When SHAUN, a South Korean singer-songwriter and producer, released Way Back Home in 2018, the lead single from his debut EP, Take, he took the music charts by storm. The song itself has a catchy melody and a simple, yet heartfelt, message that resonates with many listeners. SHAUN’s vocals are soft and emotive, conveying a sense of longing and nostalgia. His debut EP has showcased the artist’s talent as a singer and songwriter.
SHAUN released more music after 2018, and in between, he served in the military. In 2022, the artist revealed Omnibus Pt. 1: Kaleidoscope, followed by Omnibus Pt. 2: Inside Out. With each one of these releases, SHAUN was praised for his technical abilities as a singer, which included a good sense of pitch and tone. In addition, he was able to convey a range of emotions through his singing, such as joy, sadness, passion, and vulnerability. This definitely helped him connect with listeners on a personal level.
In February of this year, SHAUN surprised his fans with a new and exciting single, Steal the Show, which is also a collaboration with Jeff Satur, a Thai-English singer-songwriter and an actor. The song is a pop-infused track with an infectious chorus. The production itself is sleek and polished, with an emphasis on pulsing synths and driving percussion. The two artists play off each other very well, creating a dynamic song.
It was recently announced that SHAUN will embark on his North American tour, starting in Los Angeles on April 14th, and ending in Chicago on April 24th. Just ahead of the aforementioned tour, we sat down with SHAUN for an interview, during which the singer reflected on his latest single, Steal the Show, his collaboration with Jeff Satur, and his song-writing process.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life that made you want to become an artist?
When I was young, I liked to play K-pop songs or Pop songs rather than the tunes I was told to play at music school or piano school. I liked performing music that people were already familiar with, and people around me were also happy to hear those songs. That kind of thing happened repeatedly, and I think that built my identity as ‘someone who does music.’ I first played the guitar when I was in elementary school, and when I found music genres and artists that I liked, it felt like it formed a faint outline of the kind of musician I dreamed of becoming. Music became a crucial part of my life since I was young, and it has continued to be that way.
You have just released a new single called Steal the Show, on which you collaborated with Jeff Satur. I am curious about the creative process behind this release, and when you co-wrote the song, how did you get into a frame of mind to write it? What kind of approach did you use to write your lyrics?
Steal The Show was a song I worked on during a song-writing session I had in LA in November 2021. I was already thinking about doing a collaboration when I got to know Jeff. I thought he was an artist whose image and voice went really well with the song. Therefore, I went ahead [with him]. We were so busy, and it was too hard to sync our schedules, so we actually didn’t get to work face-to-face, but Jeff really liked the song, so we kept emailing each other to make it an intense collaboration.
I got the lyrics from the lyricist. I didn’t have a clear image for the theme of the song before that. I also think that the story for the music and the lyrics of Steal the Show became clearer while filming the music video. So, I think the whole process of writing the song, adding lyrics, recording the vocals, and filming the music video influenced the song a lot, and it all came together to become a great package.
Did you experience any artistic differences while making Steal the Show with Jeff?
Since we were working online, there wasn’t much time to experience differences. I was happy that Jeff really liked the song, though. When I heard Jeff sing Steal the Show during a performance, it was great because I could feel how much he liked it.
After releasing the single, you and Jeff released an incredible MV for Steal the Show. How was that experience, and did you actually spend time together on set discussing the production details while filming it? Who came up with the idea for the MV? It is a visual feast; I like how that black and white montage, and later, dark and blue timbre are at variance with Jeff’s fiery red epitome.
The plot portrays a conflicting composition between passion and reason, which was suggested by the agency. When I first saw the storyboard, I was happy because the song and the lyrics all went together really well, and I didn’t think any part of the music video needed to be changed. The concept and the philosophy of the music video were clear, so my only job was to find a way to express ‘reason’ in a better way. That’s all I could do.
Jeff was doing such a great job of expressing ‘passion’, so I did my part by taking acting lessons to try to figure out how to express ‘reason’. I’m not completely satisfied with it, but I think there’ll be more opportunities for me to show a more natural, cooler side of myself in the future.
