ONE N’ ONLY Talk New Single ‘Freaking Happy,’ Japan Tour: Interview – Billboard

ONE N’ ONLY digitally released a new song called “Freaking Happy” on Nov. 14. This uplifting number about the spirit of heading into the future was featured as the theme song for TV Tokyo’s five-day event from Nov. 15 celebrating the broadcaster’s upcoming 60th anniversary in 2024.

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ONE N’ ONLY celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. In this new interview, members HAYATO, REI, TETTA, NAOYA, EIKU, and KENSHIN chatted with Billboard Japan about their latest release, being tapped to participate in TV Tokyo’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and also share anecdotes from their ongoing tour spanning all 47 prefectures in Japan entitled ONE N’ SWAG ~ Hook Up!!!!!! ~ that kicked off in October.

Your new song “Freaking Happy” is being featured as the theme of TV Tokyo’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Good job!

ALL: Thank you!

It’s a pretty major tie-in project for you. How did you all react when you first heard the news?

HAYATO: We were so psyched! We were told about it when we were together and it took us all by surprise. 

“Freaking Happy” is a really positive and energetic number.

REI: It’s a great song, isn’t it? It has a friendly feel and is upbeat, the kind of tune that’ll lift you up when you hear it in the morning. If you listen to it every day before you go out, I’m sure you’ll feel its effect. [Laughs]

KENSHIN: I really couldn’t believe it when this tie-in came through and was like, “Is this about us?” It didn’t feel real. It was good enough that we were invited to perform on such a major music program, so we’re thrilled that our song was chosen as the theme for the festival. The roster of the music show has been announced and every act is a big name, and since we’ve been asked to perform alongside them, we intend to do so with our heads held high.

NAOYA: It’s a surprise that a song of ours was chosen as the theme for TV Tokyo’s 60th anniversary festival and I’m really grateful. It’d be great if more people get to know us through this tie-in and our SWAG (ONE N’ ONLY fans) grows in numbers. Above all, we’re really grateful to be able to perform on a music program like this, and hope to do a good job so other EBiDAN groups can follow in our footsteps.

HAYATO: It’s a feel-good song and is unabashed about it. I hope it makes people smile when they hear it. I’m sure the event will be a lot of fun too, so it’d be nice if our song becomes a part of people’s good memories.

EIKU: It’s a pretty straightforward track and easy to chime in. A really fun song that’ll bring our SWAG and us together even closer.

KENSHIN: You’re right.

EIKU: It gives me this sense of coming together with those who have supported us and not just amongst ourselves. Not only will it make people feel positive, but it’ll also be a good opportunity for them to get to know what we’re all about.

Such a catchy number is actually pretty rare in the group’s catalog.

TETTA: Right. You know what, though, we haven’t settled on the choreography yet. But when the track played over the speakers during the mic test at our 47-prefecture tour the other day, it was just so cheerful and while I was singing it, I kept thinking how it’d be so much fun if our SWAG were here.

Since the tie-in was a last-minute deal, that must mean your schedule for learning choreography and shooting a music video and whatnot must also be tight.

NAOYA: Yes, the EP was set for release in December, so we’ve been working on the choreography and recording while also doing the 47-prefecture tour. We’ve been spending quality time.

What will the choreography be like?

HAYATO: We want to make the choreography catchy to match the song. We were thinking it’d be nice to have a dance part that everyone can imitate on TikTok. We want to give a performance that will leave an impression even after one viewing.

TETTA: I could come up with (the choreo), you know.

REI: Hey man, don’t bother. [Laughs]

HAYATO: His ideas never fly! [Laughs]

TETTA: I suggest ideas like, “How about moving our hands like so” every once in a while, but they’re never considered. Why?

HAYATO: You’re always a bit too direct. Like if the lyrics say “run,” you’d suggest a running motion, right? You translate stuff too literally.

TETTA: So that’s why! [Laughs]

HAYATO: You can do your own choreo when you go solo someday…

TETTA: Why? [Laughs]

HAYATO: But for this song, I asked a dancer who’s around our age, Rena (Hattori), to handle it. I have a feeling (the dance) will go viral!

It’s a big project. Was it your idea to ask Rena to do it, HAYATO?

HAYATO: Yes. She’s really busy so I was prepared to be turned down, but she kindly agreed to do it and I’m grateful for that. We had an online meeting and…

TETTA: Was she nice? Does she seem strict?

REI: Is that what you’re worried about? [Laughs]

TETTA: I mean, I’ll get in trouble if she’s too strict. [Laughs]

You’re a global star, you have it in you to handle a bit of strictness.

TETTA: Will do my best! [Laughs]

HAYATO: It’s a pretty major collaboration, so if it gets people talking about us, that’d be great. Rena is known for her catchy choreography, so I’m sure we’ll be able to show a good dance performance that’s not too easy and takes advantage of our strengths.

What will the music video be like?

NAOYA: The music video will be directed by Shintaro Sakai, who has produced videos for INI and NiziU. He shoots really lovely visuals using state-of-the-art technology and captures light and the design so beautifully in his works, so I can’t wait to begin shooting.

It looks like you guys are moving up to the next level in terms of the visuals and music and choreography. Since your new song has such a positive vibe, our next question is, who has the most positive outlook these days?

