Interviews K-Music

Composer spotlight: Into the world of songwriting

To start off the New Year with a bang, we have a jam-packed interview article for our IMK readers this month – with not one, not two but three K-pop composers! Whilst the choreography and spectacle of a stage performance are things we appreciate in the world of K-pop, we mustn’t forget about the people who are involved in writing the music that we love. From an often unseen perspective comes an exclusive behind-the-scenes glance into the world of songwriting and the faces behind it.

Becky, Val and Indee are all composers based in the UK, who write songs for Korean groups. We caught up with each of them to bring you a different perspective on the Korean music industry and to highlight the work of these unsung heroes.


Becky Jerams

Becky is a singer and composer who wrote a song for Red Velvet:


© Becky Jerams. 25.11.2018


How did you get into songwriting and then move into composing for K-pop artists?

I have always written music from a young age, starting out with singer-songwriter style songs for myself and slowly branching into writing for other artists. I made a demo CD of my own material which I sent to music publishing companies and from there I grew my connections, starting out with music for TV, adverts and European artists. This led to meeting even more connections and being introduced to the wonderful world of K-pop! Connections are definitely very important and many western K-pop writers are people who may have fallen into Asian Pop from a different area of music. There are so many great opportunities to write for artists in Korea as there are many bands releasing multiple times throughout the year so it’s a perfect outlet for songwriters looking for work. Above all else it is a very exciting area of music to be involved with and has lots of room for creativity, which is why so many Western writers are up for the challenge of exploring a genre they may have been unfamiliar with before. It is a very competitive business though and can be difficult for new writers to get a foot in the door, but if you are talented and can network then it is definitely possible to find work. As with most creative work it comes down to luck, persistence and knowing the right people as much as being good at what you do!


Did you have a background in music already and how did you develop your skills?

I have been writing and performing music since I was a teenager and I took a two year course in performance development at a music college when I was 18. However, I have found the most valuable experience I’ve had in music is writing with other songwriters and learning on the job. I have gained so much knowledge from working with other people and collaborating as much as possible. When I first started writing K-pop I know I made a lot of rookie mistakes, but thanks to the advice of more experienced writers I have been able to grow and improve to the point of finally getting songs placed.


How did you make contacts in the Korean music industry? What is appealing about writing for the types of artists you’ve composed songs for? How many cuts have you had so far?

I made my contacts in the industry via my publishing company who have set up many great opportunities to meet other K-pop writers, as well as providing song briefs directly from Korean music companies. Sometimes we also get to attend songwriting camps where we will focus on a certain style or group who may be looking for music. Because I am a singer myself, I tend to focus on girl bands. What I particularly love about Korean girl bands is that their music tends to be a lot more fun and quirky than UK music, and we can be free to think outside the box with ideas and have fun. K-pop bands are definitely not afraid to show emotion or lose their inhibitions. We can write energetic chants and spoken word parts, but also beautiful melodies, the kind that are not always found in UK chart songs these days. There is also so much variation in the style of music that K-pop bands release, ranging from fragile ballads to full on dance productions. There is always variety which I absolutely love! So far I have had two cuts in Korea, one for Red Velvet and one for Gugudan. I am hopeful that I will have at least one more to come in 2019, too, but sometimes it can take a very long time before we get confirmation about song placements. My other Asian cuts have all been in Japan, however I have found that many Japanese bands are now following the K-pop trend and moving away from traditional J-pop styles into edgier, K-pop influenced styles.


© Becky Jerams. 25.11.2018


Why do you think Korean music companies are increasingly purchasing songs from Western composers?

I think Western music is becoming more and more popular with young people in Korea as well as the rest of the world so it definitely makes sense for Korean music companies to explore styles that will appeal to an international audience. From my experience, a lot of great songs also come from a mixture of Asian and Western writers, with the two styles combining to create something new and exciting. It is very cool to have songs that sound like US radio hits but then have that added twist from the Asian influence. It’s a very unique sound and I think it is part of what makes K-pop so individual and appealing.


