This month, we are happy to present a special interview with folk singer-songwriter Im Hyeonjeong (임현정)! We think she is an amazing musician because everything that she composes is filled with warmth, and feels very organic and natural. Her strength lies in taking the everyday and making it extraordinary!
She tells the stories of those simple moments, thoughts and feelings which pass us by in life, that we often take for granted. Hyeonjeong’s inspiration comes from the world surrounding her, with a talent for being in tune with even the emotions carried by the wind. She does all this with such sincerity and heart; therefore her music feels inherently personal and she is one of those musicians that we truly believe the phrase ‘music is an extension of the voice’ applies to. Armed with her trusty guitar, Hyeonjeong slowly started to entwine music into her life until it became one and the same.
She was also able to give our readers some recommendations and tips about shopping in Korea!
We would like to thank Hyeonjeong for working very hard during this interview, and responding with so much honesty and detail 🙂
Please support Im Hyeonjeong by buying her music! Currently her debut single is available digitally through iTunes. Scroll to the end of the article for more information and for links to social media.
Read on to discover more about this artist! We thought that Hyeonjeong was a fantastic person to interview, and we hope that you think so too! This interview is our favourite so far and we are cheering for her to do well 🙂 Our music article is now available to read by clicking here!
1. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started writing music and singing?
Hello, I am Im Hyeonjeong, a singer-songwriter in Korea. There was not anything particularly special that started music for me; I just really enjoyed singing since I was young so I naturally dreamed of becoming a singer. It may sound funny, but I felt so happy to hear my voice when I sang. That is why I am drawn to keep singing and making music. I used to think constantly about putting my voice to melodies and developed a strong will to make my own songs (rather than only be a singer) after going to university. Then I started to play guitar and gradually began to write my own compositions ever since; the thoughts and feelings that appeared at that time were just what I was searching for.
“Then I slowly begin to write songs with a piece of a memory or a part of those previously forgotten emotions as if I were painting with watercolours.”
In the midst of a performance
2. How long have you played the guitar? Did you have lessons or were you self-taught? How important is it for any guitar player to find the type of guitar that suits them?
It’s been about 7 years that I’ve been playing the guitar, and I learned by myself because I was a little scared of the thought of learning it from others. I did so freely by playing this and that.
Yes, I am sure that finding the right guitar for yourself is very important. You have to consider choosing the right one for your own standards. Guitars might look outwardly similar to each other, but the echoes and tones of each guitar are something that cannot be easily described or explained. The guitar becomes an extension of my voice and gives me inspiration to create something. It’s a large part of what makes music fun and makes me feel excited about it.
3. What is it that inspires you to write songs? Why did you choose the folk genre?
I get my main inspirations from ‘the everyday’, the things that are always with us but pass by easily in our daily lives. For example, from the wind and seasonal weather, reflected lights, faint noise that can be heard in the distance, to things like…old memories. When I am composing a song, these types of moments are embedded in my heart. They bring back thoughts that may have been forgotten like background music, or unresolved emotions and feelings.
Then I slowly begin to write songs with a piece of a memory or a part of those previously forgotten emotions as if I were painting with watercolours. I don’t really write with a certain genre in mind, but I think that my comfortable melodies and lyrics are shown well with this style.
Chinese trumpet creepers, Hyeonjeong’s favourite flower, inspired one of her songs
4. What do you think is your favourite composition so far? What are your reasons?
I like all my songs equally, but if I had to choose, I would have to say ‘빛이 모여드는 곳에’ (Where the light gathers) and ‘가을길에’ (On the Autumn road). When I finished writing these songs, I could clearly remember the light and wind of the seasons and felt the distinct emotions when I sang! So they make me feel great whenever I sing them.
5. Do you enjoy performing? What kind of venues do you like best?
Yes, I do like performing. I want to do my best but sometimes I get nervous and that becomes a sensitive burden and source of tension before a show. I want to make sure that I give my best performance for the audience who take time out of their busy lives to come to listen, and that sometimes places a lot of pressure on me. But I think I will enjoy it more, little by little.