This question is related to your past and present releases. How much of your personal experience influences the creative process of your songs?
If [my] experience isn’t reflected in my songs, then I contemplate what experience to use to make a song. Since all my choices are based on my experience and mood, I think my work contains parts of me – my thoughts and my tastes.
When you released Way Back Home, you reached almost every music chart around the world. Have you ever felt the pressure that you ‘must’ make more similar songs in the future?
I try not to feel pressure. Before I made Way Back Home, I made music freely and thought that it didn’t matter what kind of music I released. However, I think I felt more responsibility after that. It wasn’t about making a hit song but about me wanting to make good quality music and show the people – who got to know me through Way Back Home – how I’m improving [as an artist]. I hope my music becomes more prominent so that I can reach new listeners.
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?
I’ve done mostly small releases like EPs, doubles, and singles, so I tend to release tracks that I’ve been working on and that were on my mind at the time. I added a storyline to the albums and songs, then refined the concept before releasing the tracks, but I plan to release a lot of singles in 2023.
Within the Korean music scene these days, I think it can be a lot of pressure if you release a regular album unless there’s some sort of special opportunity. A lot of artists are choosing to release singles, which [also] means more frequent releases so that they can play their music for more people. I’m also planning to release songs individually and add a more intense image to them rather than releasing a collection of songs of a similar temperament. I think that it’s a shame that songs on an album that aren’t the title track kind of get buried, and that’s the reason why I decided to release singles this year. When I have a concert and I see people who know the other songs from my album, I appreciate them because it means they listened to all of my songs.
You are also a music producer who has worked with artists such as Girls Generation, EXO, Epik High, and SHINee, just to name a few. How do you collaborate with artists to help them achieve their creative goals? Have you ever experienced creative differences/difficulties while producing music for others?
A singer-songwriter can write their own songs, make their own musical decisions, and be the principal agent of their music. K-Pop artists are different from that kind of musician because K-Pop isn’t a culture of musicians making their own music, and so I don’t see it as art. In more cases than not, there are more business people than artists taking part in the creative process, and many of the activities are planned meticulously and strategically, so I don’t think that I ‘make’ the artist.
I think that is the value system and culture of K-Pop, so it’s difficult to say what’s good and what’s not. I do think, however, that they have a ‘scene’ of their own. That’s why I try to do the best I can for them. The people I work with are the A&R of each company. The work process moves along in a simpler way than you would imagine, so it’s not a big issue, but I think the most enjoyable time for me personally has been the times I worked with people who can make music. Things such as artists liking my choices and judgement, turning those ideas into music that becomes an integral part of my career, the fans loving them, and music making them stand out more are all very enjoyable and meaningful experiences.
I can’t really categorise your music, it feels like you are very comfortable using all sorts of genres. Having said that, there is always that beautiful trace of Rock in your repertoire. Why is that?
Some people may know of me through my work as a DJ or through pop music, but I actually really love Rock music, and most of my twenties were immersed in that genre. I admired bands when I was young, and I spent my twenties like a Rock star, dreaming of success and playing the keyboard. My experiences took up space in my music here and there and that experience is the base for me to take direction in a lot of cases, so I think those traces have a strong presence. But since a lot of people haven’t seen how I was in those days, I hope to show more of that and share my preferences with people in the future.
What can your fans expect in 2023?
My career has never gone according to plan, not even once, so I have no idea what will happen, even in the near future. I do know that I’ll be releasing a lot of singles this year, as I mentioned, and my goal is to prepare a solo concert and release a regular album. The Asian Tour was back in January, and the U.S. Tour is scheduled for April, which gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of people. I think there’s a lot waiting for me up ahead. [For that reason], I’m working hard to put together a fantastic performance, and I’m constantly thinking about how I can communicate in a more fun way with [my] listeners. I hope you’ll continue to be interested in my music and that you’ll love the songs I’ll be releasing [in the future].
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, 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 / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.