Thanks to your youthful features, a lot of people think “he’s a kiddo” [t/n: it’s more in a sense of being very young, inexperienced and being guided], but to be honest I know you’re an “oppa”.
Haha. I’m definitely not a kiddo.
You debuted in 2002, so you’ve been a singer for 15 years. How do you remember the beginning of your career when you began singing black music on the underground scene?
It might be because I was young back then, but it was fun all the time. More than thinking that I should accomplish something, I sang songs because my friends came up to me and were like “what do you think of this song? How about singing together?”. At that time, it was possible because I only saw it as something fun. It was the time when the Korean black music scene was just getting started, so there was no base. The hyungs had it harder than me and things became much better now. I mean the mainstream audience understands Black music and the fanbase for this music keeps growing bigger.
I looked up your previous interview pictures. Your hair is much shorter now and I think it looks better on you. If you could go back in the early 2000’s, is there something you’d want to change?
I think I’d wish that my solo album would be released faster. However, even if I were to go back to that time, my album might have not been released earlier. Haha. When I think about where I am today, I wasn’t really greedy. It was more satisfying for me to be featured on my friends’ songs than to get my name out there. I wasn’t greedy at all about releasing my own music. If I could go back, I would urge myself to do it.
Eventually, you released your first single in 2008. You had been around for about 6 or 7 years. You were in no rush at all, weren’t you?
I think I couldn’t see reality. I enjoyed each second, so I had no specific plan about when I would release my album. Of course, I did think about it. Once I got recognized for my featurings on my friends’ songs, this should have been the next step. I mean, once you get experienced, you release an album. Once your album is getting praised, you must find an agency. My agency didn’t create the artist I am, so we’re more on an equal ground. It’s right to say that they wanted to work with me after they listened to my music. I didn’t want to sign with an agency and say “please release my album”. I didn’t need that. I just kept moving forward step by step like I wanted to. It took so much time because I’m a laid-back person.
I think people who’ve got to know you recently through “Some” probably see you as a musician who makes trendy and emotional music. How about talking your musical core that you’ve had for such a long time?
It’s hard to explain my music through a category or a genre. I only did the music I wanted to do. However, regardless of that, if you talk about the core of my music, I’d answer it’s “me”. I’ve always liked Black music ever since I was a kid, so I kept making music in this range, but I don’t think of it as my core and my roots. The music genre can be switched whenever. The most important thing is what I want to do. It’s natural to say this, but I must be here for my music to exist.
There’s this emotion Korean people clearly like. This feeling of “it’s so appealing because it’s too much feels”. From this perspecitve, your music is very clear. It seems that this aspect established the definition of your music. Do you agree?
More than to say I agree, I’m thankful. I write my lyrics and create my music, so I think my songs are full of my personality. I have a friend who is a soul man, he’s a great singer. However, he has a fierce personality and when he sings, it’s just as fierce. I watched his duet with Jung In and I thought it really looked like two wild beasts fighting. My personality isn’t like that, so if my partner sings higher, I try to step back. On the Korean music scene, if you try to stand out, you can shout and it can be an advantage if it suits you. Even in vocal competition programs broadcast these days, it can’t be helped and this is what gives the contestant a high mark sometimes. However, I think it’s not my path.
It seems that your power of adaptation is stronger than people think. It shows during the photo shoot, in music shows, you seem very mature.
Soyu played a big role in music programs. It was my first time being in music programs. I was lucky to do this first promo round with Soyu. I leaned on her a lot. Thanks to my agency staff and my managers who are veterans in this industry, the adaptation was definitely easy. Instead of saying that my power of adaptation is stronger, I’d say I’m trying my best not to harm anyone.
Number one on music programs, number one in music charts. These are great results showing you were well-received.
I have a nonchalant personality. To be honest, things like this didn’t touch me much. I have never done music with rankings in mind. When the song “Some” ranked first, Soyu cried right away. I was really happy too, but I asked my manager if it was something to cry over. And he said ranking first was really hard. I don’t know if it’s because the environment change was too sudden, but I didn’t quite realize what it meant. I think I know now. That is something to be thankful for and how overwhelming it is. If I seemed nonchalant back then, it’s because I didn’t really understand what was going on. I’m really happy when I’m number one.
You know what I said earlier about how I thought you were a kiddo but you’re actually an oppa, what do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about you?
When they only listen to my music, a lot of people think I’m shy or an introvert. A lot of people imagine me being very quiet and staying at home only reading books. That’s why I heard that a lot of people get disappointed when they see me on stage. There’s the request that it won’t work if there’s silence for 10 minutes when I’m done with a song. And before they see me in real life, they don’t really know that I have big build. I’m also taller than they think, I’m more muscular than they think. Well, things like that?
Have you been working on your songs every day lately?
I’m watching “Secret Garden”.
Why so suddenly? Everybody is watching “Goblin” these days.
I was checking SNS. Someone posted a scene, so I asked what it was and the person said it was “Secret Garden”. I don’t really watch dramas when they’re broadcast. I got curious, so I looked it up. However, it’s actually very funny. It’s the only thing I’ve been doing these past few days. I’ve liked Hyun Bin ever since “My Lovely Sam Soon”, and he’s quite charismatic in this drama as well. Ah, of course, watching this isn’t the only thing I do these days. I mostly write lyrics and create songs at dawn because it’s when I’m emotionally relaxed.
How did you spend 2016?
I never had a bad year. It’s a year I took a leap. Starting from September, I released singles constantly. To be honest, the fact of going on TV for promo activities and release albums in a fancy way was stressful in the past. Because I thought about how I had to have a title track that both my agency and I could be satisfied with. I asked myself: “my agency really likes this song, but can I enjoy sing it on TV for more than a month?”. And then I thought it wouldn’t work out. And I’ve come so far while going through this process over and over again. That’s why I have no pressure about going on music programs and I just decided to go with my own vibe of going to my slow pace while releasing my songs through the single format. If I thought a bit faster, I think it would lessen the pressure. Still, my songs get released even now, so what? It’s a good thing that it’s now and not later.
You’re the king of positivity, but I think you must have this kind of moments. I mean, these moments when you’re satisfied with a song, but the audience reaction goes against what you had anticipated. How do you deal with such situations?
First of all, my situation now is a bit different from my situation back then. Before people knew me like they know me today, no matter how hard I tried to sing well and make music, I was limited in ways to get people to listen to it. That’s why it wasn’t about my expectations or people’s reactions back then. Fans who like me have always waiting and waiting again for me, but I had no random unknown and unspecific listeners. Compared to that time, my working conditions are much better and I can get my music out there, so I even have random people listening to me. That’s why now there isn’t no pressure to make music. However, I see it as how it’s supposed to be because everyone may not like my music at all.
The expectation itself may be different from what it used to be.
You’re right. I could have been satisfied to reach this point in the past, but releasing “Some” and stepping on the mainstream market means that the level of satisfaction can’t be the same as before. However, I have no regret about the level of completion of my songs.
I felt it earlier, but you’re really a good speaker. Your years of experience show.
I can talk about “Secret Garden” even better. Haha.
If so, wouldn’t you make a song inspired by a drama?
It’s not like that. When I watch a drama, I’m like others and I just think that I want to have a lot of money. I want to be born in a rich family and run a mall.
I don’t know if it can happen if you make a lot of good songs. Even your outfit today is like Hyun Bin’s.
Ah, it seems that I just got roasted? Haha.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com