I particularly like a place called Cafe Unplugged where my favourite performances have been. That is also the first place I performed. And I liked Club Railrock but unfortunately they are closed now.
6. What are your plans for the rest of 2017? Will you release another single or write a whole album?
I always plan to release music but sometimes there are delays. But I will try to release an EP or official album this year.
7. Do you think being a singer song-writer enriches your life or makes your life better? In what ways?
Yes, I like my current life since I am involved in something that I really enjoy. When I do something, I want to do it well, and in my life there is only music, so I am grateful. It is a wonderful thing to express the feelings of daily life in music and I feel so happy in letting others listen to it. But occasionally, I find myself wondering where I’m heading and struggle to settle on my unstable life.
Inspiration and contemplation can be sourced from daily life
8. What comes into your head first when you are song-writing? Lyrics? Melodies? Are there any songs that you were not happy with at first, but eventually surprised you at the end?
When I write a song, the melody and lyrics enter my mind simultaneously, and I can finish it quickly. My thoughts are that it is better to follow the feelings in that moment and sing to the end in one take. Then I can make some small corrections in the lyrics. I have a song called ‘능소화’(trumpet creeper). It is my favourite flower and I noticed so many of them on the street in Summer. At that time, it was just a simple song that I made and remained inside a computer folder, one in which I thought to myself ‘it’s really ridiculous’. But as time went by, I was invited to perform for the first time in 4 years and I played the song. Many people in the audience liked it. It was so fascinating. So now it is always on my setlist whenever I perform.
“It is a wonderful thing to express the feelings of daily life in music and I feel so happy in letting others listen to it.”
9. What other singers do you admire? Do you think they influence your own music?
There are so many. At this moment, I can think of Korean singer Lee Sora and also Eva Cassidy. I really love their voices because I can tell that they put their hearts into their music and can hear the honesty in their voices; I admire that. I respect that they sing not to achieve a technically good song, but one that is filled with sincerity. I want to be such a musician. I don’t want to pretend, but want to sing a real song. When I hear the music of great musicians, it can be so captivating that I sometimes find myself holding my breath. I am focused and absorbed in their performances, and it gives me a lot of positive energy, inspiration and excitement. It feels like they are telling me to keep going and exploring other areas of music.
10. Do you think your music has changed since you started?
It has changed a little compared to the music that I made at the beginning of my career. Previously, I would only write songs that would consist of me singing with the guitar and no other instruments, and they were very gentle and calm. Nowadays, I think more about the sounds I can incorporate from other instruments and arrangements. I don’t know exactly what will happen with my songs in future, but I think that I’m slowly expanding my music to another level with the hope that it retains its warmth.
Immersed in a song
“I respect that they sing not to achieve a technically good song, but one that is filled with sincerity. I want to be such a musician. I don’t want to pretend, but want to sing a real song.”
11. How do you try and improve as a musician? What methods do you use to continue to learn and develop?
I practice every single day to try and improve. In order to continue my development, I always practice basic exercises and listen to many genres as well as read books. These things might not reflect in my music immediately but I believe that someday they will be a big help in some part of my music.
12. We love your songs! Can you tell us a little more about ‘바람 나무 사랑’ and ‘능소화’? What did you want to communicate to your listeners with these tracks?
I always like to write lyrics about the things that I like. Both of those songs are written about things that I love, and were written in the same place and season. ‘Wind tree love’ (바람 나무 사랑) contains the words that I would like to send to a loved one. It is inspired by the feelings I sometimes felt when the wind swept by me. It would remind me of past memories, the feelings that I had from the season, the people around me. From within that wind, was love. When audiences listen to this song, I want them to be reminded of precious times, whether from a present or past love. The song ‘능소화’ is about the flower in the title (the Chinese trumpet creeper, which is my favourite), so I hope that people smile when they hear it.
13. We also enjoyed ‘December’ very much, do you think you will develop the song further, or upload more instrumentals like this in future?
