Catching Up with Samurai Guitarist Miyavi

Well known as the “Samurai Guitarist” for his lightning fast fingers and unique guitar slapping style, Miyavi’s back to rock the world with his “Day 2” tour that features stops all across Asia, Europe, North America and South America. We’re chatting right after he finished his first U.S. show of the tour in Los Angeles and one thing’s clear: he’s got a lot on his plate. Miyavi shared that he’s got to fly to New York later that night to attend to some business for a day and then he’ll be returning to the West Coast the following day for his next show in San Francisco. He’s so busy globetrotting that he’s even come to love jetlag. “It’s always great to have jetlag. Either way, I wake up early in the morning and I can get started on my day,” Miyavi said (in all seriousness). With that kind of attitude, it’s easy to see why he’s the jetsetting rockstar.

Touring the world isn’t new for Miyavi, as he’s completed six world tours and performed over 250 shows in 30 countries thus far, and he’s decided to expand his crew this time around. “It’s a bigger stage production. Before, I was doing everything by myself: singing, playing the guitar, handling the pedal board and loop machine. It was a lot,” he explained. “Now with singers and a DJ on stage, it gives me more time to focus on playing the guitar and communicating with the audience, so I can give them a more special experience.”

Ultimately, it’s Miyavi’s mission to sing with his guitar and make listeners more interested in guitar music, so he enjoys experimenting and collaborating with other artists to create fresh music and reach new audiences. Earlier this year, he worked on a couple videos with 88Rising. “As an Asian act, I’ve known them for a while. It’s great that there’s a team like them that’s trying to make a new path in the States and the global market to promote Asian acts. And they have their own core acts too,” he said. With 88Rising, Miyavi played acoustic covers of “Havana” and “Rockstar,” but added a “futuristic and eccentric” flair to his renditions. The two came together again soon after for a project series titled, “88 & Heartbreaks,” in which Miyavi and U.S. rappers held ad lib sessions. “I’ve been doing live sessions all this time in Japan, so I’m used to it. But, this is new. I was really curious to experiment with them and it was great,” he noted.

Most recently, Miyavi released his latest music video for “In Crowd,” which features a fantastically dynamic and passionate performance by the guitarist and dancer Lia Kim. “I saw her videos and I love how sharp and energetic her moves are. I’m half Korean, so I travel to Korea a lot and I can feel the similarities in our performances: the passion and fire,” Miyavi said. “I knew there was going to be chemistry between us.” When he was about to release the audio track, Miyavi decided he wanted a simple music video that would showcase their energy. With no set choreography, the two just let loose and let their natural movements take center stage.

In addition to music, global community service is a top priority for Miyavi. Appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in November 2017, he has been visiting various countries to learn more about refugees’ experience. After returning from a refugee camp in Lebanon, he was inspired to write a song. “What I had witnessed was eye opening and heart wrenching. Some people have to flee from their country and wait for their parents to get out. They risk it all for freedom. It’s really hard, but they don’t give up because what motivates them is hope,” Miyavi shared. “Sometimes we have to remember that if we think about tomorrow, a new day, we can get over a long night. That’s why I wrote ‘Long Nights.’” But then, he met Sonita, an Afghan activist and rapper, and saw her documentary based on her experience of fighting against being sold for marriage. “The way she stood up for her rights was beautiful and really strong. Now she’s learning music in the U.S. at a university,” he mentioned. To help Sonita deliver her message, Miyavi decided to feature her on the track: “Her story inspired me in that people can fight for their rights to enjoy their lives and choose their own paths.” He added, “I’m not sure how much my music affects change, but even if it is a little step that can help them, I want to do it.”

Miyavi’s got over 15 years of experience as a musician under his belt, and he’s more than ready to make a name for himself in other industries. He made his runway debut in January for the Yohji Yamamoto 2018-19 Fall/Winter menswear collection and he’s starting to pursue more acting opportunities in Japan. He’ll be starring in two live action film adaptations that are slated to release this summer: Gangoose and Bleach. Miyavi takes on another villain role in crime film Gangoose, following his Hollywood debut performance as Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe in the American War film Unbroken. But what has got fans buzzing in surprise and excitement is Miyavi’s role as Byakuya in Bleach, one of Japan’s most well known comic book series. He wasn’t sure at first whether he should take the offer because it might ruin his rockstar image that he’s spent years building. However, he felt like it was time to take on some new challenges.


“I was kind of interested in the relationship between my character, Byakuya, and his sister, Rukia. The way he shows his love to his sister is unique. Sometimes being sweet isn’t the best way to love someone. Sometimes you have to be strict to teach them how to be independent,” Miyavi explained. “It’s like the way I raise my daughters. Sometimes I don’t help them and instead, I challenge them, so they can learn to be strong and independent. It’s been a really interesting process to get into the role.” What drew Miyavi into acting is that he finds it not all that different from playing his guitar on stage in that expression is key. “I’m still a beginner when it comes to acting, but I’ve been able to enjoy the process of getting into character and trying to express myself naturally as a human being,” Miyavi said.

Reflecting on his long career, Miyavi shared his thoughts on what’s next: “It’s really really exciting now because I don’t know what I’m going to do next. We met six years ago and at that time, I had no idea I would be in a Hollywood movie, be an UN refugee agency ambassador, or even be in a Paris fashion show. I just kept slapping the strings and then all these things happened. I believe I was needed for some reason, so I did my best. Now I feel confident no matter what. If I do fashion, if I act, if I cosplay, I can still rock everyone. That’s why I’m good to go.” With how 2018 has been shaping up for Miyavi, he’s certainly the man to watch out for.

Check out our photos below from the San Francisco show!

Mai Nguyen

Editor-in-Chief at Asia Pacific Arts.
Feel free to send me a note on Twitter to @hellomailee.

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