Becoming a successful artist is a matter of not only talent, but also luck. Sometimes, it’s like a lottery, you can become a star overnight or you wait for a decade for it to happen. It’s common knowledge that arising singers often struggle to get noticed by record labels, however, with the power of social media, plus the understanding that there is a potential audience fairly anywhere might feel liberating for many new artists. 

Shin Jae-kwon, a.k.a WAET, was just an ordinary student in his native home of South Korea when he discovered an interest in music. However, the lack of confidence made him afraid to start it as a career. Then, at the age of 19, he finally found the courage to begin to learn music for the first time. With various auditions, talent shows and other music events, the competition ran high, and with that in mind, Shin didn’t feel strong enough to participate in any of them. As the artist said himself, he got lucky when he got into university; one of his professors introduced him to an audition to be a part of a band project and after passing it, Shin started to work intensively on making music. 

Shin has always been into band music and its concept, and while working for the band project, he met various young artists who later became his friends. After two years of practising, Shin left without a debut and went on to serving in the military. Thoughts of quitting music crossed his mind, but after leaving the army, he decided to start all over again and went to Seoul to pursue his career as a singer. 

Shin has just released his debut single, Not Yet, a subtle rock song that also showcases the young artist’s vocal abilities. With the help of Yun-dak, a singer-songwriter who was in a band project before, and who was also responsible for producing, mixing and mastering Not Yet, and Lee Jae-hyung of The Rose, who recorded bass for Not Yet, Shin’s debut will surely turn into an accomplishment that might open a wider door into the music world. 

We recently spoke with Shin Jae-kwon about his debut, artistic process behind Not Yet and challenges that emerging artists must face ahead of their career. 

Kwon Jae

Photo © WAET 

You have just released your 1st song, Not Yet, and ‘entered’ the independent market for young emerging artists, it must be overwhelming. Was music a path that has always called out to you – was there a moment when you realised that music was for you? 

When I was 19, I followed my friend to a small stage at a music academy, and I remember, there was a girl about my age who was singing. She genuinely enjoyed the stage, her gesture and the look in her eyes somewhat fascinated me. At that moment, I realised that I wanted to be on stage myself. 

Although you released just one song at the moment, you did write many other songs before releasing Not Yet. However, after careful consideration, you made the decision that you would work on Not Yet, why is that?

At first, I didn’t want to release Not Yet as my debut single. I wanted to release a song that I can express myself with rather than focusing on what people would like. However, after Yundak talked to me and explained a few things, as a result, I changed my mind and decided to release Not Yet as my debut song due to its popular feeling.

What was the creative process behind Not Yet?

Not Yet is not a song that started from some kind of inspiration. When I first made the draft of this song, I just wanted to write a song that felt calm and dreamy at dawn, so I repeated the guitar riffs and added a little instrument to it, and I saved it as an incomplete track. Then, Yun-dak liked it and decided to work on the song. I intended to put a soothing atmosphere in this song, but I also wanted my first song to have more impact, so we worked on that part mostly.

Kwon Jae 1

Photo © WAET 

Looking at your current life, to what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?

In general, I don’t have a natural talent for making melodies or creating songs on the spot. Looking back at my memories, I just try to remember the feelings I had at that time and try to incorporate them into songs that I want to make. 

After listening to the released song of yours, one can notice that you combine rock with pop. Are there any concepts, or certain music styles that you would like to try out with your future releases?

Yes, there’s a lot I’d like to do. If I have a chance, I would like to play trendy, soft and powerful songs, songs that fit my style too. 

Does music that inspires you belong to the same genre or do you like to venture out when you switch sides from being a singer to being the audience? 

I used to listen to only one genre, one type of songs or singers. But these days, I try to listen to a variety of music.

As you are an emerging singer, what are your main challenges as an artist? 

I’ve just started and I am an independent singer without a company, so I’m a little worried about whether I’ll be able to do well in the future. But some people from abroad shown their interest, I am very grateful for that. I should also worry less and work hard on my music.

Kwon jae

Photo © WAET 

Is there anything you would like to change in the music industry that might help emerging artists to get bigger exposure on a domestic and foreign market?

I don’t know about foreign countries, but in Korea, big agencies are very powerful. It’s hard for artists like me to find and listen to our music even if it’s released on music sites. If you’re an independent musician or with a small company, it’s just tough. I guess there are many other ways to get noticed, but I hope the system would improve with time for every musician out there. 

Is there music you like which never fails to make you feel good? Who is in your Top 5 nowadays?

My top 5 artists are ONE OK ROCK, Korean band YB, Twenty One Pilots, The 1975 and Billy Eilish.

When you are not working and writing songs, what do you do to get away from it all and relax? 

I like playing Overwatch, a computer game.

Now, that you have released your first song, what are your plans for the future? Can we expect more from you? New EP, perhaps? 

I want to release more single albums and go on stage if I have a chance to perform at a small concert. I will try harder to release my EP as well. Thank you. 

We would like to thank WAET for taking his time to answer our questions. We also look forward to hearing more songs from this emerging singer-songwriter soon. Make sure you purchase WAET’s debut single on iTunes or listen to it on Spotify.  

Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Julia Litwinowicz

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General, In Conversation with, K-pop, Music