[I skipped 90% of the introduction because it’s the same thing over and over again. You know that she’s making a comeback after 4 years of absence because of agency issues and “Did You Forget?” is a big hit and she’s awesome and everybody is happy that she’s back with another great album]
Considered as a matchless female rapper and an oustanding singer at the top of the soul/hip-hop game,Yoon Mirae is back. Her third album that is titled with her own name is receiving good reviews for being the right compromise between what the public wants and what she wants. “From writing lyrics to the ultimate moment of completing the song in the studio, I took care of everything,” she said as we met her in a café in Yeoui-do on April 20th. She said that her Korean improved a lot during this resting time. Without losing her smile all through the interview, Yoon Mirae thanked her fans for their never-ending support.
It’s an album that is more about singing than rapping. It seems that your songs like “Did You Forget?”, “I”, “Honeymoon”, “Because it’s me” feel more natural and are easier to listen than your previous songs.
It wasn’t my intention to highlight this naturalness. While I was resting, I went through a lot of bad things, but they had a good resolution. I was eager to do the music I wanted and I put my heart into it. Besides, the people around me helped me a lot which put my heart at ease. I was feeling at ease, so my singing came out in a natural way, but I didn’t do it on purpose.
Still, you must have worried over your singing when you actually went into the recording booth?
It’s not that my first two albums weren’t about my music, but overall all I did was just singing. Still, “As Time Goes By” and “To My Love” received a lot of love. This time, my dilemma was to do the same thing or to do things in my own way, with my own feelings. That’s why singing was hard. I made the compromise between what the fans care about and the music I want to do in my own way. Of course, I was more inclined to do the latter, though. I’m glad the final result was good.
You used the expression “my own way”. How much was this reflected in the recording process?
“Because it’s me” is a song by Yoon Il Sang. I thought about the concept since the moment I received the song. I took part in the lyrics writing process, so I had my hands on everything from the beginning to the end. “Black Happiness” is completely my story. I wrote a lot of songs in English first, then Tiger JK-oppa turned them into Korean. My name isn’t credited for the lyrics, but they reflect my intention.
I checked the credits for “Did You Forget…”. I saw Ann1 for the music and arrangement and Ann for the background vocals. Is she someone different?
She’s the same person. She’s the singer Ann. She’s my soulmate in music. First of all, I think she’s the best vocalist. She’s in the US right now and I’m trying my best to talk to her into making an album.
“What’s up! Mr. Good Stuff” is the second track of this album. It’s the hip-hop style fans want from Yoon Mirae. It seems that you had more fun recording this song than “Did You Forget…” that is in the Korean style.
Personally, I like songs like this that give this old school vibe. You can say it’s more funk than hip-hop. To be honest, I didn’t listen to hip-hop that much before. Still, I like this kind of songs, but I think it would have been complicated for the fans if I had put many of them (in this album), so I wondered if I should include them slowly, one by one. I hope I avoided the songs that would make the audience feel burdened.
Is there a song that you listened to while recording?
I like songs related to the old school style. I like old songs more than current songs. I listened to Marvin Gaye or Sade. I used Sade’s vocal tone and sense of groove as a reference.
Have you decided what the next single after “Did You Forget…” will be?
This is something I’m thinking about. The agency also finds it a difficult decision. Some suggested “Pay Day”, others said to go with “What’s up! Mr. Good Stuff”. Some also talk about “Black Happiness” which became an issue as soon as the album was released… Make me a suggestion. One thing is clear. People want to hear the hip-hop Yoon Mirae. I don’t think I met this expectation this time around, so I’m planning to make a hip-hop album when I’m done promoting this one.
As you may know, Yoon Mirae really got into hip-hop in 1996 as she joined the co-ed group Uptown. Hiding the fact that she was mixed, she stood on stage and she was almost 15 at that time. When she signed her contract, she was a 13-year-old kid. Born in Texas in 1981 to her father Thomas J. Reid who was a US soldier and her mother Yoon Myung Ok who was Korean, she came to Korea when she was 9. After going back and forth between the United States and Korea, Yoon Mirae settled down in Korea for good in 1993 as her unique dream was to become a singer.
