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[Interview] John Park the Musician

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2012.02.21 16:10 Mwave Oh, MiJung Translation Credit : Erika Kim

We had to wait such a long time to finally meet the release of John Park’s debut album. This Korean American, who rose to star status practically overnight in 2010 as the runner-up of Mnet’s audition program Superstar K2, will be releasing his first album a year and four months after the end of the program that brought him his fame.

Born in 1988, he’s the same age as other idol group members who have been three, four years in the business, but this serious youth seems to be more mature than others his age, and only recently has he started to take his slow yet deep first steps into K-Pop.

[Interview] John Park the Musician

I met with John Park, who will be coming back with his first album Knock. He had all of his new songs in his mp3 player, and he had me listen to all of them one by one.

His first single cut, the first track Falling, was lyricized by John Park himself and composed by a British composer, Andy Platts. It doesn’t have the soulful feel that John Park is known to like, but is a medium tempo Britpop piece that has a light feel to it.

“Everyone tells me that they didn’t expect my first single to be like this. I guess it’s because it’s not soul. I’ve received a lot of great songs, and so I’ve become more skilled in singing. I wanted to show that I can now sing in Korean comfortably.”

John Park is a composer himself, but he only wrote the lyrics for his first single cut. He’s a new singer that’s just now making his debut, but the lyrics for his song aren’t that bright. I asked why.

“’Falling’ can be used to mean that you’re falling in love, but it can also be used to mean you’re plunging down. I was really lonely last year when I lived alone. I spent a lot of time alone, and whenever I was alone, I became immersed in this time of my own. I also concentrated more on music. It was a time when I could ‘fall’ into music more. Because of this, this song is more special to me. For lyrics, I usually write about the things I want to talk about. There are a lot of love stories, but it’s not about the love between those of the opposite sex. I don’t like writing empty words. I didn’t include the songs I composed. I did write some. I want to be a singer/songwriter, but I’m not in a hurry.”

The producer of his album is Kim Dong Ryul, a labelmate. Another labelmate, Lee Juk, also helped him a lot with his album. Kim Dong Ryul’s candid ballads met John Park and were reborn with a new feeling.

[Interview] John Park the Musician

“I learned a lot from Kim Dong Ryul sunbae (senior) about music. He was also a big influence in forming my mindset as a musician. I started to sing with a wider range of methods. I was also helped a lot psychologically. I was taken with how Dong Ryul hyung (big brother) was faithful toward music and was honest toward the public. I started to think music shouldn’t be made easily, and I realized you have to be honest. Lee Juk sunbae helped me take it easy. The two sunbaes have completely different personalities, and I’m surprised at how I was able to work with the two on good terms. I think I adapted well. (Laugh)”

John Park is a latecomer to the scene compared to the other Superstar K2 contestants. His other friends such as Huh Gak, Jang Jae In and Kim Ji Soo have all already made their debuts. When asked why his own debut album came so late, John Park started to tell his long story.

“I don’t think a year and four months is a long time. During that time of rest I had to adapt to a new environment and to my new job. I had no one to talk to. Because I succeeded through an audition program, I lost a lot of my identity. I had misunderstood what success was. The things I held inside myself while I was busy after the end of the audition program lingered in me as scars. And so I felt even lonelier. My personality became darker, and everything in the world felt unfamiliar. But after joining Music Farm, I started to rediscover the musical side of myself.”

John Park is currently an economics major at Northwestern University but is on a leave of absence to pursue his career as a singer in Korea. It would’ve taken him a long time to transform from an economics student to a singer. He added that although he competed in American Idol and Superstar K, he was never strongly determined to become a singer. He auditioned based on his amateur love for music, thinking he just wanted to enjoy being on stage, but the results he received were more explosive than he expected.

[Interview] John Park the Musician

The cheers that poured in from all sides on the stage he wasn’t prepared for made him high like he had used drugs. Once he stepped down from the stage, however, he was shocked. His life had changed completely, and it was all the more unfamiliar because he had never meant it to be that way.

“During the broadcast, we didn’t get to use the internet or our phones. We had no idea on how the outside world was doing. I met a sudden change through the broadcast, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t active for a long time, but that was a success for me. It was a time in which I could cultivate my passion toward music. Loneliness and hardships are part of the process of making music, so they’re all special. I learned a lot during the past year.”

Many companies offered to help him after Superstar K. There was a company that said it would make him a hallyu star, and there was a producer who tried to make him an idol star. John Park, however, settled down in Music Farm, which holds musicians such as Kim Dong Ryul, Lee Juk and Lee Sang Soon.

“It’s a company that fits me perfectly. I wanted to go somewhere comfortable, and it turned out that way. I learned that I shouldn’t be obsessed with popularity or money while I work with musicians in this company. I learned that working hard on music is a happy thing in itself.”

John Park said that he wanted to make everyone think of him more as a musician through his future promotions. John Park as a musician wishes to communicate with the public through his sincere music.

“I’m honestly not happy about my image as an audition program contestant. I think while the show was broadcast, the viewers judged me more based on my other traits rather than my music. They say that I have star quality, but I don’t think so. I’m just a rookie musician that’s the same as all others, a musician that is forgotten if I don’t work hard. And so I plan to work hard with my music.”

Perhaps because he didn’t like the image he got from his own audition ventures, he only answered shortly to a question on whether he had watched Superstar K3, “I thought it was fun as a viewer.” He said no more. About Sam Koo, who grabbed the spotlight for himself in Mnet’s Voice of Korea, he also only said, “We just had a meal together last year. I don’t know him that well.”

[Interview] John Park the Musician

Instead of talking about auditions, I asked him about his future dream. A year and four months ago, he had answered the same question by saying he wanted “to change the world through song.” His dream proved to be the same now, but his methods had become more realistic.

“I think I was more naïve back then compared to now. I still want to bring on positive effects through music. My basic philosophy toward music hasn’t changed, but the methods I want to use in my purpose has changed. I thought in the past that it would work if I sang good songs and kept myself upright, but it’s not that. I started to want something more from a creative side.”

I asked him about going overseas, as he has already been overseas. He said, “I haven’t thought of it.”

“Overseas? I’ve never even imagined it. I’m still a rookie. I want to find a place for myself in Korea first. I’ll think about it after I find a way to communicate through music. I would go to communicate with overseas music fans, but I’m not thinking of going overseas yet just for the money.”

Lastly, I asked him about variety shows. John Park may be mature for his age, but I thought he would still have the innocent features common in his age inside him somewhere. Last year, he once sang carols on a show wearing polka dots.

“Because I’ve exposed myself too much through an audition program, I don’t think I should be appearing on variety too much. I should find a balance. I am open to opportunities, though. I do it if my company tells me to because then there’s probably a reason.”

Just a year since he decided on his agency, John Park had grown into a musician. Many music fans will be looking forward to the future of musician John Park, who communicates through music.

Photo credit: Music Farm

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