Behind the Words and Melodies
"If you write the truth and you're writing about your life, it's going to be country." - Loretta Lynn
What I love most about my songs is that I can explain every line, even those which have the most complex back stories. Since entering my 20s I've encountered several opportunities for self-discovery, but with them can come anxiety. Just by describing my own experiences I hope that listeners will be able to relate and if so, recognize that they can overcome challenges as I have. My back tattoo says in my native Korean: "At the end of hardship comes happiness." I try to pass on this idea to anyone who simply comes up and asks me what the characters read, and now I hope to ingrain this thought into listeners' minds.
Music is therapy; it always has been for me. I hope any relatable aspects of my songs will provide just that. I've been fathoming releasing my own music for over a decade, and I am ecstatic to share it with the world.
"Aesthetics" wasn't even an idea that came to mind when I wrote the first two tracks, "Once a Babe" and "Arizona Boy," in April 2019.
There were a few nights (that turned into early mornings) where I couldn't sleep and had to release thoughts, which I'd always been great at doing on paper (I've collected diaries my whole life and started working in journalism when I was 20, with a focus on the branches which allowed for more creative writing). I thought maybe I'd show the songs to a few close friends, but that's it.
My now executive producer encouraged me to bring the songs in and play them. I was apprehensive; songwriting was one of my weaknesses when I was pursuing music in my teen years and also felt that having a time gap in my music career wouldn't help. However, I felt more confident about these two songs than anything I'd tried writing between the ages of 14 and 18.
I played and sang "Once a Babe" and "Arizona Boy" for the studio producers, after which the executive told me, "Those are fantastic. We need to record those and start doing artist development work." My jaw hit the floor. I was receiving an opportunity to pursue one of my biggest dreams of almost a decade.
"Once a Babe" and "Arizona Boy" were released as singles in June 2019. The responses I started getting were amazing. Then, soon after, I went on a songwriting frenzy. I crafted maybe eight within a few weeks, on any and every topic I could think of, but none resonated with me. One thing was for sure, I was capable of writing music that people liked listening to.
Then came the idea of an EP. I'd need three more songs to complete a five-track record. Even if none of the potential songs I'd written during my writing "frenzy" appealed to me, I knew something would happen and spark inspiration. When something hits me, everything flows right out.
Just like that, I'd end up in a situation in late June which would inspire "Smoke Show." Check. After I released it as my third single in August, I realized I liked the country rock vibe and wanted to integrate it into my country pop sound. Among the collection of "maybe's" was "Adhesive," one of the few I didn't end up scrapping. It wasn't complete, but I played what I had back in May for one of my best friends and she told me the lyrics were clever and would make people laugh, in a good way. I decided to tweak the melody and chord progression a little bit until I was satisfied. With just one more track remaining, my brain began itching for ideas. I wrote about the story behind "She Won" from multiple different angles before settling on the idea of a woman managing to keep her significant other despite him showing outright signs to another woman that he's unhappy in his relationship.
I've always been very open about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences and creating "Aesthetics" has allowed me to recognize that I can be extra creative in the process. As a teenage musician I wanted nothing more than to be able to write songs and creating this record has proven to me that I can.One of the greatest responses I have gotten from listeners (of all ages, backgrounds, music genres and preferences, and the like) is,"I'm not particularly a fan of country music, but your sound is excellent." Additionally, the EP has been aired internationally via official radio stations and streaming platforms, but "Arizona Boy" in particular has reached a double-digit number of countries across the world on almost all continents. This is THE song I never thought I'd release.
Major thank you's to everyone who has reached out with supportive and uplifting words. It means beyond the world to me.
For my debut album, I wanted to rely less on specific songs for inspiration, trust my knowledge of chord progressions, and not second-guess the melodies I'd come up with on the spot. This process would be hindered once COVID-19 hit.
