As an accomplished singer/songwriter, Kristine Sa has sold albums all over the world and is known to anime fans as having done the English versions of the themes for Ouran High School Host Club, Suzuka and One Piece. After moving on from her early Pop days, Sa has been more known for her sweeping and emotional ballads. In addition, she is the owner of SaFire Multimedia and also currently the Public Relations Director of One Body Village. In short, she might be one of the hardest working people we’ve featured in the spotlight! We talk about her love of music, her goals for SaFire Multimedia and the skills she has acquired along the way. Read below for the interview…
When did you realize you wanted to be a singer?
Kristine: [Laughs] Gosh, I haven’t been asked that in a while. I used to be asked that question almost in every interview when I started singing. I think I realized at about 14 or 15. That’s when my sister had professionally started singing as well and she sang traditional Vietnamese music. I remember realizing not that I wanted to be a singer but I remember realizing that I wanted to write music or write down my thoughts. So I did a lot of journaling, wrote a lot of poems and I ended up, you know, pretending to know how to play the piano and I wrote some songs which turned into a number of albums after that. I think at around 15 was when it dawned on me that I wanted to do some form of art on stage, on camera, for the public.
Music is said to be a healer of sorts. How has music changed your life?
Kristine: Music is everything. I think music as a listener, I believe, changes everybody’s life. I can’t quite tell you how it’s changed my life but I can tell you that it contributes in a way that it’s irreplaceable. I think without music, I wouldn’t be able to express myself. In my own life anyway, I’ve never known a life without music so I couldn’t tell you how it’s changed because I don’t really know the life before it.
I first learned about you with the English versions of the anime themes for Suzuka. Why do you think that English versions are made instead of using the original Japanese? Do you have any thoughts on why they would do that?
Kristine: They did this for Suzuka, I also did one of the themes for One Piece and I also did the theme for Ouran High School Host Club so they tried to do this with a number of shows. The reason is beyond me. I’ll have to call up either Caitlin Glass or Mike McFarland at FUNimation and I think you’ll know the answer but when they approached me about it, it was pretty cool for me because I’m already an anime fan so for me to be a part of it in anyway was pretty cool and I think they called upon me because they knew I was already a super fan. You know, I had done my own fan versions of Final Fantasy songs. I was already a fan of Cowboy Bebop. I had done an album called AnimeToonz. One of the AnimeToonz installments was myself and a number of other DJs and that was already covers and remakes and remixes of anime theme songs so I think somewhere around there, FUNimation realized I could’ve been a good candidate for it, so I think that’s how it came about but this is a total guess, I really have no idea. I think we’re going to have to call up Mike McFarland and Caitlin Glass and be like, “Hey, what you guys think?” [laughs].
How difficult of a project was that doing the songs (for AnimeToonz) in the original Japanese?
Kristine: Yeah, just you saying that made me hold my breath for a second because it was actually very difficult. I don’t speak Japanese, not even near fluently. I can probably say ‘hello’, ‘nice to meet you’, ‘excuse me’ and ‘the food is delicious’. I certainly don’t have enough of the language to be singing some of the very poetic lyrics that were in the songs so I had to sing everything phonetically. The easy part was I got to pick the songs so I mean I really love those songs. Those were songs I was trying to sing in my car anyway, so to get to record them was an honor. However, I’ll tell you this I actually can’t listen back to that album now. I can’t listen back to any of my old music or work. I’m never satisfied.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in your life so far?
Kristine: The biggest challenge in my life is always the current thing I’m doing. Almost always because I feel like once I’ve accomplished something I like to move on to the next challenge so the biggest challenge right now for me is trying to develop our multimedia company. It’s been a long road. It’s been me dabbling in a long line of different types of media that I’ve been involved in, different types of art that I’ve been trying to make, and put it all together to learn the business end of it. Challenging is an understatement. I mean, it freaks me out on a nightly basis but every morning I wake up and go, “We gotta do something else for the company!” Yeah, it’s a challenge but it definitely it keeps me on my feet. My biggest challenge is always the current thing I’m doing and my biggest challenge is almost exclusively always my reason to get up in the morning.
With your company SaFire Multimedia, what kinds of goals are you striving to achieve?
Kristine: The number one goal I always had in mind is that I want to be able to provide free content. In the last four or five years, I’ve been doing weekly talk shows for Vietnamese TV stations. In fact, more of my viewers were watching on YouTube than the actual TV stations and I just felt like it was a natural progress to open a company that provides content, programming for free, exclusively online so that people can just watch it straight from our YouTube channel or from our website. So, I just felt like it’s time and it was nice to experiment with the idea that maybe we at SaFire can go independent from a larger TV station not necessarily be one show on a larger TV station, but just be our own show as a part of our own little station company. The goal is to provide my supporters with free programming and they can watch at any given time. Along with that goal, we offer services of video production and social marketing specifically commercial art for social media marketing and that would be the business side of things.
With being the social media marketing head of Asia Entertainment, how do you keep a positive mind set of having to do that plus handling your own company?
Kristine: [Laughs] I don’t know how I’m handling it, I’ll be honest. I wake up every morning [and] the challenge is there, the goals are there and I just keep swimming like Nemo says. I’m also a very devout follower of Christ so my faith carries me very far meaning a lot of the times when I’m down and I feel challenged, I pray and almost always get some kind of an answer that tells me what path to go and to keep going and I’ve always felt like its led me to good places. That’s my simple answer.
You also have acquired skills in editing, audio engineering and visual design to name a few. How have these skills helped you along your path to greatness?
I think with every tool I’ve acquired along the way; Number one I had more toys to play with so that’s fun. I love editing. I get very excited when I edit and I learn something new. It’s quite fun for me. I love directing. It’s quite a passion of mine. So with every tool, it gives me one more thing to be OCD about but it also gives me one more venue to express myself which that in itself is a gift. I feel like I’ve met so many people that don’t know how to express themselves and I believe that it’s not a healthy life to live. I feel like emotionally a lot of people stay unhealthy because they don’t have ways to express themselves, to really speak what’s on their minds and here I am with an abundance of ways. I speak my mind audibly, [but] who knows maybe one day I’ll take up interpretive dance or something [laughs].
What are some of your favorite Asian films and anime?
Kristine: Favorite Asian film [is] Kung Fu Hustle [laughs]? That’s like the only one I can think of. I really liked Hero. I confess that’s the only two that I can think of right now. I am not up to date with films, period, anywhere in the world. If you asked me what American film, I’d say something silly like Titanic.
What words of encouragement would you like to say to everyone that’s striving to achieve their goals?
Kristine: I know everybody says don’t give up. I think that is a good piece of advice, however, I’m going to add fine print to that. I say, don’t give up and do everything with your eyes wide open. Sometimes, it may look like a choice you are giving up but actually what’s happening is you’re taking a turn. With my own career anyway, there were certain moments where I felt like I was banging my head on the same brick wall over and over and over again. What I had to do was realize that I’m not going to be able to break through the brick wall with my head and the thing is sometimes a lot of people can perceive that to be giving up cause I’m giving up banging my head on this wall. However if you look at the bigger picture with your eyes wide open, you will see that what seems like giving up is rather just finding a way around the obstacle. So, that’s my long answer to your short question. [laughs] Let me try to paraphrase, I think the answer is, don’t give up and do everything with your eyes wide open.
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