Welcome to another special edition of the K-SPOTLIGHT, this time with singer-songwriter, Choyoung (초영)! We’ve been following her activities for the whole year, and were impressed by a lot of what we saw and heard. Choyoung is one of the most rounded musicians that we’ve encountered, she has shown flair in songwriting, performing and rearrangements. We think that Choyoung’s jazz training makes her stand out from the crowd; her interests span many genres including neo-soul, R&B and hiphop.
Constantly immersing herself in all kinds of musical experiences have paid off hundredfold. She’s previously been a guide vocalist, part of a band, a featuring artist, a participant in competitions and music festivals and much more – that is one of the reasons why we think she is an interesting and bright person 🙂 She’s also very photogenic, we don’t think we have seen one bad photograph! This interview has really been a long time coming, but at last we are pleased to be able to present a Q&A with this promising artist! Read our special music feature and listen to Choyoung’s music!
Support Choyoung and buy her music! She has released several singles which you can purchase through iTunes, Google Play, or Korean sites such as genie. You can also stream using Apple music or Bugs.
Thanks to Choyoung for her help in this interview 🙂
1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your style of music?
Hi, I’m Choyoung and I’m a singer-songwriter. I love R&B, neo-soul and jazz music; I love making music without imposing any restrictions on myself and in different genres.
Some people might describe my style as solely jazz whereas others might say that it isn’t. I actually like this situation because it means that people feel that my music is both familiar and fresh when they listen to it.
I compose in many different genres. Sometimes I give away my songs to singers when I don’t think that they are suited to my own albums. I am also commissioned to compose for other musicians. In the past I wrote a song called ‘unfamiliar’ for a female duo called ‘Luminous’ as part of their first single (it was the 2nd track).
Additionally, I also feature on tracks with other artists. For example, I have worked with hiphop musician ‘JJK’ and K-pop singer ‘Evan’ previously. I often perform my own music, and take to the stage as a guest singer sometimes too.
2. Do you choose the musician before writing a song or write the song, and then choose who to give it to?
I do both 🙂
I write when I find that I have the right mood to make some music; putting my thoughts and feelings from that moment into a song and keep it. Later, when producers or managers ask me to send something that I have written, I submit these tracks to them so that they can make their choices.
Or the situation can be that producers ask me to compose for specific singers. In that case I would think of ideas for songs that could be suited to them.
3. What made you decide to become a music artist?
When I was a high school student, during December of 11th grade, some senior students visited the school to give advice to us by sharing their experiences. At that time, they each told different stories but all of them said something in common.
And that advice was ‘choose what you want to do, and follow it.’
After that, I thought deeply about what it was that I wanted to do. Then I realised that the answer was music. But I was scared about telling my parents because they wanted me to study.
My solution was to search for as much information as possible about my chosen direction so that they would accept my decision and I could start learning music. Eventually they did accept!
I practiced all day (doing my best) because I felt responsible for my choice and since I was anxious for the future. In terms of preparations for applying to study music at university, I started vocal training at a late stage (only a year beforehand) so I had to push myself.
Even though I experienced hardship during that time, it made me who I am now.
4. Did you have any lessons before starting university? And what was your university experience like?
Yes I did. I remember my first semester at Berklee. Everything was so new and I was so happy to make new friends from other countries. There were students from 19 countries attending Berklee, so it was very exciting to share music and learn about each others’ cultures.
The best moment for me is when I formed a band with my friends. We played in Boston, New York and Korea. I miss them so much.
5. What do you think makes you different from other musicians?
What makes me different is my acceptance and awareness of self. Many musicians around me think that because they aren’t perfect, they shouldn’t show their music to people. This includes releasing albums and performing on stage. So they delay things and sometimes struggle.
I do admit to thinking like that, but only rarely. I mostly accept myself by focusing on who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing with regards to my musical side. This allows me to feel good when I’m performing and when I’m releasing my albums. Because that’s just me.
I just want to put that moment of my life into my music. If I then realise that what I was doing wasn’t enough at that time, it’s still okay to me overall because I treat that experience as something that will help me to grow as a person. I also remind myself that eventually I will figure things out.
I don’t think of myself as perfect but I always enjoy what I do and try my best. So essentially, what I consider to be different about myself compared to others is self-awareness.
6. Do ideas for rearrangements and covers come to you when you listen to a song for the first time? Or do you play around with ideas until you find something that you like?
Ideas can suddenly pop into my head and I try them out with a tune. I like to rearrange songs that I already know, though sometimes my covers can be similar to the original.
7. Can you describe the general steps that you use to write music? How do you start?
I normally write music using one of 2 ways.
The first starts with chord progression, then the melody followed by lyrics.