What is your role as a topliner and are you involved in other aspects of the process of putting together a song?

As a topliner I mostly focus on lyrics and melody. As most English lyrics get changed in translation, my lyrics will often get reduced to a few phrases by the end, so I have learned to focus less on the meaning and more on what sounds great phonetically when lyric writing. Topliners often help shape the arrangement of the song and make suggestions on chords, instrumentation or the feel of the track (during the songwriting process). There have even been times where I have asked to tweak parts of the track to fit the topline better. Usually producers are very open to making changes and working together to get the best results.


How much did you know about popular music in Korea when you first started? Had you been listening to any groups before that? What makes a song more suitable for a Korean audience rather than a domestic one?

When I first started out I only knew about J-pop from watching anime, so that gave me a little insight into an Asian songwriting style, but I was not as familiar with K-pop. The first video I really watched was “Gee” by Girls Generation and I instantly fell in love with it. The melodies, the vibrancy, the aesthetic of the video and just how fun and addictive it was. I knew from that moment that I wanted to know more about this world and be a part of it, so that is where my K-pop education came from. The main difference between writing for a Korean audience and a domestic audience is that Korean listeners like a lot of movement and surprises in the song. Western audiences lean more towards simple, repeated melodies whereas K-pop fans like to go on a journey and have many more sections and exciting twists. I guess you could say that K-pop is a lot more risk-taking than typical US chart music.


We really like the track you co-wrote for Red Velvet titled ‘You Better Know’! Can you describe the process of putting the song together and how the addictive hook came about? What parts of the song did you contribute to? And do you make a decision on distribution of lines in the song or does all that side come from the music companies?

Thank you so much! ‘You Better Know’ was actually written in Sweden with my good friend Kanata Okajima and a Swedish producer called Pontus Persson. Pontus is young and super talented and he started to build up the track from scratch in the room, then we all threw melodies and ideas together, building up the song one piece at a time. Kanata has written many great K-pop songs and is the master of melodies. A lot of the addictive hook lines were from her influence, but I always do my best to bring strong ideas, too. I remember the first draft of the hook line was “You Never Know” and I said “No, You BETTER know!” so that was a proud moment for me haha! Lyrically, we were talking about our experiences as songwriters first starting out and wanting to bring a feeling of hope and determination. It was actually very emotional for me because it was one of my first times away from home alone, getting to work with such great writers so I poured a lot of that feeling into the demo vocal. When it comes to the lyrics, the music companies decide what lines to keep and what to change although they will ask us to explain the feeling of the song in words to them. The song was so special that I really hoped the Korean lyricists would retain that magic feeling in the meaning, and I was so happy that they did. The Korean lyrics are beautiful and many fans find the song uplifting and inspirational because that is exactly how we wanted them to feel. We never actually dreamed this song would make it in Asia, but I was over the moon that it went to Red Velvet. They were the perfect group for it and it was a dream come true to have a placement with them as they are one of my all-time favourite K-pop artists.


Source and credit: krystalized YouTube channel


Is it common for many people to collaborate on a project now? Is it a necessity to work this way to survive as a songwriter in this current climate?

Yes, it is very common for people to collaborate and bring their skills together. In fact, it is rare to find a songwriter who does everything by themselves. Production and toplining are two very different skills and while it is possible to be great at both, often the best results come from people combining their areas of expertise. I love being able to bounce ideas off other people and craft something as a team. Also, production is especially important in K-pop and the right producer can make or break a song. I could have a strong melody but with the wrong backing it would fall flat. Equally, someone could have a fantastic instrumental but a bland topline could make it boring. It’s all about finding the right team and the right chemistry of both elements. I don’t think you can survive for long if you are not open to working in a team.


How do you view the ‘tried-and-tested’ formula of a lot of K-pop songs? For example, having a high note which a main vocalist can show off near the latter section of a song or a rap section included?

