“I have never done a show in English before, that was a big challenge for me,” Paul Kim candidly admits when asked about his performance during the HallyuPopFest at Wembley Arena.
Although English is not Paul’s mother tongue, he surely has an excellent command of the language. His entire performance in London was conducted in English, so we definitely applaud him for that.
“[Performing] in English was a whole new world to me. I was very nervous about it. But [the audience] was so supportive and welcomed me warmly,” the singer adds.
“Were you surprised by the fact that some of them knew who you were?” I ask.
“I thought nobody was going to know me, but I said to myself ‘don’t get disappointed, it is okay not to be known’. It was really surprising that I was [supported by the audience],” Paul confesses.
Known for his vocally powerful performances, warm personality, and charm, we already knew beforehand that our interview with Paul was going to be special. Looking dashing in a pastel blue suit straight after his evening concert, we sat down comfortably on the sofa in one of the artists’ rooms at Wembley Arena and commenced our discussion about his music, the creative process behind it, his new EP Star, and his collaborations with other singers.
Paul debuted in 2014 with Coffee With Me that showcased his subtle yet strong singing voice. Since launching his career, the artist has entranced many people with his ever-expanding repertoire. Although becoming a singer might not have been a path that he chose straight away, he said music was calling out to him: “When I was young, I never thought I could become a singer. I thought that only ‘chosen’ people could become artists.
“I was a huge fan of other artists, and I always thought they were born to be one, I didn’t expect I would become a singer myself. But, when I was back at University from the military service, I thought to myself ‘I love music, I love singing, why don’t I become an artist myself?’ So, I just gave it a try, made it happen, and here I am now.”
“But was there a particular artist that inspired you to become a singer?” I ask.
“I am a huge fan of the singer Lee Sora. She is one of the legends [of] Korea. [One day] I was going through her album and she wrote these words ‘I am a seed that sings’. So, she was thinking that she was born to sing,” Paul says with a smile on his face.
He also adds that Lee Sora’s words made him question his own existence and that “becoming a singer would be a nice reason to live. So, why don’t I make that reason for myself? That was the inspiration for me.”
Although Paul is known for his ballad performances and countless OST songs, the singer has so much more to offer. He is confident in exploring various genres and utilising them in his own music which includes R&B, Soul and Jazz. As the artist says himself, there is no particular approach that he uses when writing his music. Everything is made depending on a situation.
“[My writing] depends on a moment I am at; on things that I feel and see at that time. Writing songs is more like a diary to me,” Paul explains.
“But do you attach a genre to each song that you write? Do you always have music in mind when you write your songs?” I ask.
“The thing is that I try to use music that I am into at that particular moment. Sometimes I do it on my own, sometimes with friends. Most things happen on the go,” the singer goes on.
Paul is not only an articulate and skilled singer-songwriter, his music has always been beautifully balanced when it comes to harmony and rhythm. As an artist, he has an innate ability to emphatically capture other people’s experiences as well as his own, which he often uses when writing his songs.
“I often use my life experience as well as other people’s experience in my songs. I wouldn’t say that everything is 100% from my experience, but it has to be part of it. Even though it might be someone else’s story, the story has to be seen through my own eyes,” Paul openly admits.
One ought to know that accomplished songwriters are constantly learning more about their craft. They study other songs and songwriters, just to perfect their own work and bring an authentic experience for the listeners. Since Paul’s debut 8 years ago, he has released plenty of music, and since songwriters must continuously write songs, you must know that not necessarily all of them end up being released. But how does the singer choose which song to leave and which song to release?
“That’s a good question actually. Every time I write something, or me and my friends write something, we share it with my agency. We get feedback afterwards, whether they are positive or negative, I listen to their responses. When I get negative feedback, I tend to push [with what I would like to release]. I have my own taste you know.”
Although Paul may not always agree with his agency’s feedback, he definitely knows what he wants on his releases and what he wants the audience to listen to. He also mentions that working on his latest EP, Star, was really difficult.
“This album was really tough. The thing is that a lot of people expect Korean ballads from me, since Me After You and Every Day, Every Moment, these are the hits, I suppose, in Korea,” Paul explains. “But, I wanted to do something more than ballads; don’t get me wrong, I love ballads, I love listening to them and I love singing them. However, the thing is the tempo is really slow and there is not much you can do with the melody and song itself. So I wanted to do something else, I wanted to create more songs so I could make my releases more [exciting].”
With everything that’s happening within the K-pop industry, and with new fans appearing on the horizon, some artists might be worried about their own creativity. Do they stick to the music they like, do they stick to their own tastes, or do they move closer to the more commercial music that is K-pop? It is a tough question for those musicians who have been in the business for a while. Would Paul experiment with K-pop, and would he perform a dance routine on stage?
