[May 2013 – Cuvism] Sunwoo Jung-a – Interview

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Please introduce yourself.

Hello. I’m musician Sunwoo Jung A. Nice to meet you.

Last weekend, you held a performance called “Sunwoo Jung A”. The reactions were really great. How did you feel once the concert was over?

This concert was to celebrate the release of my second full album “It’s Okay, Dear”. I thought I wouldn’t be nervous because I’ve done a lot of performances. Maybe it was because I was headlining, I was actually quite nervous. That’s why I feel that this concert gave this “it’s the real beginning” feeling.

I heard you prepared something special for this concert.

This concert was in a club. That’s why I wanted to do a bit more, although you can’t really change a club’s space.
When you perform in a club, it’s easy to get this casual atmosphere. I wanted to keep this vibe and also show a concert-like image. That’s why I prepared an intro video edited with various images and videos of me doing activities through the years.

I know your parents played a huge part in how you got interested in music. Tell us more about it.

My parents are very ordinary people. If they influenced me, it was in giving me freedom. When I was young, they only worried about me having a one-of-a-kind behavior so they watched over me. That’s why I wonder if the way they raised me didn’t influence me to do music and do creative things.

Your parents’ method of education seems about freedom?

More than freedom, what I received was regulation. If anything, they respected the fact that I had a thing for the creativity field. For instance, when I was 7, I sang loudly standing on the top of the playground slide as I looked at the sunset. To be honest, it sounds a bit weird. (laughs) I think my mom enjoyed watching me doing stuff like this.

When did you start being serious about music?

I think I’ve liked music ever since I was a child. I was always singing, I was always dancing. People usually don’t
like studying the piano when they’re young. However, although I wasn’t good at it, I loved playing the piano. When I ws 9, I wrote the song “Picnic”. (laughs) As time passed by, I went on and also did mainstream music, I went to college and studied jazz.

If you were to choose a song that influenced you as a musician?

The song “My Favorite Things” by Brad Mehldau which is on the “Sound of Music” soundtrack. It’s the song the main character sings when there’s a storm and she tries to comfort the children. My father made me watch this movie when I was young. There was no internet, no subtitles back then, so I watched the original version. I didn’t know what it was about, but I really liked the music. When I was 20, I found a piano sheets book by chance and the song was in there. I was very excited. Until then, I had no idea what the title of this song was. Afterward, I used to always play this song to practice before I sing. I think this song influenced me a lot.

I looked up your filmography. You were the music director of movies “You’re My Destiny”, “Two-Faced Girlfriend”, “Member of the Funeral” and “Bon Appetit”. However, you actually had a cameo in “Bon Appetit”.

Yes. (laughs) “Bon Appetit” director told me that my street performance inspired him. That’s why he created this character. I was really anticipating it at first. I wondered which character I would play. It turned out it was a callgirl. (laughs) The first movie role of my life was a callgirl.

What did you think of the movie when you watched it?

I was embarrassed, but it was fun. (laughs) It gave me experience in another field but music. I learned a lot by wondering how to use it for music. The music in the movie was really nice.

You released your first full album “Masstige” in 2006. How was the process until the release?

I think the time when I released my first full album was the time when I discovered myself. I started college. To be honest, I had been a local musician until then. In one word, I was a rocker. (laughs) I used to think that music was not music if there was no piercing, if I wasn’t singing punk or rock. I started college and I found out about jazz. As I became more aware of what music was, I think I learned about how to broaden my horizons. I was very active in school. I learned a lot about human relationships, about the student-teacher relationship. And I created a band called “Red Carpet”, so the first song I composed was through this band. The concept was modern rock. So as I worked like this, I ended up releasing my first solo album with the encouragements of my band which I’m thankful for.

You started working with YG through 2NE1’s “I Don’t Care (Reggae Mix Ver.). How did you become acquainted with YG?

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I was introduced by a friend. (laughs) This friend is Kush. We already knew each other, and he came to see me perform. There was a lot of people that day and there were great reactions. That day, I sang my version of Son Dambi’s “Saturday Night”. Someone filmed it and uploaded it online. Kush showed this video to Yan Hyun Suk. It was a time when they promoted different versions of “I Don’t Care”, so the offer came spontaneously. I was really surprised. I didn’t think he would contact me like this (laughs).

When YG made you an offer, were you happy about it?

Of course, I was. It’s YG! (laughs) And there’s actually a funnu story about it. When I was in high school, I worked part-time as a singer. Back then, I was a vocal guide for M-Boat which was the agency managing Wheesung and Gummy. At that time, Yang Hyun Suk heard my voice by chance and offered me to be a part of a group. I was young and proud. I was in a band, so I couldn’t do mainstream music. (laughs) And a few years later, Yang Hyun Suk made me the exact same offer. I was on my own, so it was interesting. My current situation was different, so I agreed right away. (laughs)

If your situation back then was the situation you are in today, what would you have said?