I don’t think tried and tested formulas are a bad thing because it’s good to make sure there are elements in any song to show off the artist’s skill. If we know there is a rapper in a group then it would be a mistake not to write a part for them to perform, and it is always good to include an impressive vocal moment for strong singers. Of course, if you try too hard to follow the formula then you can risk losing originality or authenticity. I think the best songs follow a formula to some degree but add their own personality to the mix.


© Jellyfish Entertainment. Gugudan Cait Sith. 25.11.2018


What has been your favourite composition so far? Who would you like to write for in future?

Of my own compositions, I think ‘You Better Know’ has a special place in my heart, especially as it has been my biggest artist placement to date. Of other K-pop songs some of my all-time favourites are ‘I’ by Taeyeon, ‘Russian Roulette’ by Red Velvet and ‘Knock Knock’ by TWICE. I guess I love the girl groups (haha) but of course the boys are all great too. I love ‘Not Today’, ‘Burning Up (Fire)’ and ‘Dope’ by BTS. In the future, my number one artist to write for is Taeyeon. I love her beautiful voice and organic style. I am a real fan and Girls Generation were the reason I fell in love with K-pop to begin with. Maybe one day!

I’d also love to write for solo acts! Being a singer-songwriter myself, I feel really confident to write solo style songs and I’d be really keen to do more in that area. Luckily, many of the songs I write could be adapted for either bands or solo acts so there is always the possibility for both.


Valeria Del Prete

Val used to be a brain scientist before developing an interest in music and then moving onto writing for other people. Her most popular tracks were picked up by TWICE (“Stuck” and “Chillax”). The album on which these songs feature has gone platinum in Korea, selling over 250k each!


© Val del Prete. 25.11.2018

How did you make the jump from having an interest in music to songwriting?

I started playing the piano by ear and singing when I was 3. My parents found out that I had this gift by chance and then bought me a proper keyboard to practice with. I did take piano and singing lessons but I would mostly work out things by ear. As a consequence, my music reading ability is not so good. I remember writing my first song when I was 6. As a teen I started writing poems and sometimes those turned into songs. I used to sing and play in bands as a teenager, too, but I put this aside when I started my degree in physics, as it was so intense. It’s only after I completed my PhD and came to London that my passion for music came to life again, especially as London is such a melting pot and so cosmopolitan culturally, and its music scene plays such a big role.

When I restarted writing and singing seriously, I was very rusty! But I knew I had a good ear for melodies. I am much more of a melody/vocal arranging person rather than a lyricist, although I do love great lyrics too. My instinct is always to start from the melody.

I find the production (of K-pop) is often cutting edge, and the structures of the songs are really varied and inventive. And the performers are incredible! I also love the fact that fans are so dedicated. I feel we’re losing this a little bit in the western world.

So I started writing specifically for Asian pop and building my own network in that genre. Last year I co-wrote the single “Coloring book” for K-pop group Oh my girl, and the digital single “Ultraviolet” for Japanese superstar Koda Kumi.


How long did it take to establish yourself a stable income and to be able to say that you could do this full-time?

I self-released an album in 2011 but it only sold a little. It’s only when I started writing for other artists in 2014-2015 and really putting a lot of effort into learning the craft and networking, that things started happening.

People often think of artists and writers as if they were born with talent and all they had to do is express it. But it’s almost never this way. There are years and years of learning the craft, mistakes and failures, even for people who start very young and reach the top, although the media paints the picture of them being overnight successes. I wasn’t young when I started writing seriously, so I didn’t really know if I would have ever seen any result at all. Drive, determination and social skills all play a role, and luck of course. Sales have gone down quite a lot since the age of the internet and that has made life even harder for writers.

Personally, it took me a couple of years of mad writing and failed attempts before I saw any result in Asian pop. I had my first small releases at the end of 2016, but the bigger releases started happening only in the last year, with Koda Kumi in Japan, Oh my girl, and Twice in Korea. No matter how much of an amazing writer you are, it takes some time to understand how this business works and to build a network of contacts that you can rely on. Networking takes lots of my time every day. This is actually the first year I can say my royalties will pay for my living expenses, but I still work part time at university. I feel it is very important in the current climate to have a safety net of some kind, until you’re 100% sure your income from music is stable over several years.


