“The way I see it, I’m going to be the first Buddhist priest, and that’s what I’m trying to do with this album,” says Buddhist priest Shigeo Suzuki.
“I feel like there’s a lot of good things going on in Buddhism, and I want to bring that out.”
Suzuki, best known for his role as the lead singer of The Banditos in the movie version of “Django Unchained,” has also been singing since he was a kid.
He was born in Osaka in 1988 and grew up in Kyoto and Tokyo, eventually finding his way to Japan when he was in his 20s.
He first started performing in Japan in the mid-1990s, performing in local venues before returning to the United States in 2006, where he released a string of solo albums and collaborations.
Since then, he’s continued to develop and tour as a solo artist, including a 2016 solo album called “The Buddha.”
And his latest effort, the album “The Light in Your Heart,” will be released on Dec. 21.
“The main thing I want people to understand about this album is that I feel like I’m in the center of a universe that is all of the great teachings that have been handed down,” Suzuki says.
“And that’s why I want it to be an album that can be appreciated by everybody.”
The album was recorded in Tokyo and includes recordings from the Buddha, a spiritual leader of Buddhism who was a popular figure in Japan before his death in 1924.
“This album is about what it means to be a Buddha,” Suzuki tells Recode.
“It’s about being a Buddhist priest.”
Suzuki is best known as a Buddhist monk in Japan, but he also performed in various stages of Buddhism before becoming a solo act.
He’s been practicing Buddhism since the 1980s, and he describes himself as an avid listener and lover of the music of Japanese pop music.
“My first love was pop music,” Suzuki explains.
“Pop music is not only about having a great sound, but it’s also about making you feel good.
That’s the way I feel about pop music.”
Suzuki also has a strong Buddhist influence in his music, too.
“If you listen to any of the songs I’ve done, you’ll hear some of the Buddhist songs,” Suzuki said.
“In the beginning of my career, I was like, ‘Wow, I want this to sound like a Buddhist song.’
And then I started to listen to a lot more Buddhist songs and then I became more interested in Buddhism.”
He says that even though he’s not a Buddhist, he still has an appreciation for the Buddhist tradition.
“There’s a certain kind of spirituality that you have in Buddhism that you don’t find in any other religion, and it’s very important to me to be able to share that with people,” Suzuki explained.
Suzuki and his band, The Bandits, are not the first to explore Buddhist themes.
In 2011, Japanese pop singer, singer, and actor Atsushi Ohtsuka released a collection of Buddhist songs called “Love Is an Act of Mercy.”
In 2015, singer/songwriter and Buddhist monk Dali released a Buddhist meditation album, “The Dharma: The Song of Dali.”
Suzuki says that while he doesn’t think of himself as a “buddhist,” he still believes in Buddhism and that his songs are “inspired by Buddhism.”
“I’m a Buddhist and I’m still practicing it,” Suzuki told Recode last month.
“But I’m also very conscious of what my role is as a musician and I think I should take care of myself.”
Recode’s Christian Jarrett is the Recode religion editor.
Follow him on Twitter @RGJarrett.