I’d be going for it no matter what. If anything, I feel like he was putting together the group and was looking for members back then. When I received his offer this time around, he had seen my version of the mainstream song “Saturday Night”. And I also arranged 2NE1’s songs in my own style, so my mind was more into it because his offer was about being able to work freely.

You composed GD&TOP’s “Oh Yeah”. 2NE1’s Park Bom is featured on the song. While working on the song, didn’t you think about doing the featuring yourself?

I did sing at first. The reactions were good. To be honest, I could have done the featuring, but I had to do my solo activities, so I couldn’t let someone else lipsynch it, right? And it also felt weird for me to step in like that. That’s why the decision was made to bring in Park Bom. To be honest, I also had big expectations. (laughs) The song went over my expectations. And I was really happy that it was one of GD&TOP’s double title track.

You composed “Unrequited Love”, “Because” and “I’m Weird” for Lee Hi’s first full album. There’s a big age difference between Lee Hi and you. How do you get feedback from her?

Hayi is young, but she’s really smart. When we first met, I was truly surprised. She was very clear about the direction she wanted to move to and what she wanted to. That’s why this also inspired me a lot. I’d say we discuss
naturally about things rather than we matched each other while working together. That’s how this unrequited love discussion came out. Hayi said randomly “I don’t find unrequited love sad”. That’s why we started talking
about it and worked on the song.

Lee Hi’s first full album got great reactions. How do you feel as a producer?

I’m delighted. I hope it will do even better than now.

You’ve been working with YG for some time now. Don’t you get collab offers from other agencies?

Sometimes. More than anything, YG sees mes as a musician and not as a staff member who is a composer, so although I had my solo activities, I could enjoy working like this with little pressure. Although I worked with Teddy and Kush, Yang Hyun Suk personally did some producing too, so he kept giving me feedback. That’s why this good outcome was possible. However, other agencies did send me some request. I have no confidence about making mainstream music. That’s why it’s true it’s really stressful.

Please tell us more about your second full album “It’s Okay, Dear” which was recently released.

Even from my point of view, this album is diverse. I wasn’t fixed on which style people attached me to. Not long ago, I read in the “Naver Weekly Discovery” column that my music was called a “music that dissolves boundaries”. These words really hit home. I thought about the word “boundaries” and the word “dissolve” has a positive meaning. That’s why I think this album is the starting point of me dissolving boundaries. With this album as a starting point, I also get more projects.

Your title track “Baepsae” is particularly realistic. What inspired you?

There’s the saying “if the crow-tit tries to walk to the stork, he will break his legs”. I wrote the lyrics with this saying in mind. The mind knows what’s wise, but the society relatively gets weaker as time goes by. I couldn’t figure out myself because it was hard for me to find myself meanwhile. I think my mood was dull as I became an adult. That’s why I ended up making this song to comfort those who feel in the same situation as I am.

I watched the video teaser and I realized you also took part in the directing. Have you always been interested in images or videos?

I had absolutely no interest. I tried this time because the opportunity came along and it was actually a lot of fun. (laughs)

In this album, you give your own version of the international hit “You Are So Beautiful”. What’s the story behind the making of this song?

When I first got offered to do it, I went for a version with a musical vibe different from the current one. Then I let Teddy-oppa listen to it. He said the charming aspect of it was my low tone. So I thought about how to make the arrangement for my tone, and I started working on it as soon as I remembered that.

I watched your concert videos on youtube. You used a gun on stage to perform “The Moment I Destroyed You”. Do you usually use props on stage?

I do. I like performances with props. I worried about how I could express myself in an interesting way on stage, then I started using objects. And I realized that my energy is maximized when I use objects. However, I try not to use the gun prop. It’s actually scary. (laughs)

Is there a performance that you remember specifically?

Among my songs, it’s the one called “I’m Waiting Your Betrayal”. The song is about betrayal. I held a special performance with Young Shim-unnie. It wasn’t in a concert hall. It was like an exhibit art room. It was big. There were a grand piano and a table on the stage. Betrayal is a word that creates tension. The song was also a betrayal. That’s why I crept on stage as if I were in a spy movie. I had been wanting to do this performance. I was able to because the stage set no limit.

A performance you’d like to try in the future?

I want to sing my title track “Baepsae”. It’s the name of the song, that’s why I want to fly. (laughs) In the lyrics, I say at some point “me too, let’s fly”. Right before I sing this part, you hear the sound of a bird flying. I got this sound from a documentary, you really hear the sound of a bird flying. That’s why I remembered this aspect of the video. And that’s why I want to express it on stage.

I listened to the song “The Song of Hero”. I don’t know if it’s whistling, but you can clearly hear people shouting. It seems that you care a lot about the sounds.

Wow~ How did you know? I really like when people notice these details. (laughs) I care a lot about details. The sound is a part of the song balance. I try to insert various sounds. I search sounds that would go well with the song and I think I do insert many interesting elements in my music.