The life on her mother’s homeland was very hard to handle for this young girl. The loneliness of being on her own because she lived far from her parents weighed her down. Her friends were in school, her Korean wasn’t good. If she expressed how hard it was for her, would her mother tell her to stop and come home? That’s what she worried about, so she didn’t say a word and kept going through this pain. Following a friend to an audition, she got scouted as she sat in a coffee shop and hummed to herself with her headphones on. She got scouted out and started doing activities with Uptown. Eventually, this twist gave her the opportunity to realize her wish. Within her loneliness and her fear, she gained many things through Uptown.
Her skill was so good that it was hard to believe she was just 15 years-old. Her singing was fresh and her rapping was even much more than that. At a time when it was hard to see someone who could be good at rapping and singing, she was praised for being “an outstanding vocalist and the best female rapper” and a big name of the Black music in Korea. After that, she was a part of the duo Tashannie, then she did solo activities under the name T and she found success again on high speed. Her songs like “Day by Day”, “As Time Goes By”, “Memories”, “To My Love” were hits.
What did you learn when you’re with Uptown?
I gained experience while singing along songs that I like. Can I say that I learned what kind of music suits me best? (When asked if she remembered a song from her Uptown days, she replied “You Inside Me”)
What do you remember of the duo Tashannie you formed with Annie?
I met Annie when I was filming the music program Inkigayo. Once the rehearsal was over, Annie told me in English “I also have small feet” and left. I don’t know why hearing these words made me so happy. Tashannie was formed while I was doing activities with Uptown. It was a valuable time because I also gained experience. When I’m on my own, I’m nervous. I get very anxious. When I’m with someone else, I get excited. This is how I felt with Tashannie. (When asked what was her favorite song during her Tashannie days, she chose “Come To Me” and not “Day by Day”)
So, you must be dreaming of a duet.
I do. I’m actually planning one right now. I like duet better than solo work. I’ve made and released 3 albums so far, but I prefer being in a group than being solo. I think it’s because I’m sensitive when it comes to loneliness. It doesn’t look like it when people look at me, but I like being in the background better than being in the front line.
How would you compare “As Time Goes By” and “Did You Forget…”?
When I look back, I guess I sang “As Time Goes By” through technique and I sang “Did You Forget…” according to the feel of the song. When I rehearse or when I record, I don’t worry about the technique. It comes out as it comes out, if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. I just sang how I felt.
What do you think of the change people like Super Bowl MVP player Hines Ward brought to public awareness about the biracial issue?
The situation is better than before and it’s good that it became a social issue, but I wonder if it’s not only because of he’s famous. It seems that it faded away after several months… When I look at the mixed people around me, I think we still have a long way to go. We still need to educate people a lot.
Your Korean improved a lot, how does it reflect in your album?
Since I’m singing my songs in Korean, being good at Korean was essential. To be honest, it’s really not easy for me to memorize the lyrics. I think people will see this album as Yoon Mirae’s music being a part of the “Korean music” movement. It should become Korean soul music that is not US black music. It’s about finding the identity of my own music. I’m in the process of finding Yoon Mirae.
How about introducing a singer or an album you like?
(no sooner said than done, she began listing dozens of artists) Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, Al Green, Staple Singers, Bob Marley… Marvin Gaye and Sade I talked about earlier. I also like Madonna, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard. I don’t listen just to Black music, I listen to everything. I can’t understand heavy metal yet, so except for that genre, I make no difference and I listen to every kind of music.
How do you feel when you listen to Korean singers?
The music made by singers with bands in the 1960’s and 1970’s is soulful. They have the best sense of groove and it goes for soul, funk, any music. I was surprised when I listened to them. I think I enjoy listening to this music more than the music released nowadays. I listen to them diligently.
Say a few words to your fans.
I’m sorry for making you wait for so long. I thank you for waiting for me all this time. Thank you for understanding the music I want to make and for giving me love. I told you before that I was trying to find who I am. I know I will keep making a lot of mistakes. But even if I do, I hope you will always be kind to me.
Original article: neo music community