Source: 1theK YouTube channel


Can you explain what each individual contributes during the process of getting a song ready?

Generally there can be 2 or more people listed as “writers” of a song, with someone looking after melodies, lyrics and vocal arranging (topliners or composers), and another looking after the production and mixing (the producer or arranger). However these roles can blur a lot. Sometimes topliners can also be producers and vocalists in their own right and can actually deliver the whole song with no help from anyone else, and sometimes a lyricist gets involved to write better lyrics (this is still part of the toplining process). However, in Asia, lyrics generally get translated when the song is “cut” by a label, and so the main emphasis for us western topliners lies with the melody. Occasionally other people are hired to improve some aspect of the song: for example instrumentalists can be recruited to play certain instruments, or a specific vocalist will be asked to sing the song. It varies from track to track. I am mainly a songwriter and a vocal producer (I work on the arranging and performance of the vocals) but I can also arrange the instruments a little, so I can potentially contribute some production ideas now and then.

Once the song is mixed and ready to send out, writers send their songs to their publishers (if they are published) and the song is then pitched to the artists.


© Val del Prete. 25.11.2018


Are the publishers more involved in the pitching side? Do composers take part too?

Publishers send us leads that they receive from labels and pitch our songs, and of course play a major role in keeping track of our royalties and making sure we get our money. So traditionally publishers would pitch the material but nowadays in the internet age, some writers opt for their own (smaller) publishing setup, pitching their songs directly to labels.

Some writers can be working “in house” at a record label, which means they are published by their publishing division. For example, JYP Entertainment has many writers and producers published by JYP publishing, and so has SM Entertainment, or YG. The internet has changed the business in many ways.


What did you find different about writing for the Asian market? Do you tend to focus more on melodies or particular song structures and what do you think distinguishes K-pop from J-pop? Did you have to adapt to a certain set of requirements that you knew companies would like or do you normally approach it a different way?

I find that the structures of songs can be quite different in both K-pop and J-pop. They are much more dynamic and busy compared to Western pop. The vocal production can play quite a big role, because there are so many members in each boy band or girl band, and labels like to have different (sometimes overlapping) parts that can be sung by different members or sub-units. This is something I truly enjoy as a vocal producer, because I love layering vocals and working on structured songs with many parts, like a mini-opera! However, at the end of the day it is crucial to have a great hook. I find that, very much like in the western world, songs that top the charts have great catchy melodies. So as a writer, I first focus on having a great hook in place, and then in having a structure and style that suits Asian pop.

Companies will often send lead sheets with some information about what they look for, and doing your own research listening to lots of K-pop is also very important. I heard some writers say “I don’t listen to the charts. I just want to write a great song. A great song is a great song and it’s timeless” but I don’t necessarily agree. I think that it is extremely important to listen to what is out there, in order to be able to come up with something that is current and on point for the audience that labels are targeting. It also means that your own ears stay fresh and up-to-date with the sound across the years.


How long did it take the team to write the songs for Twice?

I co-wrote two songs for the amazing “Twice” this year, which was a dream that I have been pursuing for over a year and a half! I co-wrote “Stuck” on the album “What is love” and “Chillax” for the repackaging “Summer nights”, which also includes “Stuck”.

“Stuck” was pretty quick. I worked online with two writers/producers, Sean Alexander, who is in LA and FRANTS, who is in Seoul. They are both amazing and really easy to work with, and the bulk of the song was there in a few hours but then we took a few days to really look at the details and make it sound its best.