(Everyone besides TETTA looks at him.)

TETTA: What? We’re all positive!

REI: Well, you’re always pretty much the same. But you’re so noisy!

TETTA: That’s because when I’m feeling down or when I’m quiet, I automatically get sleepy.

HAYATO: Just by being quiet?

TETTA: Yeah. I get increasingly drowsy. So I have to keep myself hyped up!

KENSHIN: Is that positive? [Laughs]

NAOYA: It’s certainly energetic. [Laughs]

HAYATO: I appreciate that he’s always cheerful, in good times and bad.

EIKU: Whenever it sounds like something is going on, it’s usually TETTA messing around. [Laughs]

REI: It’s fun to watch when it’s amusing, but it depends on the situation. Sometimes he can’t read the room, you know what I mean?

TETTA: I read rooms just fine!

I guess it’s good for an energetic group to sing a positive number because it’ll amp up the energy.

HAYATO: You’re really good at putting things back on track.

Thank you. [Laughs] You’re currently in the midst of your domestic tour spanning all 47 prefectures. How’s it going so far?

TETTA: We’ve only done four shows, but it’s been a lot of fun. In the more rural areas, we’ve been performing in small “live houses” (night clubs) and the like. I’m always conscious of the cameras in large venues, but in smaller ones, I can look each person in the eye and sing. Of course I try to remember to do so in large places, but it’s a lot of fun performing while seeing how everyone’s doing. Also, the acoustics are different at each venue and so are our respective positions, so I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with such things.

EIKU: Most of all, it really reminds me of when we first started out. We used to perform in small venues when we first made our debut, so things like checking the lighting and doing our own makeup feel really familiar. I’ve been remembering stuff from our early days while performing. Also, the vibe in each venue is completely different.

KENSHIN: It really is different, isn’t it? That’s why I thought it was very meaningful to tour all 47 prefectures. We’ve toured Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities before, but there were SWAG we couldn’t meet because it was hard to go. Now we can really visit them all and we’ve been so psyched about it. Like the other day, we went to the Hokuriku area (northeastern part of Japan’s main island) that we don’t get to visit often, and were happy to see so many local people there! We can communicate with our fans in the smaller clubs we’re performing at, and it feels like our ability to do live shows has genuinely improved.

You’re getting better at hyping up the audience.

KENSHIN: Yes. We also change the way we stir things up. Since we’re traveling to a lot of places, it wouldn’t be interesting if we did everything the same. The members are having a lot of fun, too.

NAOYA: Because we’re so close to SWAG, the concerts feel more spontaneous. The way the audience gets into the music is different, and the way the stages are set up is also different, so it’s really fun. The set list changes daily and we also have medleys, so I hope people enjoy themselves.

REI: There are things we can do only on small stages, and because we’re close to the audience, the view from where we are is also different. At this point, I just want to do my best to make it through the entire tour. Personally, I’m looking forward to going to Shikoku. I had some bonito tataki in Kochi once, and it was amazingly good.

KENSHIN: I want to try the udon (noodles) in Kagawa too.

NAOYA: Udon in Kagawa is really good.

KENSHIN: Can’t wait to try some! We had a sauce katsudon (pork cutlet served on top of a bowl of rice) and seafood in Hokuriku and they were awesome!

HAYATO: Yeah, that was great. We’re also enjoying the traveling bits, too. It almost feels like a school trip, so I want to keep having fun as we charge through this tour. The schedule is quite packed and there are periods we can’t return to Tokyo, so I’m hoping to enjoy that as well while we’re at it. I’m just really happy that we’re able to tour all 47 prefectures at this point in time. The group is celebrating its fifth anniversary and we’re tighter than ever, so we want to keep gathering speed from this point forward.

EIKU: We also went to Brazil (this year). Oh, and so far each of us has been staying in our own hotel rooms.

NAOYA: Yeah! 

HAYATO: But we all end up getting together to go a hot spring or something.

TETTA: We’re making an effort to visit tourist attractions together during this tour. Most recently, we went to a park with windmills in Kashiwa, Chiba.

Where will you go before the Toyosu PIT show (in Tokyo)?

KENSHIN: What? Lalaport Toyosu (shopping mall)?

HAYATO: No doubt about it. [Laughs]

EIKU: I can really feel us getting better during this tour, so I’m really looking forward to seeing where we stand when we finish it.

NAOYA: After touring all over Japan, we’re doing a show at Pacifico Yokohama, which I’m sure will be an amazing sight. It’ll be the biggest venue we’ve ever performed in, and just imagining the view from the stage gives me feels.

You’ll be moved to tears.

REI: KENSHIN will cry.

KENSHIN: What? Of course I’ll cry! I almost cried when the Pacifico Yokohama show was announced!

TETTA: KENSHIN always cries, so it makes me stay calm.

HAYATO: It doesn’t make you cry in sympathy?

TETTA: REI usually stands next to me and he’s level-headed, so that calms me down, too. [Laughs]

REI: KENSHIN cries good tears. I’m looking forward to it. [Laughs]

KENSHIN: OK. [Laughs]

This interview by Kana Yoshida first appeared on Billboard Japan

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