Kim Jeong-uk, a South Korean singer-songwriter and rapper, began his music career when he debuted as a member of a boy group, 24K, back in 2012. After a relatively successful career with the group, the artist decided to pursue a solo career.
In 2019, Jeong-uk released his first EP called #down which brought a new wave of listeners. Then, two years later, he released Love, followed by EPisodes (2022), a note-worthy EP which solidified Kim Jeong-uk as a conscious and self-confident artist who consistently follows his own path, gradually gaining the respect and attention of the independent music industry.
Apart from the aforementioned EPs, Kim Jeong-uk released 11 digital singles, including Flowers (April 2022), his most recent single. Kim Jeong-uk doesn’t shy from rapping, his pleasant and natural vocal intertwines with moments when his voice is significantly lowered, thus giving additional depth to his sound. While listening to his first singles and then his newest songs, I became convinced that these songs will play on the senses of the audience, filling the body, but also transferring one’s consciousness to a different musical world.
Ahead of the release of Flowers, we spoke to the artist about his latest EP, EPisodes, what it means to be an artist and the creative process behind his songwriting.
Image © Lee Yeongmo
Before discussing your music and your latest release, EPisodes, what made you decide to pursue a career in entertainment?
I did popping when I was younger! When I was 20, I was working on some rap with an older friend and I would go to his place a lot, so of course, I gradually started working on music.
Let’s talk about your 3rd EP, EPisodes, that was released in February of this year. What was it like creating this collection? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Any unexpected challenges?
I didn’t really have any problems. I just kept thinking ‘let’s have the most fun working on this album’! I usually get really stressed when I work, but I felt great and had a lot less stress making this album because I was enjoying the process.
Why did you decide to call your EP EPisodes?
No special reason! I was thinking of making my own EP album and I just wanted something that began with the letters EP. [laughs]
You also released a music video for one of the songs from the aforementioned EP, Don’t Forget Me. What was your favourite part of shooting that video?
I watched the music video again before replying to this question and I remember it was freezing when we were shooting it, so the crew and I were shaking all over as we were filming! If you watch the part where I’m singing, you can see my breath because it was that cold. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, though. It was worth it.
Image © Lee Yeongmo
In general, how does your creative process differ when you create rap sections from the vocal parts?
I like writing rap because I have a bit more freedom. When I’m working on the vocal sections, I have to keep in mind my vocal range, so that part’s still not so easy for me.
Although I enjoy listening to all your songs, Write a Letter [2020 release] and Without Warning [EPisodes] are my personal favourite. What was the inspiration behind these songs and when did the idea occur to you, particularly for Without Warning?
I don’t think I get clear inspiration on the spot [laughs]. I sit in front of the mike and keep singing, putting in the time to come up with something that’s good! I also try to find the right words and sentences to go with that mood.
How does it feel to be releasing EPisodes? Personally, I feel like when any artist exposes their work it’s like revealing their soul to the public. I have major respect for that and I’m curious how you feel when putting your music out there for people to judge.
Of course, it would be great if all the music I release is received well, but I know that can’t be the case all the time. But, if one person somewhere is affected by the emotions or the words or any other part of my songs and if that helps enrich their day even just a little bit, that’s enough reason for me to make music!
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
I pay more attention to the sound part, so I don’t embed hidden meanings in my music. If I wanted it to have a meaning, I would make sure it’s direct!
Image © Lee Yeongmo
As you have been working in the music industry for a while now, what is your favourite part of being an artist? Your least favourite? Why?
What I like most about being an artist is that I get fans who like me or my music. It breaks my heart the most when a fan leaves me because of taste, popularity or some other reason.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more to stay connected with fans and other musicians?
I’m not very good on social media. I just use mine to tell my fans little things about my daily life or when I’m releasing a new album. (Maybe you can teach me to manage my social media better).
What is one message that you would like to give to your fans?
Most of all, I want them to always take good care of their health and eat well! COVID is dragging out and obviously everyone’s having a hard time both mentally and physically, so I hope they can at least enjoy appreciating the little things in daily life.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in your music journey?
The time when some of the members of our group [24K] left. The ones that stayed worked together and kept going, but I could feel it was wearing everyone down.
Image © Lee Yeongmo
Do you feel that you chose your “passion”, [in reference to music] or did it choose you?
Hmm. I’ve never thought of that, so your question is very refreshing. I think I’d have to say I chose music! I believe I chose it just because I like it even though I’m not talented at all [laughs].
Has being an artist changed other aspects of your life since you became a solo artist?
Ever since I started working with music, I picked up a habit of thinking ‘I wonder what this person was thinking when they made this music? I want to make music like this, too.’ I think about this whenever I listen to any music!
Are there any concepts, or certain music styles that you would like to try out with your future releases?
Absolutely! I want to try arranging a ballad accompanied only by a piano.
When you are not working and writing songs, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
I love staying at home. And I spend the most time with my cat, Beomgu, at home.
What are your upcoming plans? Apart from promoting your new EP, are there any other projects that you have planned for the future?
I have single albums set for release in April and May. I’m also working on a mixtape that I’ll be uploading on YouTube before the end of the year, so keep an eye out for it. Thank you!
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Featured image © Lee Yeongmo
*[On April 5th, the artists released a new single called “Flower”, the interview took place prior to that release]
Music Video © Kim Jeong-uk
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