On your tour with Kobushi, are you performing songs from the Country Musume。 era?
Tsugunaga: Of course! We've already been doing Country Musume。 covers at events. After all, we are the group who have taken over from Country Musume。 I won't go into much detail, but we've thought about all sorts of other things for our tour setlist.
However, Country Musume。 is a pretty old group. How did the fans respond?
Tsugunaga: They got excited. We have fans from that era as well. Some people wear Satoda Mai T-shirts. With regards to Country Musume。, didn't Satoda-san work hard by herself in the later half? Satoda-san may not be with us on-stage now, but they perceive that will of hers within us, and cheer us on as Country Girls.
Satoda-san is the supervisor, but basically what does she do?
Tsugunaga: She contacts me quite frequently. But there is the time difference of course, so she'll send LINE messages in the ear~ly hours (laughs). On the other hand, I'll take a look at the world clock so that my updates won't bother her. Satoda-san will send photos with messages like 'I got your CD~'. A lot of her correspondence is supportive, like 'You're all so cute~', or 'I watched "Tele Tou Ongakusai"'.
Rather than giving out instructions like the specifics of dances or MC-ing, it's like she spiritually supports you.
Tsugunaga: That's right. With her indiscriminate flattery, perhaps her main role is to keep the members in a good mood (laughs). Ah, she also sent us Satoda rice! It was really delicious!
Talking about roles, we're still unclear about the job responsibilities of Tsugunaga-PM. In the first place, what does the PM do?
Yamaki: Um~, but......
Tsugunaga: Wait up! Why are you starting with a 'but'! Even if I cut you off at the 'but', your intention still gets across (laughs).
Yamaki: Is that so (laughs)? Well, but for us, there isn't much difference between the role of the PM and the role of the senpai in Morning Musume。 We're work colleagues, and it feels like she's an older member from whom we can seek advice. We're close despite being distant age-wise, so she's like a kind and friendly senpai.
However, is she a strict senpai at times?
Yamaki: No, that doesn't happen. If I were to say something about it, it's like she'll gently go to us and say things like 'Why don't you try doing this?'... Like she gives us suggestions instead?
Tsugunaga: Instructions in the form of propositions (laughs).
Yamaki: Also, she'll come to us and say 'I'll teach you the moves to that song~'. Rather than telling us off from atop her high horse, asking us 'Why can't you remember this!?', it feels like she's telling us, 'Let's learn it together, okay ♥'. But I think that it's because she deals with us in such a way that there's such a great atmosphere within the group.
I think that it's a strong point of Country Girls that, while we could say that you're newbies, you've got Momochi-senpai with her long history in this industry.
Yamaki: I think that's the biggest difference between us and other newbie groups. With Momochi-senpai around, specifically...... I think..... Firstly, she'll take the initiative to teach us the choreography for dances that she knows.
Tsugunaga: Ah, like 'DanBako (Dance de Bakoon!)' (laughs). Since I've done it before, it was something that's obvious to talk about~.
For all you said about it being the biggest difference, what you told us was something unexpectedly minuscule (laughs).
Yamaki: But she also taught us about things like delicate hand movements, something that we wouldn't have noticed just by watching the videos~. 'BusuTetsu' (Busu ni naranai Tetsugaku) was unexpectedly difficult as well. And also, she definitely taught us a tons of things from a talking aspect.
Tsugunaga: You should have mentioned that earlier (laughs).
Yamaki: I learn a lot of things every time we have MC corners at events. In Country Girls, there are a lot of girls who have always enjoyed talking. Ozeki Mai-chan is like that, and while Morito Chisaki-chan gives this strong impression that she's quiet, she's actually quite the talker.
Tsugunaga: The thing is, we're still a rookie group. At this point in time, it's not about 'Wanting to do this' or 'Not wanting to do that', we'd like accomplish whatever we're given with everything we've got.
Yamaki: Honestly, everything's a fresh new experience to us..... At the 'TereTou Ongakusai' the other day, I was so nervous that my eyes and my mouth and everything else dried up. There were lots of spectators at the venue, lots of people there weren't Hello! Project fans, and we would be appearing with lots of famous artistes......
Did you kick up a fuss, like 'Whoa, there's a celebrity!'?
Yamaki: Not at all, as we were working, and it would be impolite...... However, whenever we'd pass by one in the corridor, we'd give a greeting, then the members would confirm with one another, like 'Right?'
And who were those 'Right's directed to?
Yamaki: That's a secret (laughs). However, for me, it was the same when I first met Morning Musume。-san in the flesh. It was the same with Momochi-senpai at first. Like 'Awesome. It's the real deal...', I'd just watched them from afar. In my mind, they were amazing people you'd only see on TV.
Tsugunaga: In comparison, you've become familiar with me now though (laughs). Well, whatever, it's fine! Since being easy to befriend is one of Momochi's good points.
Finally, please give us your future vision as a group.
Tsugunaga: In these 2~3 years, I feel like HP has had a lot of cool songs, relatively. However, Country Girls are following the royal road as idols. From now on as well, we'd like to make an appeal with our cuteness!