In this special edition of the K-SPOTLIGHT, we present an interview with Seoul-based singer-songwriter Shin Seol Hee! She has established herself as a very competent musician and composer over the years, and started to perform overseas in Europe during 2016. This is a big step for any artist, but she took on the challenges enthusiastically and reached many more new audiences!
Shin Seol Hee creates music that is very considered and thoughtful; it’s not only a simple melody and lyrics, but an atmosphere that is built and shared. We feel that this is a key part of what makes her songs engaging.
Her voice is quite difficult to define but it is one of the factors that make her an intriguing artist. She uses a slight vibrato that brings a fullness to her sound and shapes particular phrasing in the music. At other times her voice can also be raspy which contributes an edge to a song; it’s not something that everyone can do. She knows how to use her vocal tone in the best way and showcase its versatility across a broad range. We think that new listeners will be able to find a Shin Seol Hee track that they love and listen to again and again 🙂 Remember to return to the blog in a few days to read our music review and recommendations!
We would like to say a big thank you to Shin Seol Hee for answering well in our interview!
Please support her by buying some wonderful albums and singles! They are all available on her bandcamp page, through iTunes, and some tracks can be purchased via Amazon music.
1. Can you introduce yourself and your music, and say something interesting about yourself?
I am Shin Seol Hee, a singer-songwriter based in Seoul, Korea. My songs are pop or rock with a base on folk. During the early summer of last year, I travelled to Europe to perform some shows.
2. What was the driving force behind your decision to become a musician? Did you encounter any opposition or negativity in your career choice?
There actually hasn’t been anything special that happened to lead me to become a musician. I have simply been fascinated with music ever since I was young and this has been the natural driving force behind my music so far. Fortunately I have not encountered opposition to that.
3. When you compose a song, what instruments do you find easiest to use to work on melodies? And do you find the process takes you a long time or is it quick?
I firstly create a rough sketch or outline with guitar or piano, then use software on a computer to add shape to the faint image that we originally envisaged. Sometimes the process is short and other times I will need longer. I am constantly changing the way that I work to avoid falling into a routine and forming a repetitive working style when writing music.
4. How do you think the last year has been for you? What do remember as being the most memorable things and which were the most troublesome?
I travelled to Iceland last year; it was an old dream come true. Going to Iceland from Korea is a fairly long and difficult journey, but if possible I would like to live there. It was an experience that cannot be expressed in words. In my early teens I was fascinated by Bjork’s music. She had such a unique mysterious and powerful force. That was the first time that I discovered Iceland and led me to search for images of what it looked like. I fell in love with the vast nature and mysterious solitude. When I visited there, it was more than I expected. I dare say that it is the most beautiful place in the world.
I also had the full launch of my ‘Cinder Cone’ album. It was a task that involved releasing all of my results into the world. This is always the thing that is most exciting, but it can also be difficult.
5. What was the reason that made you think to mix folk with pop, rock and elements of electronica? Was it just a natural thing to you or a result of experimentation? Is there pressure to keep releasing music in a competitive market?
The music that I make occurs naturally and is most like me. I grew up listening to a wide variety of genres, and have always found the most eye-opening albums to be those that present something new, destroying an existing genre. In the past it was Radiohead, and now Bon Iver for me. Due to the influence of artists like these, I always obsess and agonize over the creation of something new. This is the hardest part, yet also the most pleasurable. There is no pressure to release music quickly.
6. What keeps music ‘fresh’ for you? What motivates you to keep pushing yourself with each EP and album?
The basis of my motivation and what keeps things fresh seems to change each time. As I said before, that can be a person that I respect and admire, but I feel that my life in itself is entwined in music and that is motivating.
7. What do you think are the most difficult things about being a musician? And what are the best things about it?
I do not think musicians have to worry about the business side of the industry. Nevertheless, I think there are a lot of problems and it’s not unique to the music industry alone. It’s a matter of universal concern. As people’s lifestyles become lighter, their thoughts become lighter, so they prefer music without substance. Only a few enthusiasts will listen to music deeply and appreciate it. But this is not something that we can do anything about. The world is leaning more and more towards that way of thinking. It is sad, but unfortunately this is the reality.