You make a different arrangement of mainstream songs such as “Saturday Night” by Son Dambi or “You and I” by IU and you sing them on stage. Is there a song you’d like to give a try these days?

I’ve been listening to a song by Jo Jung Chi lately. We actually have a lot of things in common, so I’m currently thinking about how I could turn it into my style.

We did an interview with Hoon who is in the same agency as yours. It’s rare to see such musician in Korea. Which other artists from your agency would you like to recommend?

I want to recommend Lucite Tokki. They’re really great, they’re awesome. I think their charm is that you feel their sound in their concerts and in their songs. From a woman’s point of view, I also find them very lovely. Their plans are still small so far, but I really respect how they thoughtfully prepare what they do. I hope many people will listen to Lucite Tokki’s songs.

Magic Strawberry Sound, your agency, isn’t just about music. It also does various activities like the free market. Whose idea was it?

My agency is very interesting, right? (laughs) It was our director and staff’s idea. I also wrote it in my album, my agency feels like the magic factory in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. (laughs) They’re always working on something, always finding something for the things we like. The outcome is always great.

What’s your dream as a musician?

I have a personal dream. I want to extend my agency space. I have another dream. I’m working on that dream, I don’t really think about the real-life limits. Still, if the agency gets bigger, then we will be able to dream bigger. Even if it’s just about getting just one more room, I want this extension to happen. I wouldn’t have been able to have this kind of thoughts when I was younger. When I think about it, I think being a musician is a job you make for others. That’s why my goal is to extend my agency space!

The lifestyle of musician Sunwoo Jungah who is showing various charms through her music

What do you usually do on your free time?

When I get some free time, I read books I haven’t been able to read or I try to watch movies. And I’ve been into another hobby lately. I’m studying aroma oils. I’m studying by myself how to mix them, which ones have efficacy.

Which book have you been enjoying reading lately?

I read all over again “Winner stands alone” by Paul Coelho. It was really interesting.

Is there a book you’d like to recommend to our Cuvism readers?

Paulo Coelho’s books. They’re very interesting!

How does your entourage see you?

As someone who thinks a lot? Someone timid? Because I’m a triple A blood type. (laughs) I usually worry over the smallest things and I feel uneasy. This is something hard to deal with for people around me.

Do they have a nickname for you?

They call me “teacher” sometimes. I don’t have a nickname. When I’m in a group, I explain my songs in a teacher way. Because I’m the only one who’s into it. (laughs) They don’t understand a word of what I say. So when it happens, it feels like I’m a teacher and they call me like that sometimes.

YG artists came to your recent performance at Pink Moon. Do you guys usually attend each other’s concerts?

First of all, I can’t see often Dara-unnie or Lee Hi, so sometimes they come to see me perform when they have some free time. And these days, I’m often seeing YG producer Lydia and Marshall Bang who was in “Birth of A Star”. I have a lot in common with Lydia. We go to the noraebang and sing, we talk a lot while drinking some tea.

What kind of movies do you like?

I like action and fantasy movies. However, there must be some action scenes even in dazzling fantasy (laughs).

If you were to choose a movie that left you a deep impression?

I really like Brad Pitt. And I say it in the purest way. That’s why my favorite is Mr. and Mrs. Smith that he shot. I think I will be able to watch this movie my whole life.

It seems that you really like Brad Pitt.

I really like him. (laughs) I also have a song about him. It’s called “Yes, my hollywoodman”. I was planning to put it in this album, but I went in another direction. I will release it one day.

Which fashion style do you enjoy?

I like fashion that matches me. I know my personality, and it’s a reflection of that.

What do you think of your personality?

I think this is what my problem is. (laughs) Or this is what can be my style. I try to diversify my style. That’s why I haven’t found yet if it’s my style or if it’s something else. My friends who study fashion can’t give me the answer either. (laughs) I think the fact there’s no answer is my style. (laughs)

What’s your dream as a person and not as a musician?

I want to be someone with a free mindset. I’m anxious and I worry about a lot of things. As I became an adult, I’ve losen up a little bit, but losening up and having peace of mind are two different things. I hope from the bottom of my heart that I will live a carefree life. I have yet to feel it, but I think I will be able to live that way one day.

What does Brad Pitt mean to you?

Brad Pitt? (laughs) Of course, I’m married and I love my husband very much. However, Brad Pitt is just someone that I like a lot. There’s no particular reason. Somtimes, I actually want to become Brad Pitt. I imitate the characters he played. I think he’s someone special to me. In one word, he’s my ideal type as well as my utopia. That’s why it feels like my husband cuts me some slack about it. (laughs)

Please say a few words to the Cuvism readers.

I’m preparing for new various activities. Even if it’s not as fun as my lyrics, if you look closely, there will be a lot of interesting elements, so please show me interest when I’m ready. And if you found out about me through this Cuvism interview, find more about me. (laughs) I hope you will enjoy step by step getting to know the musiciam that I am.

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Cuvism
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com

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