Monday, June 02, 2008

6/03/08 An Interview with Phillip

In further evidence of Phillip David Hunter's coolness, he agreed to answer a few questions for JMAA. What a swell guy. I recently went to a private party in Tokyo where he performed. You can relive the magic two posts down.

Here is an excerpt from a little email interview.

Me: Could you introduce yourself and talk a bit about your life?

Phillip: My name is Phillip David Hunter. I'm a singer/songwriter originally from L.A. Growing up and working in L.A. was great because it gave me an opportunity to develop as an artist, and work with some of the best names in the business: Chaka Khan, Brian McKnight, Michael Bolton, Gloria Estafan, and Peabo Bryson to name a few.

Me: How long have you lived in Japan, and how did you make the decision to make the move?

Phillip: My first time coming to Japan was Nov. 17, 2001. The first gig was Motown Cafe in Sendai, a laid back family-town a few hours north of Tokyo on the shinkansen. It was a nice introduction into the culture. Everyone was so kind and patient, teaching me new words and phrases. Vocally it was great for me because I had to sing 6 nights/week for 3 months at a time(something I never had to do before). This strengthened me and taught me how to "pace" myself...Looking back, I believe I came to Japan an average of two times per year, up until July 2005, when the last Motown Cafe finished it's run at the end of that same month.

After my last gig at Motown Cafe, I worked briefly at a club in Yokohama, and then went back to L.A. Work in L.A. was spotty at best... afterall, I'd been off the scene for a while. With little work, contacts that had completely forgotten me, combined with the excruciatingly high gas prices of California, well, let's just say life was pretty hard.

After being home for a year getting very little work, I got a call to perform at a club in Fujisawa. My bags were packed faster than you could say "jet engine". On Dec. 1, 2006 I landed in Narita with every intent to make a go of it here. After gigs in Fujisawa, Kagoshima, and Kyoto..I finally secured regular work in Tokyo. I wish I could take credit for that, but it was definitely an act of God. The timing was just too perfect, just when I needed it most, deepening my belief that this is where I was supposed to be.

Me: What do you find challenging about life in Japan?

Phillip: I'd have to say the biggest challenge for me has been learning Japanese. There are so many levels. It's one thing to learn a language, and how to communicate... but how about understanding when you are being spoken to in rapid fire Nihongo[the Japanese word for the Japanese language]!! What about learning the kanji, hiragana, and katakana??? Once again, It's the kindness and patience of the Japanese that has helped me a great deal. Maybe their desire to speak English tempers any negative attitudes toward my communicative ignorance... who knows. Maybe they've just grown accustomed to foreigners who desire to live here, but who haven't quite grasped the language as yet.

Me: What was your favorite gig in Japan and why?

Phillip: In terms of gigs here in Japan, I'd have to say my favorite has been my jazz gig at Singles Bar Encounter. I perform with a piano and bass player, real instruments!! There's a certain freedom that can't be explained when acoustic instruments are used. So many of the jobs nowadays require MD's(mini-discs). All the music and backing vocals are on the tracks. Very convenient for private parties, hostess clubs, restaurants and bars... but nothing beats real players on the gig.

Me: Have you seen the movie Office Space, and how do you feel about the movie's statement that Michael Bolton is a "no-talent ass-clown"?

Phillip: In reference to a comment made by a character in the movie Office Space(one of my all-time favorites) about one of the aforementioned singers I've worked with. One of the main characters(in the movie) named "Michael Bolton" refers to the singer Michael Bolton as a "no talent ass-clown". Do I agree with that statement after working with the singer??... absolutely not! In reality, he's a great singer with a large fan-base.

Me: Do you have any interesting or funny stories about working with the big names? Who was your favorite/least favorite person to work with and why?

Phillip: Sorry, no funny stories about artists, but I do have a favorite. I'd have to say meeting and singing with Chaka Khan(one of the most versatile singers in the world and my favorite female singer) was quite a thrill for me. She has covered pretty much every genre and never lost her vocal identity...she's always Chaka! In case you're wondering...yes, I did get a kiss and a hug!

You can listen to a few of Phillip's songs, both covers and originals, at

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