“Chillax” took longer because it came together in an unusual way. I wanted to work on a dance hall song but didn’t have a track from any producer to inspire me, so I loaded a dancehall drum loop and built a chord progression and a basic arrangement. I then essentially put together melodies onto my basic arrangement. This “project” was something I started as an experiment with no deadlines and so I left it to the side, changing the odd detail now and then, while I was working on other leads. However this somewhat long process helped me to refresh my ears and see what was working in the melodies (and what wasn’t). At some point after maybe 2-3 months, I listened back to it and thought I had something finished and coherent so I sent the demo around to producers who could take my basic arrangement to the next level. I was extremely happy that Min ‘collapsedone’ Lee agreed to work on this song with me. He is an extraordinary producer and has worked with Twice many times.


Source and credit: SWDR Productions YouTube Channel


What parts are you most proud of having contributed to?

Gosh I wouldn’t know. I usually like to take my time to perfect every section of a song to the best of my abilities, and in this case I thought in the end I (or should I say ‘we?’, since collaboration is always key!) achieved that with both songs. I am particularly proud of “Chillax” as a whole, because it was an unusual way for me to work, and I started the idea by myself. In the end I really thought that all the melodies were good; this made me realise that even without a producer giving me an input, I can try to write stuff on my own and still generate something that has potential for a release.


Do writers get requested to do further work on the back of how well initial songs are received?

I don’t think it’s common for writers to be “commissioned” in the sense that (especially for the biggest acts) you can never be sure that the label will select your work. The bigger the artist, the more competitive it is to get one slot on their album. But in general if you have already had placements with one act and they did well, it is more likely that staff will keep in touch asking for songs and pay attention to your work, because they know you can deliver a good song for their artist.


Who sings the guide vocals on a song? Have you ever done it yourself? Also, how much do companies change the theme of lyrics afterwards? Sometimes in K-pop they have a few lines of English, is this anything close to the English lyrics that might have been there originally?

I generally sing the vocals on the demo for girl bands, but it is not uncommon that I might ask a demo vocalist to re-sing all (or some parts) of the lead vocals for better results. I always discuss with the producer how we can make the demo as good as we can, so it is not a big deal to me to decide I need a different vocal tone and performance. I sent songs for Twice with my own vocals but for example I just wrote a song aimed at Taeyeon where I used a demo vocalist specialising in ballads, with a very creamy and soulful voice.

As far as the translation is concerned, it really varies from song to song. I’ve had songs where they kept the concept and most of the English lyrics and others where they changed the concept, title and pretty much everything about the song. Generally they keep some of the English lyrics, but it can happen that they slip in their own English lyrics. The aim is to create the best possible song to represent the artist, and we all work in synergy to make this happen.


© Val del Prete. 25.11.2018


Do you ever think about line distribution or the vocal ability of the groups that you are hoping to pitch to beforehand (i.e. during the writing period)? Do you ever have to adapt the song to an artist/group’s ability after they have agreed to use it?

Yes, of course, when I write specifically for an artist, I always think of the melodies and vocal delivery of the individuals. Generally those artists are all professional and skilled singers, but K-pop female singers generally sound quite sweet and young, compared to a “big diva” vocal tone such as Jennifer Hudson or Christina Aguilera. Some songs will suit every kind of vocal (even male vocals), but others lose their magic if they don’t have the right vocalist on them, so this is something to take into account.

I have never had to adapt a song for an artist but generally their representing companies will have their own vocal directors and producers around when they record. As writers, we are keen to allow some minor changes through so that the personalities of the artists are showcased best.


Do you get much feedback about a song after its release? Do you ever follow how it is doing on the charts, purely for your own interest?

Ah that is the fun part; when the song is out, to follow how it does on the charts and to read the comments from the fans. I have to say I have been very impressed by how K-pop fans will know the composers and producers behind a song. This is something that doesn’t happen often in the Western world. I actually received messages from fans that wanted to know more about me and my writing because they found out I wrote a song for their idol. It is such a payback, as we are always behind the scenes, so we do not normally get noticed by the fans.


What songs do you personally think are well written? And what music do you listen to yourself? Were you a fan of the groups that ended up singing songs you had co-written?