The second begins with the melody, then the lyrics and finishes with chord progression.
Generally, if an idea pops into my head, say, when I’m walking on the street, I will use a recording app on my phone to take a note of it. I will write music while playing the piano, trying to recapture the feelings that I had at the time, for example after a breakup with a boyfriend.
The time it takes to finish a song is always different. Sometimes, I can finish a song in 1 hour, other times it can take several hours, or even a few days.
8. How would you describe what music means to you and how do you find inspiration for your songs? What would you like listeners to take from your music? A feeling? A message?
Music is everything to me because I focus on living my life with my music. I get inspiration from many things, like conversations I have with friends, watching other people, books, movies, and so on. I’d love listeners to be drawn into my music and understand what I’m trying to say within it.
9. What are the fun parts to being in the music industry, and what kind of challenges do you face as a K-indie artist?
I would say that the music industry is so small, that if I mention someone who is a musician, one of my friends is bound to know him or her. My musician friends and I say ‘we should be nice people because it’s such a small world’. Even if I meet someone who is a musician that I don’t know, we could have mutual friends. This type of situation makes it easier to become closer to people.
I focus on doing my own thing, whether that be genre, style, or words. Sometimes people ask me questions like, ‘why don’t you make pop music that people love more than what you focus on?’ ‘why aren’t you interested in auditioning on a TV programme?’ or ‘why don’t you put more effort into becoming famous?’ I always answer ‘because that’s not what I want to do’ because I like to put my life, my thoughts, and my own feelings into my music. And if people listen and like it, then I will be so happy 🙂
10. What is the best venue that you have performed in?
The best venue that I have performed in is the Fenway Center in Boston in 2014. It was at a benefit concert for Haiti. I performed with my original material that contained messages related to hope, dreams and positive lyrics. At that time, I was going through a rough patch, so I was expressing that through my music with my whole heart. Singing was very cathartic for me. At the concert, some people cried and some felt soothed and healed by the music. I was so touched to witness that at the time. It remains an amazing memory for me.
11. What is your favourite place in Korea and why?
My favourite place has to be the Hongdae area. There are so many inspirational things there: performance spots, recording studios, music crews and so on. I love the unique atmosphere that I can only feel by being in Hongdae. My first performance took place there, so I have so many good memories of the area.
12. What kind of music do you personally enjoy listening to?
I listen to all kinds of music but especially enjoy R&B and neo-soul. I love the groove and harmony of those genres. At the moment, I am listening to Jhene Aiko.
13. Describe a typical day for you! And what would you do on a free day?
When I have a free day, I either hang out with my friends or I will chill at home, being a couch potato! When I meet with friends, we will go to check out popular places, watch shows by other musicians or go for drinks.
On the days that I am working, I teach at a college, art high school and also give private lessons. I find that I learn from the students. When I am with them, it takes me back to my earlier music life, making me remember the moments at which I myself started to learn about music. I started teaching after being asked by someone to teach them vocal technique.
I might also compose music on my own or together with friends. Or, I could be rehearsing with my band in preparation for upcoming gigs.
14. What do you think is the most important lesson you have learned as a performer so far? Looking back, would you do anything differently?
The most important lesson that I have learned is to communicate with the audience. Even if I write songs filled with my emotion and experiences, I can feel that people understand what I say even more when I think more about sharing my stories with music.
In my early years, I only put emphasis on myself; my vocal technique, tone and even what I might wear for a show. But now, I focus on the communication part much more. It makes me feel connected to people through the music, and I think that is amazing.
15. How did you put a band together? What are rehearsals and practice sessions like?
I decide on band members based on their understanding of my music. Also, I consider their humanity to be a really important thing, because each member should listen, care and wish to enhance as well as combine with the other members’ sound. I believe that a great musician has a great mind.
For a rehearsal, I will send out the demos that I make using a midi program to the members before we meet. Then we play together based on the demo. While we’re playing during the rehearsal, we may have ideas or suggestions for arrangements sometimes. When we have a sound check on the performance day, we will check the important parts of the songs.
16. What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
My plans are…to release an EP album and perform a showcase.
I have released 4 singles until now so I think that it’s time to make an EP on CDs and plan for a showcase. So exciting!
(Responses have been edited for clarity, with permission from the artist)
That brings us to the end of our interview with Choyoung! You can now read our music review and track recommendations in our special music article about Choyoung. Please check it out!
© Interview with Choyoung. Inspire Me Korea. 17.07.2017
Featured image source: © Choyoung. 24.06.2017. Image was provided directly by Choyoung for use in this article.
In-article image source: © Choyoung. Images were either provided directly by Choyoung (24.06.2017) or reproduced from official social media (31.01.2017) with permission.