I was in a Samsung-dong office when I listened to the mini-album Gummy released after four years. She’s a prominent singer of the musical scene who goes beyond being an icon of the R&B era as she explored almost every genre in the past 10 years. Listening to her songs that were painted with irrepleacable colors was like watching an omnibus movie unfold.
Until now, she had embraced various musical genres such as R&B, soul, traditional ballads, pop, electro, hip-hop. While I was in this room and listening to the entire album, I thought her singing method changed gradually according to the diversity of these genres. It’s especially true for the song “Let’s Play” which is her personal composition and that is full of this sweetness that Gummy had never shown in her music until now.
“I don’t stick to one genre. My mindset is always to show diverse things that match my style. If a song goes well with me, I must do it regardless of the genre. My intention is to use a singing technique and my voice in a different way to match the song. “Let’s Play” was supposed to be for a male singer, but I thought it’d be fun to give the words to a woman who would be the one to suggest to a man to have fun and the reaction was great. JYJ’s Yoochun who belongs to the same agency really did a great job with the narration. I thought the song and the chorus had to be done together and the narration too required some kind of acting, so I asked him to do me this favor.”
Since it is your first album in 4 years, what did you particularly worry about as she was making this album?
I don’t want to do a music that leaves the public out. I must to do the music that goes well with me instead. The public must relate to what I express with my own style. It’s something that I always think about. Sometimes, there are people who think my music is complex. It seems that it’s the first thing that comes to their mind because of my voice, even when the song, the melody are easy to listen to. I don’t know exactly what the criteria is to say my music is difficult, but I think popular music is about what the audience feels when I sing, when the listener feels whatever I try to express. I don’t think “it is not popular music when they say the beat is complex, the melody is complex”. Of course, I try to go for an easy beat and an easy melody when it’s possible because there can be a sense of rejection if they’re complex.
That’s why something about the melody of the title track is easy to hum. Overall, Gummy stays Gummy, but there’s this feeling of joy with slightly less energy. I wasn’t greedy and I enjoyed working on this song. To be honest, I actually wanted this album to have just one color based on one genre, but since it had been some time since I had released an album and some people didn’t just want to hear my ballads but wished to hear another style, I tried to do different genres. Still, when you listen to the album, there will be one specific color behind it. I think it’s a natural result. One good reason is that because this album can be listened to regardless the moment you listen to it, be it in the morning or in the evening, either it’s a sunny or a cloudy day. I hope the listeners can listen to it with ease, even if they feel that my voice is complex.
What is your favorite song in this album?
As a singer, I think the title track “I Loved… Have no regrets” is the best story to express myself on this current market. If I had released another standard ballad like “If You Come Back” or “We Should Have Been Friends” from my first full album, there would have been disappointed people. They might have think it was just an extension from the ballads that I kept releasing through soundtracks. However, this title track isn’t a complete change that doesn’t go well with me, so it’s not like I gave up on what I did before. I think the relaxed atmosphere of the lyrics goes well with my current state of mind at this age. I have so much faith in this song that I think I wouldn’t have any regret, even if the song didn’t go well with me. I just love it.
People might be surprised that I worry a lot about the flow of the mass, but while I try to think of popular music and the music I can do well through a neutral perspective, I think it’s not easy to find the balance between the two. This “popular” apsect is just something I have to deal with. There are true artists and very ordinary things around me. There are artists who do the same job as I do. All this time, I thought a lot about “how should I do it?”. I think I’m right in the middle. That’s why I feel my music also follows this natural process. Music is just the only thing I can do and that goes well with me. I think I’m just someone standing in the middle [between artistic and ordinary things].
You’ve been a singer for 11 years. When someone has been working ten years in the same field, he or she is usually called a pro or an expert. You’ve been called a pro since your debut. I think this must have been burdensome. Do you really feel that you have mastered this art?
So why do I get this reputation? (laugh) I think it might be because I was a trainee for a long time. I practiced all by myself for 7 years. I realized that I learned a lot by recording all by myself. I felt so confident back then. I didn’t know anything and I was like if I debut now, “I’ll slay everything”. Because that’s how I felt. Fortunately, as soon as I debuted, I was recognized for my musicality and my singing ability, but I had vocal nodules right away, so I went through a hard time. I thought I would never sing again. Since then, I thought a lot “let’s not be greedy, let’s take it slow”. I told myself “don’t be envious or jealous of others. I’m in this situation, so let’s take this opportunity to polish my skills”. Of course, I tried things here and there during this process as I asked myself if I should change the style of my songs, if I should work more on my singing technique. In the end, being all by myself and looking at the wall while practicing, my chords healed through good vocal exercises. After that, I combined working out with music, I think it became my own method.
It seems that you also think that your image is standardized.
I think the audience already has a fixed image of who Gummy is. Within this image, I must keep going without regressing and without being too greedy. Especially because I have people who do like my music. I keep trying to find the music that will allow me to keep communicating with them, so I think about the best way to keep progressing.
During your trainee days when you were rehearsing alone, were you influenced by a musician regardless of the style of their voice? Is there a musician or a song that you still enjoy listening to even today?
When I was a kid, I really liked husky and rough voices. Thanks to my mom who loves music, I also listened to Korean music a lot. Soulful songs back then were good too. I found out about the charm of Black music and I loved musicians such as Lauryn Hill. Korea also has musicians that no one can compare to. I also have a good reason to like Kim Choo Ja-sunbaenim, Kye Eun Sook-sunbaenim, Jo Duk Bae-nim. I like songs with concise melodies and when you breathe a lot. In one word, I’m talking about songs with silent intervals. In recent years, I’ve really been into the music of Black musician Valencia Robinson. Her voice is husky, but her music really has this acoustic sound.
It seems that you love music as if it was something you were fated to do. It seems that your life could have been buried under your job, what efforts do you make to find the balance between your personal life and your work?
Until now, I have never thought about my work as something controlling me. Because of the job I do, I do invest myself in the rest of the time it leaves me and I enjoy it. To be honest, it’s been quite a long time since I have been on a trip. The only thing I do when I have some free time sometimes, it’s to spend 1 night and 2 days in the countryside where my father and my older brother live. Although it’s for a short period of time, those are precious moments for me because those are moments of distraction. So far, I think my life is good with my job. I really love nature, so when/if I get my own family later on, I sometimes tell myself that I want to live in a place far away and spend my time making music. With my heart at ease. I want to make concerts and release albums with songs created this way. I think this will make me very happy.
I heard you shot “Immortal Song 2” with your mother yesterday. Your mother also released an album. Do you help each other out and give each other advice?
My mum is totally my fan, so she has no objectivity. She has a very precise opinion on things, so when she only says nice things to me, I think “yes, this is definitely my mom”. We are like two friends. Somtimes, I feel we’re like twins who understand each other’s feelings.
From an emotional perspective, your mother is a big influence on you, so it seems that she’s like your muse.
I got my musicality from my mom and I think that what I feel as I look at her life is the biggest element that comes out in my music. My mom is my everything. She’s the most important person in my life. She’s awesome. I must become like my mom. Even as I get older.
T/n: When Gummy says “popular music” here, it’s not about popularity. It’s popular as in “mainsteam, something liked by the masses, the non-elitist music”. I debated using directly the word mainstream in the translation, but I’m not sure if it would cover everything she wants to say.
As a fan and since she didn’t do that much promo in the past 5/6 years, I just get my hands on everything I can and enjoyyyyyyyyyy. Besides, Gummy AND Taeyang doing promo at the same time is what this fangirl right here has been waiting for so many years, so let me just appreciate.