Personally I like pop songs that are well crafted and have a hit chorus, and that have lots of energy and an infectious rhythm. In terms of artists, I listen to lots of different music, from classical music to mainstream pop including K-pop and J-pop, ambient and alternative, including artists like Bjork, Grimes, Flume, Massive Attack, Kate Bush… and Stravinsky! Among contemporary western hit writers, I am a big fan of Ed Sheeran, Sia, Ryan Tedder, Julia Michaels and Savan Kotecha, I find most of their songs well-crafted. In terms of K-pop and J-pop, I would say it makes up half of my playlist, including BTS, Twice, Red Velvet, Blackpink, 2NE1, Girls Generation, EXO, G-Dragon, E-girls, Faky, Super-Junior, Taemin, and many others. Of course I am a MASSIVE fan of Twice, and it was a dream come true to have two of my songs performed by them.


Indee Rehal-Sagoo

Indee has been involved in various roles related to music, including writing for TV, film, western pop/rock, touring as a session guitarist as well as writing for K-pop groups!


© Indee R-S. 25.11.2018


Can you describe your background and how your career arrived at this point? Would you say it is necessary to be involved in a lot of things for longevity in working in music?

Well according to my parents I’ve always been musically inclined; I played my first instrument at the age of 3. I started formal lessons and received vocal tuition at the age of 7, and by age 13 I began learning the guitar. A little later in life I started to teach myself how to play the drums and then took lessons a year later. I may have started off as an all-rounder during theatre school but my passion for music was always there. I started to concentrate on that side of my life in my mid-teens. I’ve had an interest in song-writing from a young age and I’m pretty sure that I wrote my first proper song when I was 10 or 11. In today’s climate, unless you are extremely lucky with the breaks you receive, I would say that you need to be a well-rounded and versatile musician/writer to have a sustainable career within the industry.


Do you still tour as a session musician and if so, how do you balance that with working on other things?

I do still go on tour and but I play one-off festival dates so this allows me to balance out my work. I do have to plan my weeks depending on what briefs /commissions I have to work on. It’s like anything in life – you have prioritize different tasks into order. I can work while abroad on basic tasks thanks to current technology!


What attracted you to writing pop music in general? You’ve also been involved in composing some rock songs too, do you think genres like rock are still considered popular now compared to, say, the 80’s?

Pop music has been in all of our lives in some way or other, so I believe there is a general familiarity about it. Personally I have been playing pop music for many years now so it’s been a stable part of my musical environment. Rock and heavier music has been something I’ve been interested and composing for a while now. I’d say that rock and heavier music is definitely more commercially viable and it is different music compared to the 80’s. I do love 80’s rock though, and some of its charm has carried over from then.


© Indee R-S. 25.11.2018


How do you view the K-pop scene? Do you think that established sounds seem to stick around in Korea rather than move as dynamically compared to the west?

The K pop scene is an interesting one, I find it quite varied and diverse but it maintains its cultural identity. As K-pop is developing you can hear more and more musical genres from around the globe being incorporated into its DNA (no pun intended!). I feel like the western market has been more settled in the last decade when it comes to pop music and that’s not to say that there is nothing new being released, but certain trends have stuck in both K-pop and western pop.


Do you think your experiences as a session musician and having experience as an audio engineer makes it easier to craft songs? Do you take on specific roles in song-writing depending on the project or do you have an established team now where you each take responsibility for one aspect of a track?

It does help indeed, as a session musician is usually well-versed in several genres and knows how to produce results within the required vibe. I wouldn’t say that you would need to be an audio engineer to write and arrange music but it does help to know certain audio techniques when crafting songs. I think that every songwriter that works in pop needs have some audio engineering experience. At the moment I usually co-produce with another producer who has had previous success in the K-pop world. I generally start the process and will create the bulk of the track. From then on it is a back-and- forth process between us to refine it. I do also get asked to add certain touches and instrumental replays onto more complete tracks that require my skills.


Do you research or listen to a group’s previous discography before starting?

