Who is Sam Kim? Born in the United States, Sam attended a high school in the state of Washington. At the age of 15, he moved to South Korea where he participated in a talent show, K-pop Star. After placing second in the competition, the singer signed with Antenna Music, a record label that is home to talent such as Mijoo (member of Lovelyz), Kwon Jin-ah, and Jung Seung-hwang.
In 2016, Sam released his debut EP, My Name Is Sam, and two years later, he delighted his fans with a studio album called Sun and Moon. Since his debut, the singer has released many singles, including The Juice and These Walls. The artist has over a dozen collaborations under his belt with artists such as Punchnello, Crush, Primary, PH1, and Woodz, just to name a few.
Sam’s music is also associated with many K-dramas (Search: WWW, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, Our Beloved Summer), with one particular song that truly kicked off the singer’s career, Who Are You from Goblin. The OST sold almost a million copies and solidified his status as a talented young artist. While many of Sam’s songs appeared in dramas, he only wrote one; it was for Netflix’s Nevertheless (2021), a beautiful and subtle tune that many still enjoy listening to.
This year, the London audience got a chance to see Sam perform live at the first indoor HallyuPopFest that took place at the Wembley Arena. The singer, alongside with Simon Petrén, a songwriter and producer, performed many wonderful songs, including These Walls, Rainy Days, Where Is My Money, and Love Me Like That. The singer certainly attracted many with his voice, smile, and sweet personality.
After his appearance at the HallyuPopFest, I got the chance to ask Sam a few questions. What’s his favourite song of his own, and what does he like to do outside of writing music? The artist answered these and other questions exclusively for View of the Arts.
Before discussing your music and the creative process behind it, I’d like to ask you, how was London and the HallyuPopFest?
Sam Kim: London was amazing, performing and feeling the energy of the crowd was something that I really missed. I’m so thankful that so many people knew the words to my songs.
I was so delighted that I got to see you twice at the showcase and the evening concert. You didn’t disappoint; it was a perfect performance. I wish you had more time on the stage. How did you decide which songs to perform?
Sam Kim: It was definitely tough! Simon and I tried our best to balance musicality and vibes, if that makes sense. If we only did ballads, we might have been too boring. If we only did high-tension songs, we might have tired people out. Trying to find that balance was a war in itself, but eventually we decided on a setlist and ran with it.
So how did your collaboration with Simon begin?
Sam Kim: Funny story, my boss invited all of us out to dinner and randomly said “hey Simon, would you want to go to London and perform with Sam?”.
Simon, being as spontaneous as I am, graciously said yes and that was that! We then continued to drink wine and eat Korean BBQ.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life that made you want to become an artist? Do you feel that you chose your “passion” [in reference to music], or did it choose you?
Sam Kim: I think it chose me! I had no plans of being an artist – I’m not much of a planner. Everything just kind of fell into place. But music was always a big part of my life in general, I just never thought that it would become the main aspect of my life.
Looking at your releases, past and present, I have noticed that you effortlessly combine various genres in your music. With this in mind, what kind of approach do you use when writing and producing your music?
Sam Kim: I think having no approach is the result of my music [laughs]. Like I said, I’m horrible at planning, so whatever comes out is what comes out, mix that with spontaneity and you get my music!
This question is also related to your past and present releases. How much of your personal experience influenced and continues to influence the creative process of your songs? Lyrically speaking, of course. Which song would be the most personal to date?
Sam Kim: I would say almost all of my songs come from a personal experience. I’ll blow things out of proportion as any good storyteller will do but most of it is from experience! The most personal songs would be about my family (Mama Don’t Worry) and maybe about myself!
Since your official debut in 2016, you have released a hefty number of songs. As a songwriter, you must constantly write songs, but not necessarily all of them end up being recorded. How do you generally choose which songs you want to release?
Sam Kim: My company helps me choose a concept and then we cherry-pick songs that I’ve written that go along with that theme! Eventually, every song gets used in one way or another even if it’s a small snippet.
How do you feel about having your music associated with Korean dramas? What’s the process behind writing an OST?
Sam Kim: I’ve only written one OST and that’s my favourite one. It’s called Love Me Like That. I wrote it at a very vulnerable stage in my life and probably due to my mindset at the time, I didn’t like the song at first. Only until I listened to it years later did I start liking it.
How does it feel when you release music in general? Personally, I feel like when an artist exposes their work it’s like revealing their soul to the public. I have major respect for that, and I’m curious, how do you feel when you put your music out there for people to judge?
Sam Kim: It’s very much like revealing your soul to the public! Awesome analogy. Yeah, it can be kind of scary. You put all this work into these songs and you can only hope it resonates with people. I try to have a good mindset about it. If I make one person smile with my music, then I have succeeded. Obviously, it’s not that easy! Sometimes, you read one bad comment in a sea of good ones and it sticks with you, but I’m in the process of learning to appreciate the good ones more.
Which song (songs) in your catalogue best describes the sound and style you ultimately prefer and why?
Sam Kim: I think I’m best at songs that are rhymical like No Sense, The Juice, and Where’s My Money. But I would love to be really good at ballads so that I can sing Seattle, Mama Don’t Worry, and sing covers of my favourite artists such as Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed! But when I think of Sam Kim, I think of the guitar, so if I had to choose one song, then maybe No Sense?
Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with?
Sam Kim: I’m currently listening to Plini! I recently found out about progressive metal and, honestly, I don’t know how I didn’t get into it sooner. I don’t have the guitar skills to collab with him but it’d be so cool to do that one day.
Studio work or performing live, which of these do you prefer the most and why?
Sam Kim: Most definitely live. Everything about it keeps me moving forward. Say I messed up a note, or was a little flat during the whole concert, then I’ll be driven to practice singing even more. The inspiration and ideas I get for my songwriting during concerts is also another big reason why I love performing.
When you are not working and writing songs, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
I like to go out and hang out with friends, go hiking, or ride my bike outside!
What are your upcoming plans? Are there any other projects that you have planned for the future? New studio album or an EP perhaps?
Sam Kim: Nothing set in stone yet, but as of now I’m mainly just focusing on myself in terms of physical health, mental health, and taking things slow! I’m writing music along the way, of course. I will hopefully be back soon.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
*We would like to thank Antenna Music for their assistance with the interview and Sam Kim for answering our questions.
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts, and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.