This month’s special K-SPOTLIGHT shines on a rising star, an artist called Youra. She is a female soloist and singer-songwriter with a unique style, flair and vocal tone, which distinguishes her from others in the current Korean music scene. We caught up with Youra at this early stage in her career to hear her thoughts about her music, the industry and experiences to-date.
Youra’s new EP, ‘B Side’ was released on 5th March 2019.
It contains 4 new songs including the title song ‘Dance’.
Youra quietly made in-roads into music by uploading songs on SoundCloud, followed by the release of the intriguingly named ‘My Hair is Green’, a collaboration with 015B. This song was a complete contrast to the output of other artists and groups at the time. In others’ hands ‘My Hair is Green’ could have sounded detached and incomplete, but Youra was able to fit several complex ideas together with her co-writer and pushed the retro sound very well. We loved the track immediately, from the initial guitar riff to the last vocal note. Next to follow was ‘my’, her official debut single which is a slower and softer piece, showcasing a captivating lilting style in the chorus.
Youra’s major strengths are found in her unconventional songwriting ability and in having a very distinctive and highly expressive vocal tone. We learned more with her appearance as a contestant in ‘The Fan’ – a new weekly televised singing competition which pits promising new artists against one another. Such are her strengths that she received endorsement from prolific singer Lena Park, who specifically requested Youra to appear as a guest at her own concerts. In contrast to the punchy energy of her first release, Youra appeared a little shy and reserved in front of the celebrity panel. But she quickly demonstrated to everyone that she is a creative thinker and a great songwriter, even taking inspiration from the movement of water for one of her self-penned tracks inspired by the view of the sea at Yeosu.
Her strategy in the first round of the competition was very interesting, where she chose to sing a re-arrangement of a classic song from 1978, making it sound modern and fresh.
Receiving critique from people like BoA on the show will help her musical development and Youra seems to be increasing her confidence in performing on the stage. We hope that she will always stay true to herself whilst learning how to showcase her music in the best way.
In the past few years we’ve seen artists like Dean receive international recognition due to their songwriting credentials and unique vocalists like Suran finding mainstream success. We recommended both of them to our Inspire Me Korea readers when we first spotted them, and in the same way, we are confident that Youra is going to be a very promising young artist to look out for. It may take some time for the Korean public to accept something so different from the norm, but we hope that deserving recognition happens sooner rather than later.
We sincerely thank Hyunmin for helping with this interview, and Youra for taking time to answer our questions.
Please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Youra and I am a singer. It is a pleasure to introduce myself to Inspire Me Korea. Youra is my stage name and it is derived from my real name, Yura Kim.
Can you remember what it was that piqued your interest in music?
My mom and dad both liked music and let me listen to it ever since I was little. Thanks to my parents, listening to different types of music has led me to consider it as more than just a hobby.
Your vocal tone is quite unique. What type of songs do you feel showcase your voice well?
While I am open-minded about working with others on various kinds of music, I believe that my own songs allow me to express myself the most.
Did you receive any vocal training before you signed to a label? Do you do anything to protect your voice?
I received some training on things like vocalisation and breathing for a short period before I became associated with my label. To protect my voice, I drink lots of water and wrap a scarf around my neck when I sleep. I always wear a mask during changes of seasons and throughout winter as an extra level of protection since I can easily get a sore throat. Lately I’ve been using a throat spray!
Your first single ‘My Hair is Green’ was instantly attention-grabbing. It has interesting changes in tempo and use of instrumentals, and a special sound not heard often in Korean music. How did you make the track and how long did it take to finish? And why choose the phrase ‘My Hair is Green’ as the title of this song?
The beats were near completion already. The co-writer and I worked hard in trying to convey retro vibes throughout the track, and I used the lyrics to help me achieve that. It doesn’t take me long to finish a song though, usually not more than 2-3 days.
When I write songs, I try to express things that are sad or funny, for example, aspects of my daily life or back-and-forth feelings.
As for the song title, I simply wanted to express that my feelings change so often, just like wanting to colour my hair. There is a lyrical phrase that roughly translates to “My hair is green. I imagine becoming a flower”. I then chose to portray this sentiment as “green” in the lyrics, reflecting a desire to be green like a stem blossoming into a flower as a metaphor for my music development.