I’ll have a listen to the artist’s back catalogue and the songs that have done well for them. I also think that it is important to try and understand the artist’s identity and what kind of brand they are representing. It’s also important to study the reference material supplied by the label to make sure that the brief is something you can achieve.


What do you consider to be different about writing for a K-pop market compared to western pop? And how does your approach change depending on what audience you are targeting?

I feel that K-pop seems to push the pop genre boundaries a little more in terms of diversity within a track and in terms of production values, whereas the Western audience are [sic] accustomed to a more linear approach. I wouldn’t say that one or the other is better; like all art, it comes down to individual taste and subjectivity. My approach goes back to understanding the artists’ sound, identity and brand. There’s usually an expectation on what sort of vibe the label or artist is looking for before the track is chosen.


What factors affect the decision to pitch songs to specific groups? How do you approach companies if you haven’t had any prior dealings with them? Do they give consideration to most people? Why do you think Korean music companies are interested in songs written by western composers?

There all sorts of different things that can influence the pitch, such as label/artist expectations, the current market appeal/trends or even trying to set new trends. If I haven’t worked with someone before it is always good to have a listen to their back catalogue to gain a decent understanding of what they have achieved so far and where they might be going. I can say as a newcomer into this game that not everyone gets equal consideration at first. Like with any business you will go to your tried and proven sources of success beforehand and then reach out to the new market, unless they are looking for something completely fresh and want a different approach to their artist. I think that Korean companies are interested in the western market of producers as there was always a heavy western influence in K-Pop, so some roots were already sewn in the west. This means the competition for pitching has many more contenders now and it can get super competitive.


© Indee R-S. 25.11.2018


Can you talk about some of the projects you’ve worked on that you feel are most notable?

So far I’ve been lucky enough to pitch for TWICE, GOT7, AOA, NATURE and other J-POP artists. It’s been a great learning experience and I really want to continue down this road!

I’m quite proud that I’ve been able to work on music for companies such as SKY TV and BMG. It does surprise me when I look at my performing rights coding sheets and see that my music has been used all over the world in so many different applications. I’ve been performing since I was young, ranging from singing in the West End in major productions to touring with bands and playing festivals over the world. I feel that I am quite lucky to have such a varied background and can continue in genres like K-pop, as well as heavier music and orchestral scoring.


When you are composing, do you give consideration to what is currently ‘trending’ or do you try and insert your own particular influences into the song? Do you think it is harder to be original now considering the massive catalogue of music out there? What changes would you like to see happening in the K-pop industry?

I have to do both really. The client usually wants to reflect a current trend or idea but then also hopes that you interpret the briefs with your own individuality. It’s pretty hard for me not to write like myself and put my own spin on something, if that makes sense! As it has been so aptly said ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. We all learn from each other and draw inspiration from everything that we come in contact with in our lives. There is an astoundingly huge array of music out in the world so it’s hard not to pull inspiration from what we hear and love. I would to see K-pop develop a well-established pop rock identity. It is in its early stages but I would love to be involved in its evolution and to see where it goes! I think Seo Taiji did a great job as a solo artist in the Korean pop rock market, he really reinvented himself.


K-pop always seems to put a lot of emphasis into concepts – is this something you are aware of and pay attention to?

I personally love the idea of concepts as it gives the piece purpose and the possibility of being led on a journey through music. I use concepts heavily in my personal music for this very reason.

(Responses have been partially edited for clarity)


Thanks to Becky, Val and Indee for giving us some behind-the-scenes information about how K-pop songs are written! Please support them by purchasing or streaming their songs and keep a look out for future music.


Featured image and in-article images source © Becky Jerams, Val del Prete, Indee R-S. 22.11.18. All images were provided by the interviewees for use in this article. All rights reserved.

© Interview with K-pop composers. 22.11.18. Inspire Me Korea.

Louisa Lee

Enthusiastic writer and foodie. Enjoys discovering new music, films and books, as well as travelling, trying various cuisines and learning about different cultures. My music player is never too far away - life just isn’t complete without music!



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