Among the celebrities I’ve interviewed so far, you’re the one who arrived the earliest at the set.
There’s really no one who arrived early like me? Haha. That’s why the photo shoot staff was sorry. I’m okay with coming early to a set and waiting while getting ready.
It’s something I’ve been curious about since the photo shoot. You don’t drink coffee on purpose in order to protect your throat?
I like the smell of coffee, but I don’t enjoy drinking it. To be honest, I don’t really know what coffee tastes like. I don’t really like juice or soft drinks either. They’re not good for the throat, but it’s also because it’s fattening.
It feels like you’re coming back after a very long time.
It feels this way because I haven’t released a full album in a long time. I think it’s a natural feeling because I didn’t appear on TV a lot, although I worked on the original soundtracks of “Daemul”, “Master’s Sun” and “That Winter, The Wind Blows” while I was working in Japan.
You received the highest score ever for your first participation to “Immortal Song” and you won first place. How did you feel when you saw the audience’s emotion as they listened to your song?
I was so focused on the song that I couldn’t really feel the audience’s reaction. The audience didn’t clap and conveyed this dazed feeling. It was good. That’s because when the audience is enthusiastic to a song, it’s something to be thankful for, but the audience keeping a lingering feeling of what they enjoyed is very uncommon. I thought that the song was really conveyed to the audience, so I was happy.
The average musician must feel something in front of a cheering audience, right?
Receiving cheers from the audience is easy, but it’s almost impossible to have an audience really listen to a song and remain in the moment afterwards. So when I finished my song and saw the audience in a daze for a long time, it was a bigger emotion for me.
You’re usually picked as the female singer people want to sing a duet with, is there a musician you’d like to work with?
I want to sing with female singers. There are many Korean female singers with a distinctive style. I shouldn’t reveal a name… Haha. There’s a project I’m thinking about, so if we can do it fast, you might be able to hear a duet before the end of the year.
If you can’t reveal a name, we can talk about the genre and the vocal tone.
It’s not one person, so I can’t talk about it. Haha. I’m thinking about ballad, R&B and also soul singers. The goal is to make songs that the audience can enjoy. My songs are hard to sing along to. This time around, I feel like I’m drifting away from the popular/public image, so I plan to change things around. With this new project, I will show the audience I’m not a singer who only sings sad songs, and that I’m a singer who can also make some easy music.
It’s already been 11 years since your debut. Meanwhile, what are the things you were able to accomplish or not?
What I achieved is simple. I’m still doing activities. This fact itself is something to be thankful for because there are many singers who debuted with me but disappeared as time went by. Working steadily for 11 years and not losing the audience is something I’m proud of. People call me the ballad queen, the soul queen, but there are many singers who also get these nicknames, so I want to stray away from that and get a nickname no one else has.
Where do you think you stand as a singer?
I think I’m in the middle. Right now, I’m in the middle of the analog and digital generations. I’m not from the idol generation, but I’m not from the veteran singers generation either. When I debuted, R&B and soul were popular genres in Korea. I played the role of the front-runner of the R&B/soul genre for a while, but I couldn’t reach the years of experience of the veteran singers. Even when veteran singers had a bad habit, I thought “no, it’s not how you should do it!”, but while I was taking part in “I’m A Singer”, I realized there was always a reason for this kind of habit. That was because it’s common to look for your own voice color. I wanted to learn this too, but when I look at my hoobae singers, they’re very talented, but I don’t think they know how to use this talent. I think it can be helpful if whatever I learned from the veteran singers can help the hoobae to develop their skills. And there’s something else. I’m worried because when people say “Gummy”, what they remember the most are ballad songs like “If You Come Back To Me”, “We Should Have Been Friends”. I feel like people expect me to do ballads, so I think a lot about if I should stay with the image people expect or if I must change.
Where do you think you are in your life right?
I think I’m in the process of achieving something. I was never impatient because I’m greedy but I don’t worry about achieving everything all at once. If anything, “I’m already 34. How will I live my life?” is the kind of worry I have. I hope to get married and start a family. I can’t sing only sad songs all the time. However, I think living is about going through experiences with calm. I think each year I get older brings me more serenity.
You said you wanted to live with serenity, but are you the kind to be strict with yourself?
I am. Whoever says not to do something, I don’t do it, even when it comes to trivial things. If somehow I break a rule, I feel like I need to be punished and something bad will happen. And when I take my chances, something bad definitely happens indeed. I’ve realized that you can’t get more than what you make efforts for. With this mindset, I became obsessed with the idea of exercising every day. My trainer said to take it easy because the body remembers if you exercise for a long time, but my heart wasn’t at ease so I couldn’t stay still. Once, my friends told me “no matter how famous I could be, I wouldn’t be able to live like you. I’d rather not be famous.” I admit that I’m the kind to work hard to be perfect to the point I can bully myself. However, I’m much gentler with myself compared to before.
But how many hours a day do you exercise?
I exercise from one hour and a half to two hours every day. I was so into exercising for a while that even when my schedule ended at dawn, I made sure to exercise before going home. I chose exercising over sleep. At that time, I was really obsessed, but I kind of gave up on that now.
Have you ever thought that you had little luck compared to your ability?
It’s something I always think about because I debuted after 7 years of training. As soon as I debuted, I had vocal cord nodules because of excessive dieting. I survived on tofu for nearly two months in order to lose weight, so I had no energy, I strained my voice for the songs that required a high tone. While I kept doing activities, I was in a situation when even speaking was difficult and I received this diagnosis. My situation back then was hopeless.
How is your throat condition? Don’t you feel your voice shines because you take care of your physical condition?
I’m good right now. They say the body is like an instrument to singers and you sing better when your body gets bigger. So I gained weight on purpose in the past. However, I really hated seeing myself like this on TV. No matter how well I sing, I thought the audience wouldn’t want to see me like this. That’s why singing while exercising is like a habit for me.
If you were given no restriction, what kind of album would you like to make?
I don’t enjoy one specific genre. My only thought is to make good music for the listeners. Korea still prefers songs where you shout, songs with highlights. That’s because singers here receive recognition for their vocal tone, their technic, but they must also control their high notes.
Have you ever had regrets of becoming a singer?
I can’t have regrets because singing is the only thing I know how to do. Of course, being a singer is hard sometimes, but I get rid of this stress when I sing. I live by the thought “singing is my destiny”.
Since you’ve never had regrets about your job… Then being a singer was really your calling.
When I’m stressed, singing helps me to get rid of the stress, when I’m sick, I sing and I feel better. There are many times when people worry because of their work, the fact that I’m able to do something I’m good at and being recognized for it is really a blessing.
When will your full album be released?
I have recorded some songs, but there are songs I haven’t received from the composer(s) yet, so I can’t give you a definite answer. March was the goal, but working on an album can be endlessly delayed. I think I’ll keep filming “Immortal Song” for a while. The producers kept asking me to join, so it’s something to be thankful for, right? Hahaha.
Original article: Nylon
Translation: @onesunnylady, edited by @canoeknits