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[Singer-songwriter Rie Sawai] Currently holding nationwide concert tour "RIE Sawai Summer Tour 2023"

【シンガーソングライター・沢井利江さん】全国を巡るコンサートツアー「RIE SAWAI SummerTour2023」を開催中

Singer-songwriter Rie Sawai kicked off her "RIE Sawai Summer Tour 2023" on July 20th, touring seven locations across the country, starting in Kannai, Yokohama. As a vocalist who writes her own lyrics and composes her own music, Sawai has also worked as a backing vocalist for many artists, including Kohmi Hirose. She is also a voice trainer, a caregiver, and a beauty pageant finalist. We asked her about her current concert tour, from when she first started her musical career to the present.

-Please tell us about your recent activities.

A singer-songwriter, she also works as a voice trainer and care worker in Yokohama and Tokyo. She has also participated in beauty pageants such as 2022 Miss Japan Premium and Global Unity Japan 2023.

--Not only singing, but also nursing and beauty competitions? I'm curious about all of those, but what made you decide to become a singer-songwriter in the first place?

I was exposed to classical music from my childhood and I strongly felt that I could not live without music. However, the world of classical music is so vast that I could not decide what I wanted to do within it.

When I was about 18 years old, I saw Hirose Kohmi on TV. I was moved by the beautiful melodies and lyrics, the way she sang, and her overwhelming voice, and I immediately thought, "Ah, this is the world I've been looking for." I immediately bought Hirose's CD, and when I opened the case, I found a student application form for the Hirose Kohmi Music School. I called that same day and started attending the following week.

-You have great initiative.

In the midst of the rigorous lessons, there was a special audition held once a year within the school, and if you passed you had the right to receive lessons directly from Hirose. I was fortunate enough to pass, and for the next three years I was able to learn the Hirose Kohmi Method, "a method of vocalization using the body," from her. Still, I began to wonder if I could become a professional if I continued like this, and I felt that I had to take action myself, so I told Hirose, "After graduating from school, I will train so that I can work as a singer in the field."

I still remember the kind words that sent me off, saying, "I'll always be rooting for you, so if you need anything, please contact me anytime." I can't believe it at the time, but I'm really grateful that I'm now able to work with Hirose Kohmi, who inspired me to become a singer.

-Hirose-san's words were encouraging to you. What did you actually do after graduating from music school?

I found out that Heart & Soul, a live restaurant and bar in Kannai that mainly plays Western music, was looking for a singer and waitress. I wore the restaurant uniform and worked there from 8pm to 5am for 8 years. From the third year, I started working as a professional artist and got busier, but I couldn't leave Heart & Soul, my precious home ground. Still, I decided to go independent because I needed to become independent as a singer.

I currently perform twice a month as a regular guest vocalist at "Heart & Soul." If I hadn't met the owner, Masayuki Hara, I think I would have given up on my dream of becoming a singer halfway through. I am so grateful for his help.

He has also performed live at Bashamichi Charlie's Bar and on stages around Tokyo.

- Your dream came true through your encounters with people. By the way, how did you get involved in the nursing care industry?

It all started when my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. She lived alone in Hokkaido and was in her 70s when she was diagnosed with dementia. Although she was healthy and had no problems moving around, she found it difficult to live a life where she only needed home and visiting nursing care, so we called her to Yokohama and she was cared for by my mother during the day and me at night.

The core symptoms of dementia and related symptoms were so severe that we had to stop his music activities and we couldn't take our eyes off him for even a moment. Both my mother and I were exhausted and worried about what would happen to his life, as there were still so many things he wanted to do.

During this time, my grandmother's level of care increased, but her peripheral symptoms subsided, and she was moved from home care to a nursing home. From then on, I started performing live at the facility twice a month to cheer her up.

-So it was your family that started it all.

As he played on the grand piano at the facility and sang familiar songs together, about 200 people came to watch, including not only the users but also their families and staff.

"They would sit still only while Sawai was singing," "The users who normally don't open their eyes were listening with their eyes open," and hearing that some users dressed up with makeup and hair accessories for the concert made me realize that music gives people energy. I began to want to do something that would connect welfare and the city through music.

The vocal technique I learned uses the calves and front thighs, so it's also suitable for building physical strength for people who can't train or exercise. It also helps train the cardiopulmonary function and back and abdominal muscles of the elderly, and I think it has a positive effect on swallowing function and facial muscles. Speaking loudly also relieves stress and has a relaxing effect, so I think it's important to have a place where we can all sing together and practice our vocalizations.

My grandmother passed away after that, but through my experience of providing at-home care to my family, I became interested in what it was like to work in a care facility. I thought that if I was going to take on the challenge, I would try my best to obtain the qualifications, so I decided to work in the field. It took about five years because I was working in parallel with my singing job, but last year I was able to obtain the qualifications as a care worker. I still continue to work in the field and perform live concerts. One day I will grow old and reach that future. I also hope that one day I can create a facility that I would want to work in.