Before COVID, I wrote five songs for the album, recorded four of them, and released three on streaming platforms. The release was delayed from April to August 2020 due to limited access to recording studios and I experienced the highest levels of emotional and mental pain in my life. Making an extrovert shelter in place is like trying to shove a bucking bull into a cage that's too small. Additionally, not being able to live my pre-COVID life cost me a lot of the inspiration I would need to write songs I felt confident about. I shamed myself constantly for not having the motivation to dedicate quarantine time to the album and the fact that I hated the songs I came up with during the first few months of the pandemic. The thought of of writing another five songs when I couldn't even settle on one was daunting. Eventually, I realized that the best songs I'd written were derived from experiences I wasn't entirely seeking. With that, I focused on learning new cover songs until inspiration came to me involuntarily. This is something you can neither force nor rush.
In late June 2020, the songwriting spark returned ever so slightly, but I took it. Without second guessing myself, I fleshed out lyrics and the first melody that popped into my head when I played a chord progression in D major. I didn't hate it, which felt like a victory. From there, I just let the idea of inspiration go completely until something stimulated me. Settling for an album full of songs I was only half-certain about would be detrimental, even if it took years for something to strike me.
Thankfully, it didn't take years. Much like I gained confidence after successfully writing my first two singles, I trusted the process of letting my ideas flow without stopping to question them. Setting my instruments aside for a short period of time actually proved to be refreshing, and I successfully wrote the remaining five songs without any self doubt.
I called my executive producer anxiously, booked the next flight from San Francisco to Boston, got a COVID test, and burst through the doors of Bristol Studios right when I received a negative result. We managed to complete the remaining six tracks in one week (the five new ones I'd written plus a recording from earlier in the year that was only half-done) and the rest is history.
After months of anticipation, I am excited to announce that "Just Drive" will be available on all streaming platforms on August 15, 2020. I am extradorinarily proud of this album and recognize my own personal growth as a songwriter and vocalist. Never once did my early teenage self fathom this.
For my second full-length album, I wanted to honor the music I was raised on and integrate elements of rock 'n' roll into my country sound. The outfit I'm wearing on the cover was inspired by Olivia Newton-John's attire in the final number of Grease, one of my favorite musicals. I am extremely excited for listeners to hear the collaborations I've done on this record, as they were a delight to partake in.
The first collaborative track, "Man Child," was co-written and performed with one of my closest friends, Christina Howard, who is based in Boston and fronts a rock band called Brightside. The inspiration for this song legitimately came from endless text conversations that we had about a helpless and childish boy I had a brief involvement with after relocating to LA. The second collaborative track, "One Wild Night," was co-written and performed with Aaron Lee, a native of Birmingham, England and the frontman of LA-based metal band Killin' Candace. I’d had a few people tell me they were unsure whether or not country and metal singers could effectively collaborate—Aaron and I proved them wrong. While our sounds are completely opposite, a commonality was the fact that we both frequently write about romantic involvement, so this helped us generate a concept fairly quickly—unexpectedly catching feelings for a friend with benefits, especially if the involvement is prolonged for weeks or even months. We aren’t referring to any particular situation that either of us have found ourselves in, but we are both very familiar with the occurrence. Aaron also played lead guitar on this track! My third collaboration on this record was with LA-based producer and R&B/hip hop artist Medrano, who co-wrote, performed, and produced "Always Enough" with me. This track is a continuation of my last record's title track, "Just Drive," where I detail what (and who) prompted me to finally leave my abusive ex-partner.
The other songs detail specific encounters I've had since moving to LA in September 2020, with the exception of "Traded Lovers"--the events that inspired this song began my junior year of high school and ended the first year I spent in Boston during college. Additionally, "Let Emotions Loose" details an experience that took place in late 2019 where the man I was involved with at the time let his guard down and cried in front of me one night. It was so touching, and he is still the only man to ever have openly shed tears in my presence.
In March 2021, I flew back to Boston to record five additional songs for the album, which I am very thrilled to say that I completed in a week with the assistance of Dean Gray at Bristol Studios. As a fun fact, I will also disclose there are four songs on the album that are about the same person. Props to those who can identify which ones!