The version of the demo that I uploaded onto Soundcloud is a short version of a song that I used for a video to commemorate good memories at the end of the year. It originally had lyrics too. I’d like to expand it further, and I’m also interested in making more music like ‘December’. So I will try various things with instrumentals in the future.
“The guitar becomes an extension of my voice and gives me inspiration to create something. It’s a large part of what makes music fun and makes me feel excited about it.”
14. What is your schedule like on a normal day?
It is very simple. I read books at home, eat delicious food and sleep a lot.
It’s good to make time for reading!
15. You filmed some videos for the song ‘소리 없이 지나가요’with an official MV being released in January 2017. Was it difficult to organise something like this for yourself? What did you think about the filming process? Was it comfortable?
I didn’t produce it by myself. Fantamoon Film told me that they wanted to create a music video for my music. I thank them very much for being a big support. It was a little difficult because it was my first time doing something like that, but I was able to finish it due to their help. I think that I will be able to do it more naturally next time.
16. How do you promote your music? What is your dream and what would you like to achieve in future?
I currently promote by performing and through social media. I know that promoting my music on my own means that it is quite limited, but I am trying to do as much as I can. My dream is to continue to do what I want to do. My wish is that people will remember me as a competent musician and that many will enjoy listening and singing along to my songs. I want to continue to release good music and have a positive influence on those around me. I also dream of traveling to many countries.
17. What 2 songs would you recommend to new listeners to try first?
I’d like to recommend ‘바람 나무 사랑’ and ‘소리 없이 지나가요’. You can listen to them on my SoundCloud page.
“My wish is that people will remember me as a competent musician and that many will enjoy listening and singing along to my songs. I want to continue to release good music and have a positive influence on those around me.”
18. If you could go to any place and do anything you like, what would make you happiest?
Can I go back to the past? I’d like to return to my childhood. Otherwise, I would be happiest right now, being near those that I love.
A young Hyeonjeong – she still looks the same! So cute and adorable!
19. How would you describe the shopping culture in Korea? Is it different from place-to-place and city to city?
I think in Korea, the culture is very much towards following fashionable trends. It is a fast-paced shopping culture. I personally don’t like following trends, but many people nowadays like to buy those kinds of products for themselves. Because of that, I often see many fashionable pop-up shops that disappear after a short time, rather than traditional stores with a long history. There are a high density of stores in the busy downtown areas, but due to online shopping getting bigger and bigger, it seems that shopping culture isn’t confined to specific cities and locations in Korea now.
20. What kind of shopper would you describe yourself as? Do you prefer to walk around until you see something you like, or do you always shop with an idea beforehand as to what you want?
It depends on what I’m shopping for, but normally I prefer to shop around and like to have planned to buy something. I like shopping this way so I won’t regret any purchases that I have made. Generally, I enjoy taking my time to shop leisurely and browse shops on my own.
There are so many stores in Korea!
21. What types of things do you like to buy? Where do you think are the best places to get them?
I like to buy mugs or fabrics, such as bed linen. They can be quite expensive so I cannot buy them often. But whenever I get the chance, I like to take some time to shop around for them. For me, home décor products are what I am interested in. My favourite shops are ‘Kittybunnypony’ and ‘무인양품’. I also often buy books and coffee beans; mostly books from second hand bookshops (the Aladdin bookshop is one I regularly use). I am also fond of a local book store called ‘THANKS BOOKS’ (땡스북스) in Seogyo-dong. There are a lot of unique and interesting books in this place, so it is fun to visit. As they deal directly with publishers, the shop recommends selections to customers. In addition to books, they sell a variety of handmade products, including coffee, candles, coasters and eco bags.
THANKS BOOKS is a fun bookstore to visit
22. What are the favourite items that you own? And why do you like them so much?
I would say the Fuji Polaroid camera that I bought with pocket money that I saved when I was 13, my MacBook and all of my musical instruments. It is because I think of these as the things that I need the most; if a thief broke into my home, I’d hope they would take everything except these (haha). I especially like the Polaroid camera since it is an item that helps me remember and share memories. It’s something that I have used for a very long time.