“I don’t think you will see me dancing like an Idol,” Paul laughs then adds: “I may experiment with music, but I want to find my own path even though that is a long way journey.”
Apart from writing his own songs, Paul finds it interesting to collaborate with other artists, including Chungha (Loveship), Joy (If Only), and Peakboy, with whom he just released a single called How to Love.
“In the case of Chungha, I really wanted to say this before: Chungha, she really needs to acknowledge how good she is vocally. She is well-known for her dancing, however, she needs to be more confident, she is [a great artist]. She needs to express herself more vocally,” Paul answers candidly then continues: “In the case of Joy, her voice is like spice, it brings up all the flavours in the song, I think. The way she pronounces [the words], the way she sings, it is really flowery. It really makes you feel joy, just like her name.”
“Nevertheless, did you have any artistic differences while recording the songs?” I ask.
“I think it was easy, they loved every part [we recorded], I loved every part of it, [including] their voices. I also did a collaboration with Stella [Miracle, released in 2019], she is also a singer-songwriter. She was more [involved in songwriting] and suggested more changes in the songs. But I really enjoyed the process,” Paul says with a chuckle.
Paul, as mentioned before, is a well-known artist whose music is often associated with Korean dramas. Back in 2017 his song Hey appeared in Love Playlist, followed by Goodbye Kiss from Black Knight. The year later, Every Day, Every Moment from Should We Kiss First became such a huge hit that it sold 5,000,000 copies just in Korea, earning Platinum certification. The musician also recorded So Long from Hotel Del Luna, which reached Platinum status as well. In addition, he released a beautiful and heart-rending track, Dream, for Netflix’s The King: Eternal Monarch, starring Lee Minho and Kim Go-eun.
“I have never thought of myself [as a] singer for dramas before, [that said], I think dramas are the perfect way to express ballads. You wouldn’t have typical music videos like you have for other artists or Idols who dance. It wouldn’t go well with ballads from the OSTs. But dramas explain everything about a song, even the smallest details. I thought, maybe I should do more drama soundtracks,” Paul says.
“Are you not afraid that you might be put on a shelf as a ballad singer only?” I ask.
“I kind of did when Every Day, Every Moment was released. It became so popular that it made me feel [uneasy]. It also made me think that I will have to overcome the song at some point. But the thing is, you know, now I don’t mind it at all, it is a good thing. People love it, people enjoy dramas, and people internationally watch K-dramas these days. I think it is a good way to share the moments, share music, and share my voice. I am grateful for it,” Paul confesses.
Going back to his June release, Star, which includes 5 songs – Star, One More Time, Lucky Day, Something Special and Dotdanbae, what was the creative process like?
“Ahh, there are so many songs [I liked] that are not on this mini-album.” says Paul then continues: “I was planning to have 7 or 8 on the album, there were tons of ballads as well. But the thing is, [even] with the Covid [pandemic], I know it’s getting better and I am here in London, I was thinking that now people want to get out, go to festivals, get more active and hang out with their friends, I don’t see people listening to ballads at this point. I wanted to make Star more poppy and easier to listen to.”
While Paul likes the songs he recorded throughout his career, he does admit that his favourite one is One More Time from his latest EP Star. I must say the song brought tears to my eyes when the singer performed it during his evening concert at Wembley Arena. His spotless vocals and well-executed notes really took my breath away.
Every artist has their own favourite artist, but who is Paul currently listening to? Without hesitation, he says: “Harry Styles. I don’t think I could ever be like Harry Styles, but I love the singer.”
Paul has been a busy person, but does he have time to himself at all. What does he like to do in his spare time?
“It has been really busy for me this year, but even last year I was busy. I was on tour in Korea, writing songs and recording. But this year has been crazy. I was super, super busy, I don’t why [laughs]. But when I get a chance to relax I try hard to hang out with my high school friend back in New Zealand. We go camping, glamping or [go out in a] caravan. I figured out that spending time with my friends is very important. I need that time for writing songs, for inspiration, I need that happiness and I need to recharge my batteries. I try to hang out with them often,” Paul says.
After releasing his EP Star back in June, Paul is ready to present his new single which will come out by the end of July.
“It is sort of like a lullaby,” the singer confesses, then continues: “Someone did a research and Naver[ed] [the Korean search engine] me and the word that came up the most was lullaby. Apparently, people listen to my songs when they want to go to bed and want to sleep. I don’t know why!” Paul laughs.
I concluded my interview with a few jokes here and there, and while I’m waiting for Paul’s new release I have to admit that his music is truly incredible. His soothing voice is like medicine. Arthur Schopenhauer used to say that “music is the food of soul,” and Paul’s is mine.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
*We would like to thank Neuron Music for their assistance with the interview and Paul 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.