Korean singer-songwriter and rapper Samuel Seo travelled to the UK for London Fashion week in September, coinciding with the release of his new album [UNITY]. He took the opportunity to catch up with UK fans and we were able to conduct a short interview with him. K-pop and fashion are increasingly viewed and taken as a package now; Samuel has previously expressed his enjoyment regarding the continuous change found in both industries.
Samuel Seo has demonstrated a strong ability for songwriting from the outset, particularly standing out with R&B, having won a prestigious Korean Music Award (best R&B album of the year) for his full-length album ‘frameworks’ released in 2015. Since then, he has released a range of different singles and collaborations, creating a mix of hip-hop and synth pop with his established R&B sound. We’ve previously recommended ‘On’ to our readers, a track produced by Primary featuring Samuel and George on vocals.
With [UNITY] he experiments further, showcasing an interest in jazz elements and a playfulness in composition and themes (there is even a song titled ‘Happy Avocado’!). The album’s strength lies in the support provided by experienced musicians and the choice to place emphasis on analog techniques. If you are a fan, make sure to look out for announcements regarding 2019 overseas tour dates, as Samuel is looking to expand his overseas promotions.
1. How has growing up in different places and countries influenced you as a person and artistically?
I am not really sure about this one because I was too unconscious and young to be thinking about what I was being influenced at that moment. I just became who I am now without knowing.
2. When you wrote songs for [UNITY], did you start with the concept and then write the songs, or was it the other way around, that you wrote songs and saw a common theme run through them?
I am not a fan of setting up concepts before working on an album. Every time I work on an album, I think of it as a long-term diary of my life. So I just start by writing random songs for a period of time, and when they are all done, I name it after.
In this album for instance, the name “UNITY” popped up in my head during the recording session at the studio. I was with the players, surrounded by good emotional flow throughout the whole session. I felt really good and comfortable. I was not used to meeting or co-working with so many people before, so it also felt like I was in a totally different world. I never knew that being able to work with so many people from different parts of music could make me feel so great, and when I grasped this emotion, one word “Hwa Hap” which means “UNITY” in Korean, randomly came out through my mouth. That’s how I came to name the album “UNITY”.
3. When reading about the idea behind the track ‘Boeing’ we found the imagery quite interesting. What made you think to use the guitar as the focus to this track, and was it challenging to match the lyrics with the instrumentation and achieve the right balance?
What happened is that one of my closest guitarist friends gave me the main riff of the song last winter and we were going to call the song “metronome” (because the first part of the song sounds just like it) but it was too straight-forward, so I just left the riff unbuilt until I came up with a better idea.
One day, I just wanted to visit Tokyo, so I just booked a ticket and got on the plane the day after. When the plane departed, I wanted to listen to something LIGHT, songs I could listen to without thinking anything and happened to hit upon the riff again. The melody and the phrase popped up then, so I went into the washroom and recorded it on my cell phone, came back to Korea after a few days and finished the song. Nothing’s been hard when making this song, it was finished so easily.
4. With the notion of unity, did you always envisage that it would be an album that would involve a lot of other musicians?
Like I said, I don’t set the course at the beginning of working on an album. I kept on writing random songs and wanted to replace all the computerized audio instruments into a sounds provided by musicians instead. Nothing was set except one thing. I wanted others to know about “session musicians”, to also consider these people as artists, not just the ones who use their voices.
5. When you collaborate with others in the recordings, do you allow them to suggest ideas or do you have a clear singular vision in mind which you like to keep to?
I try to stick to the basic idea of the word, “collaborate”; working together to the end to form a better or worse result. I think that during a collaboration, no-one should be leading. We should be sharing ideas all the time, and be honest about the things we put into the song. Everyone should always be on the same level but be free to express different points of view.
6. How do you feel about gaining recognition and accolades for your early albums? Did it open more opportunities to you afterwards? Did you feel any pressure and burdening expectation from that success?
Happy because everything exceeded expectations. And I don’t feel any pressure from those little successes I made because I know I can go further and better than what I was and what I am now. My head is full of thinking about things I haven’t done yet and things I have to do to become a better musician. I don’t have anything to lose.
7. Did you always set out to learn as many skills as possible to help you make music? You have taken an interest in singing, songwriting, rapping, producing; what role is the most rewarding to you?
Everything about music satisfies me. I am the type of person who doesn’t draw a line between my career and personal life. I love the fact that I am able to do the things I can do at this moment.
8. What are you looking forward to the most when you embark on your touring schedule?
Nothing special. I just want to go to places that I’ve never been before and see what it’s like to play my music there.
9. Is there anything from home that you’ll miss while you are away?
I want to keep one fact in my mind that I am a Korean and forget everything else about where I’m from. I want to get the best out of this schedule and enjoy it.
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity)
Many thanks to BeatCraze Events for facilitating this interview.
Featured image source: © Samuel Seo. 05.10.2018. UNITY teaser image 2. Credit: Craft and Jun. Image was provided from BeatCraze Events for use in this article. All rights reserved. No reproduction is permitted without permission.
In-article images source: © Patricia Ivy. 04.11.2018. Image credited where outlined in the caption.
© Samuel Seo. 05.10.2018. Remainder of images were provided from BeatCraze Events for use in this article. Credit: Craft and Jun. All rights reserved. No reproduction of images is permitted without permission.
© Interview with Samuel Seo. 04.11.2018. Inspire Me Korea.