- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Some singers dream of competing on “American Idol.” But what about “Nodo Jiman Za! World”?

Nicholas Edwards has won the television contest three times since he left Cornelius, Oregon, for the life of a Japanese pop star. The show crowns victors in one episode rather than seasonally, still a stunning feat for a boy who stepped on a plane in 2010, a day after graduating Glencoe High School.

He’ll be home on Sunday for a performance at Hillsboro’s Venetian Theatre with the Soul Commanders - his first full-fledged American concert.

“There’ll be some fans coming from Japan, too,” Edwards said in an early morning Skype call. “It’ll be a mini foreign exchange.”

The performance will be filmed, and it’s important to Edwards to share his story: how a 17-year-old Oregonian landed in Japan with a dream, a tourist visa and a part-time teaching job’s savings. It helps that he speaks and sings in Japanese fluently, thanks to high school language classes.

“Especially in rural Japan, a lot of people never have an opportunity to meet someone from a different country or a different racial background,” he said. “I have this opportunity to show people, we have this innate connection as people that goes so far beyond language and culture.”

So far, he’s done that abroad on a new Christmas release and several full-length albums, including one in 2013 with Warner Music Japan. All have been released in English and Japanese versions. He parted ways with the major label over that old favorite, “creative differences.” Warner was pushing toward cover songs, as he’d performed on TV, but he wanted to do his own material.

“It took these last couple albums to get to a place where I was reaching my audience with honest and frank music,” he said. “It’s very eye-level, in that I’m not trying to appear any bigger or smaller than I am.”

Pop stardom in Japan has its share of differences: Edwards is only recently back on Twitter after disagreements with his team on his original account’s personality, and he said the social networking service is little used by Japanese celebrities.

“They like their celebrities to be perfect,” he said. “So you won’t see me writing a lot about politics.”

Instead, he’s connected with fans on his blog -written in Japanese, naturally.

“My blog, I think for someone who works in Japan, has been shockingly honest,” he said.

His Hillsboro show comes a week after a 2,000-person concert in Tokyo, the end of a year of Japanese touring that’ll pick up and continue into March and has taken him to Fukuoka and Sapporo, Portland’s sister city. It’s performance, and the energy of the audience that comes with it, that he really loves.

“I struggle in the studio,” he said. “The engineers… they’re not like an audience. Everybody’s at work. I feel like everybody’s doing me a favor, almost, because I’m enjoying singing and writing. More recently, it’s been easier.”

Edwards expects to stick with the English versions of his songs on Sunday, though there may be a few too “excitable” for friends and family.

“I’ll sing the lyrics that I’m too embarrassed to sing in front of my elders in Japanese,” he said.


Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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