerous songs for artists such as Momoiro Clover Z and Nana Mizuki, as well as for anime series Fairy Tale, Princess Connect! Re: Dive, Tomodachi Game and many more. She performed at the 2023 Game On Expo over the weekend in downtown Phoenix.

Born with deafness in one ear, a form of dwarfism, and Asperger’s Syndrome, Shihori is no stranger to overcoming adversity and personal struggles. Her music conveys messages of self-acceptance and inner strength within a pop genre, especially in her latest album Mutation. She has recently collaborated with artists such as Zaid Tabani and performed at the Evolution tournament series this year.

Shihori sat down with Nerdvana over the weekend to discuss her career, challenges, and hopes for her future as a music artist.

(The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Shihori performing at the Game On Expo in downtown Phoenix.

Nerdvana: If someone were to approach you today, how would you describe yourself to them?

Shihori: I’m a singer/songwriter from Japan. I’ve written many anime songs, game songs, idol songs, and music. I came to the U.S. in 2018. New York first, then moved to LA about three years ago.

Nerdvana: What prompted you to move? [from Japan]

Shihori: There are so many reasons. First of all, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, so I couldn’t get along with other people and was really kind of a difficult child for everyone. So I was bullied. It was really hard to get along with people. But my mom used to tell me that “You’ll probably be more successful in America.” So I started to think maybe I wanted to move to the U.S. some day, when I was little, but I wanted to be successful in Japan.

I succeeded certainly as a songwriter, but it was always somehow very hard for me to succeed as an artist for very, very long years. That was really frustrating. Although I was really happy that people appreciated my talent as a songwriter, but I wasn’t satisfied because my focus was always to be a singer.

Nerdvana: So you went to New York first, now you’re in Los Angeles. Why did you go from one coast to another? Was it just a need for a change?

Shihori: Well at first I didn’t know anything about America, so I didn’t even know where New York was! (laughs) But I had this image from Glee when the characters say “Oh let’s go to New York, let’s aim for New York.” and thought “Oh my god, that sounds really nice!” I went there, but it was very tough and most of the time I was there, it was [during] COVID.

Nerdvana: How was that? Being away from your original home and in some place entirely new to you?

Shihori: Yeah it was really scary! It was really bad. Also I was in a very bad relationship at the time unfortunately. So I lost all my confidence at some point and I’d almost given up my career. I lost all my energy. Somehow I left there, still during COVID times, and started to work with people online.

I found out that people, music producers or people in the pop market industry are all in Los Angeles. I couldn’t find friends, like artist friends, with similar styles to me in New York. I found out my genre was very different. So no pop people, or very few, just Broadway or jazz or hip-hop or classical. So it was hard to find friends. I moved [to LA] and now have many friends there!

Shihori performing at the Game On Expo in downtown Phoenix.

Nerdvana: With your latest song “Savior,” it seems like there’s a little bit of influence from COVID times: the downtime and finding your inner strength. To push and keep going. Is that what you’re trying to communicate in your music?

Shihori: Yes! Because through my experience, I really learned the importance of self-acceptance. I found out actually that many people, or everybody, is struggling to love themselves. So [I thought] “Wow! This is really universal everywhere. Japan, America, everywhere!” I think I was born to spread this message. This is a mission to me, so I’ve been telling this message over and over in different ways.

A group of Game On Expo attendees danced at the base of the stage for Shihori's opening songs.
A group of Game On Expo attendees danced at the base of the stage for Shihori’s opening songs.

Nerdvana: In your last album Mutation, there are a lot of genres across the songs. In comparison to your previous work, was this a way for you to feel out things and experiment?

Shihori: I had a plan, but it didn’t go as I planned right? (laughs) I didn’t expect this trouble and didn’t think it wouldn’t go well. So I needed to find my way. A “Shihori” style, borderless. I think you could see how I mutated from like a pure Japanese version, to Americanizing, but a “Shihori” version. So that’s what Mutation means.

Nerdvana: You’ve had a lot of success as a songwriter. Do you feel like you will reach a point of success where you’re satisfied or do you always want to keep fighting and pushing?

Shihori: Definitely want to keep fighting. I’m gonna keep changing, keep evolving, or mutating! (laughs) I think that’s one of the purposes for all human beings. You want to sleep, you want to eat, you want to have sex. I think you want to grow. If you don’t do that, you will kind of diminish. It’s really important to take risks and change yourself.

Shihori is preparing for a new single to release this year. Her current music works may be found on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, or her YouTube channel.

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About the author

Christen Bejar

Christen Bejar is a freelance gaming writer who started the local blog The Pause Button while studying at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. For Nerdvana, Bejar reviews video games and also previews, recaps and photographs many local events from a gamer's perspective.