8. How did you feel about performing in different countries and in front of different audiences?
It was a new and thrilling experience. I felt that the most impressive concert was in Paris because the audience were very open-minded and prepared to be receptive to everything. I felt at ease (it felt like home) so I could enjoy the performance with them.
9. How do you prepare for a new stage?
I usually try to wait for a good idea. I hate feelings that are forced.
10. Do you choose your photographs for albums/EP artwork? What inspires your pictures? For example, using the DC3 planewreck in Iceland for the album ‘Cinder Cone’?
I am involved in the creation of all the images and videos. I work closely with the art director to decide on all the artwork. The DC3 planewreck is a US military aircraft that crashed in Iceland in 1973. The ‘Cinder Cone’ album has the mood of loneliness, desolation and mystery, all of which were effectively captured by the crash site. My friend took a photograph and it came out with a subtle atmosphere. I chose that image as the album cover.
11. You have made full length albums which must have taken a lot of work! It is not very common to see albums with many songs these days. Did you feel satisfied after completing both ‘Hills of the Time’ and ‘Cinder Cone’?
Of course I am not satisfied. I always feel that I am lacking because I seek perfection in my work. Regarding the emotional side, I used to write only about my personal feelings like a diary. I have written songs that are like movies and novels, that are unrealistic and unfamiliar, rooted in imagination. Nowadays, I’m in a meditative and contemplative phase; I look at myself and those around me. I am constantly changing and facing different challenges in life.
12. Have you ever doubted yourself before the release of any of your music or albums? How do you overcome your fears?
Of course, I think it is impossible to overcome. Fear is always present and must be accepted. The fear can become a source of powerful energy.
13. We really enjoyed ‘Childhood’, can you say something about the ideas behind this song and what you want listeners to take from it?
The song is a paean to childhood. Sometimes I reminisce about it, sometimes I long to return to it, and other times I convey happiness. This song contained all of that.
I have somewhat of an obsession with childhood, and for cherishing this unforgettable time. It seems like I am a person who has an attachment for a past that I cannot go back to, but I cannot let it flow by like water. So I sing from my heart that “I miss those days”, expressing my feelings in the lyrics and playful melody.
14. What has been the most surprising thing that has happened to you in your career?
The concerts in foreign countries. Although I was an unfamiliar musician from the East, I was given a warm welcome. They also connected to the music and emotions in my heart, even though my lyrics aren’t in English. I experienced the feeling of surpassing the language barriers.
15. What do you do if you have a frustrating day?
If there is a day where I am frustrated, there is usually no way to overcome it. I just have to stay frustrated as I have to work routinely.
16. Can you describe your feelings when performing on stage? What is it that attracts you to performing, is it the energy from the audience, the chance to share your music with others or enjoyment from playing with your band?
It’s everything you said. Even though it changes every time, performing is always an enjoyable moment that I never want to miss.
17. How have you approached promoting your music over the years?
My publicity is still weak. The age of attracting listeners with just the music itself has passed. Sadly, I have to accept this fact and find my way regardless.
18. What kind of activities do you like to do in between periods of songwriting and performing?
In my spare time, I usually play games, watch movies or read books. I enjoy playing a game called ‘Starcraft’ and go out dancing when I’m frustrated.
19. What are your hopes and dreams for the near future?
During the 4 years since ‘Hills of The Time’ was released, I worked on around 40 songs officially and more than 100 pieces of music informally. I couldn’t wait to express my internal emotions and vent my music energies. Now I am in a lull period because I poured all of these out. I need time to replenish myself with new things and hopefully I will be able to show a level of maturity and introduce orderly compositions to everyone soon.
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity, with permission from the artist)
Thanks again to Shin Seol Hee for participating in an interview! Please remember to support her through purchase of music and return to the blog in a few days time to read our music review and check out our very own recommendations!
Featured image and in-article images source: © Shin Seol Hee. 04.08.2017. The majority of images were provided directly by Shin Seol Hee for use in this article. Artwork for ‘Childhood’ was reproduced from Bandcamp.
© Interview with Shin Seol Hee. 18.10.2017. Inspire Me Korea.