I strongly hope that the image of dementia care and the branding of the care profession will improve and the world of care will become even better. Caregiving is a wonderful job that allows you to learn about each person's life and make the people in front of you smile. It's no different from standing on stage and making the audience smile. I feel that the work of caregiving that made me realize this was also a good experience for the artist Rie Sawai.

-I heard you have competed in Miss Japan Premium 2022 and Global Unity Japan 2023. What motivated you to do so?

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging. Although she was working hard on her online activities under various restrictions, she wondered if there was a way to show her activities to her fans more. When she found out that the age limit for Miss Japan was lifted in January 2022, she applied. She will be competing in "2022 Miss Japan Premium" as a representative of her hometown, Hokkaido.

At first, I thought it would be good enough to participate. After the honor of winning Miss Hokkaido Premium, I participated in the Japanese competition, and when I saw women from various backgrounds working hard to win the grand prize, my awareness changed and I decided to aim high. Everyone has a radiance that goes beyond appearances. Through the competition, I was able to gain confidence in my own radiance and existence.

After that, I also participated in the beauty and health themed "Global Unity Japan 2023" competition and won the judges' award. I was selected to advance to the Japanese competition. Now I am working hard to be selected to represent Japan and aim to compete in the world competition.

As a result of the contest, I was also chosen as a PR model for MOLARA, Japan's first disposable menstrual disc, and had the opportunity to spread the word about it. Through this activity, I learned that although there are convenient products for women, they have not yet penetrated society, and useful information is not reaching them. Now that we are in an era where we are said to live to be 100 years old, I think that only by being healthy and having the right knowledge about beauty, medicine, and health, as well as appearance, can we live fulfilling days as we age. I realized how important it is to learn how to live as a woman and true to yourself.

Both as an artist and as a caregiver who works closely with older women, I hope to be able to disseminate information with correct knowledge that will help women live happier lives.

-Please tell us your thoughts about this concert tour, "RIE SAWAI Summer Tour 2023."

A national tour is one of the things I've decided to do every year. I hope that by launching it as a summer tour every year, it will become an opportunity for people to get to know Sawai Rie. As self-restraint continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I used to have a strong sense of the audience "coming" to my live shows, but now I have a changed mindset to "go and deliver" my songs. If there is even one person who listens to my songs, then I'll go and sing there! That's my stance.

This tour kicked off in Yokohama, and then we performed in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. Since the earthquake, we've been performing at a nursing home in Ofunato, and when we visited again this time as part of the tour, we received warm words like "We've been waiting for you" and "We've missed you." It was a moment that really made us feel that if even one person is waiting for us, we want to keep going. If we can be an encouragement to someone, we want to keep doing our best.

The biggest challenge of this summer tour is our first performance in Kyushu. It's a big venue called "Border-Live Music & Drinks-" in Fukuoka, a one-night concert at a music bar for adults. I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of people will come.

The final show will be at their hometown, Yokohama Hiyoshi's "Wonderwall Yokohama". The venue has been working hard to hold live streams even during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is loved by many musicians, not just locals. The final show of the summer tour will feature a piano performance by the wonderful Yokohama-born artist Takeshi Kikuchi.

- I'm looking forward to the final of the summer tour. Finally, please give us a message from Mr. Sawai to everyone.

I know you've been wearing a mask for a long time and you might be reluctant to sing out loud, but I encourage everyone to try singing.

Because we use our voices so often, it's hard to think of it as something we can "improve" because it's something we're so familiar with. But because it's something we're so familiar with, I want people to experience it as something that can change their daily lives.

I used to feel self-conscious about my narrow natural vocal range and my inability to sing high notes, but with correct vocalization I was able to expand my range and sing stronger, higher notes. My life as a singer has changed dramatically because my voice doesn't get hoarse as easily. I realized that polishing my voice can make me feel so positive and cheerful.

In addition, her activities as a care worker and her participation in beauty pageants have given her the opportunity to see "each person's own way of life." These activities have also had a positive impact on her efforts to further hone her voice as a singer-songwriter and voice trainer.

I want to continue to convey the image of a woman called Rie Sawai so that people will see me trying my best and think, "Me too!" I would be happy if you would continue to support me.

The summer tour, which overcame the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue until September 17th. Be sure to come to the venue to experience Sawai's beautiful singing voice and her inner radiance!

Rie Sawai
■Profile
Born in Hokkaido and raised in Yokohama
・Singer-songwriter/vocalist
・Kohmi Hirose Music Assistant
・Head instructor at Hirose Kohmi Vocal School
·care worker
・2022 Miss Japan Premium Miss Hokkaido Japan Tournament Finalist
・Global Unity Japan 2023 Japan Tournament Finalist

Instagram: HERE
Official website: here
Facebook: Here

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