Did you always know that you wanted to sing a song in this kind of style? Did you ever feel like it was a risk to do something so different to other artists?
No matter what kind of songs I make, they always include elements of what I am trying to express at the time. I cannot say that I have attached a label to a certain style because I don’t view it that way, it’s just a means to express myself. I don’t make music hoping to differentiate myself from other artists and so it is never associated with any risk or difficulty. Though I can’t believe that I already released my first single! I feel grateful to the fans who love my music.
You worked with 015B, how did your collaboration come about?
015B listened to my music on Soundcloud and contacted me after. It isn’t too hard to find and contact other people to work with. I am currently working on projects with people who have been introduced to me by other artists I know, and there are others I’d like to work with too. I am so happy and grateful for all the messages, beats or links sent to me through Soundcloud and Instagram. I try to check all of my messages! I appreciate all that I have been given.
Did you have any creative input into the music video for My Hair is Green? The contrast between use of colours and a black and white palette were very effective.
The music video was shot on the roof of the company belonging to my label. It is great to hear that you thought the contrast was effective. To be honest, some of the tones in the video didn’t turn out very well, so I suggested that some sections could be changed to black and white instead. I didn’t have many expectations because it was all done within a short time, but I’m happy to see that many people like the video.
You released a new single called ‘My’ in October 2018. How would you describe it? What plans do you have for this single and how will you promote it this time?
‘My’ is my official debut single that is sung calmly, as if I was talking. The beats are minimal. I hope that listening to ‘my’ will remind listeners of the lightness of air, reminiscing about memories of the past or transporting them to the future. My song will also allow them to ponder their private thoughts.
Do you enjoy performing? Is this something you would like to do more of in future, or do you prefer to focus on writing and creating new music?
I think I would enjoy both performing and creating new music. Making music is always interesting to me. I’d like to continue to learn new things and find new ways to express myself. I want to associate myself with the word ‘new’. I’d also like to do more gigs too if I have time. I was lucky to be able to perform at Lena Park’s 2018 winter concerts as a guest. She is one of the top female singers in Korea. These memorable opportunities have given me a glimpse into how amazing performing on stage can be.
You are an artist who is at the beginnings of their career – how much do you plan ahead and look to the future?
I am a person who does not look at the past or the future. I live everyday doing my best. If I put my focus on the day, that eventually becomes the future. I do not tend to plan in detail.
What do you think is the most exciting thing to happen in your music career so far? What kind of experiences do you hope to have later?
My debut is the most exciting thing to have happened so far. I wish to release more cool songs to showcase myself well. I have been participating in a music contest called [The Fan] which is airing every Saturday. Being a contestant on the show exposes me to lots of pressure, but it’s cool and it’s definitely an opportunity for me to grow.
Who do you respect the most in the music industry?
I mostly look up to people that are involved in making music featured in movies, that do jazz or classical music.
I am a person who does not look at the past or the future. I live everyday doing my best. If I put my focus on the day, that eventually becomes the future.” – YOURA
What are the top three songs in your playlist at the moment?
Moby – Porcelain, Sofi Tukker – that’s it, Mary J Blige – Family Affair
What other activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
I often watch movies and look at photographs. Many of my friends work in fashion or photography, so I get influenced by those around me and I get to see many cool photos. I also like to cook, watch vines on YouTube and I love uploading Instagram stories late at night!
What part of the year do you look forward to the most and why?
All the times when my music will be released, or when I’m going on a trip! Especially family trips.
What was the most recent thing that made you laugh out loud?
A minute ago, when I told a funny joke to my friend.
What is the best thing about being a music artist? And where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
The best thing about being a music artist is that I can let my music be heard! In 5 years time, I hope to mature as an artist, to continue making good music and stay in the industry 🙂
(Responses have been partially edited for clarity)
That brings us to the end of the interview; why not listen to Youra’s new song ‘Dance‘? We also enjoyed her collaboration with Cosmic Boy – it is included below. We hope you liked learning about this new artist 🙂
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Featured image and in-article images source: © Youra. Mun Hwa In. 11.01.2019. All rights reserved. All images were provided by the artist’s management team for specific use in this article and should not be reproduced without permission.
© Interview with Youra. 11.01.2019. Inspire Me Korea.