23. How do you make sure that you get the best price for your items?
For more expensive items, I will compare prices online and read reviews and comments written by people who have bought them. However, if it turns out that there are many options that meet my criteria, I won’t care too much about getting the cheapest price. I guess that I am not a person that researches in detail for shopping or a picky consumer.
24. Are there many different markets available? Do you ever buy food or interesting items from them?
There are a variety of shops near my house, including large and small supermarkets as well as traditional farmer’s markets. It’s easy for me to buy frozen foods, eggs and fruit. When I go to the supermarket, I like to stop by the laundry detergents. Strangely, I just can’t pass by that section without taking a look and thinking about what I might use next time. So for some reason, the most interesting things for me in a supermarket are related to laundry detergents!
Busy scenes at a local market
25. What products do you think local producers and sellers in Korea have, that visitors might like?
I recommend ‘Kittybunnypony’ in Hapjeong-dong and ‘AI,thing’ in Sangsu-dong. ‘Kittybunnypony’ is place that I really like. It is a Korean fabric design brand which is about 9 years old. They sell various kinds of things such as self-designed bed linen, curtains, fabric bags, a range of pouches and notebooks/journals.
They even collaborate with overseas artists and introduce their new designs and products too. The 2nd floor of the Hapjeong-dong showroom is worth visiting. Their packaging is so beautiful. Then there is ‘Al, thing’ in Sangsu-dong which is not far from there. They sell scented candles, diffusers and handmade clothes. I’ve been using their scented candles for over 4 years. They have their own signature scents which you can only get from their shop. The brand uses simple logos and concepts which are very neat and cozy. If you are interested in fabrics and candles, it is well worth paying them a visit.
26. In your opinion, which items should people buy from small shops, and which are better to get in larger shopping malls?
Well, it depends largely on what you need. In my case, I will go to a shopping mall or larger store when I have a lot of things I want to browse for or if I want to buy a variety of products. If I am buying a certain product in particular, then I will visit a small shop. It depends on the situation; there are small shops that sell mostly food or specialty products. However, the larger stores are popular as they sell more things, so it would be up to you to consider?
Sneaky photograph of Fogg and Passing Josh (지나가던 조씨) who perform with Hyeonjeong! 😀
27. Are CDs and physical albums still popular in Korea even in the digital age? What format of music do you prefer? And what music/artists are you listening to at the moment?
In Korea, CDs are no longer as popular as they used to be. Most K-pop fans seem to buy CDs, whereas the majority like to listen to music quickly and easily and therefore prefer digital. This is not only the case in Korea but in other places too. I use both; I like CDs and have a lot of digital music. I collect the CDs by musicians that I want to own. You can usually find something in CDs, a feeling that you can’t get from simply buying digital tracks online.
On my playlist these days are many songs by Avishai Cohen, Pat Metheny, The Staves, and Ben Howard. I’ve been listening to these musicians for a long time. I also like ‘Convalescence’ by Fogg (he plays bass when I perform) which is a track from his second single. I listen to it often. This song makes me picture a person running endlessly while I listen. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie. I think that this song is simple, yet well-made. I recommend it to you.
(Answers were edited for clarity with permission from the artist)
And that brings us to the end of the interview! A BIG thanks to Hyeonjeong for answering in so much detail and for giving us some additional advice on shopping for this month. We enjoyed this interview very much 😀
We hope you will all look forward to discovering more about her music by reading our special music article. It is now published on the blog!
How to support Im Hyeonjeong
Cover art for the debut single ‘소리 없이 지나가요’
You can also follow her activities through her social media links.
Official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/imhjmusic
Featured image and in-article image source: © Im Hyeonjeong. All images were reproduced with permission from official social media or provided directly from the artist for the sole purpose of this interview. 14.06.2017.
© Interview with Im Hyeonjeong. Inspire Me Korea. 03.08.2017