When you are having a hard time, listening to warm melodies and reading the lyrics of a song are used as ways to comfort ourselves. That music can sometimes be made using electronic sounds as well as instruments. Here's a singer who ends the day with a warm voice through a comforting melody. This SMT reporter met Yunsae, a singer-songwriter who delivers love and solace to people through melodies and lyrics.
Before starting the interview, please introduce yourself to the Sookmyungians.
Hello, I am Yunsae, a singer-songwriter who is currently active around Hongdae, and I graduated from Sookmyung Women's University School of English Language and Literature in 2014. I am working to become a singer-songwriter who can capture a wide range of audiences everywhere, creating electro-pop music with clear tones and sensuous sounds. Also, I am actively working on songs for other singers, including Jeon Hyo-seong and MK who is a member of ONF.
You are presenting the genre of "electro-pop" to the public. It might be an unfamiliar genre for people. Please explain about it.
Electro-pop is a genre created by borrowing elements of electronic music from pop, and some people use it in combination with the terms EDM-pop and synth-pop. The terminology is unfamiliar, but I think the music is familiar to you. You can easily find it in K-pop idol songs, and in the sounds of many pop singers, including Lauv and Billie Eilish. Due to the nature of modern composition, with a high proportion of computer-based work, electro-pop could naturally enter the mainstream pop scene. How attractive it is!
The combination of your clear voice and electronic sounds of a synthesizer is fresh to the listeners. Why did you choose electro-pop as your main genre instead of other ones?
Since I don't like the obvious, I decided that I would have to go a slightly different way from acoustic music or band music that people first think of when they hear the phrase "indie music." I really wanted to make cool tracks like Troye Sivan's "YOUTH" and f(x)'s "4 Walls" which I used to listen to when I was young. Also, composition based on electronic music, commonly known as MIDI composition, is easy, and attractive enough for anyone even if they lack instrumental performance and don't know much about music theory.
When you were a student at SMWU, what was the most impressive activity that you did?
In my third year, I studied at Griffith College in Dublin, Ireland through the exchange student, and it became a turning point in my life. It was a short period of time, but it was a special experience to learn the diversity of culture while living abroad within the fence of school. Ireland's education system prioritizes individual personality and choice, making it easy to see students participating in discussions and exploring careers without the burden of failure. It was impressive to see the Irish living with ease and romance, and it gave me confidence that it would be okay to live slowly. Since Dublin is a city of music, I was able to hear music on the streets and in restaurants. For me, being an exchange student was a great opportunity to study music and language and to cultivate a global mind.
We think there may have been many difficulties in choosing a career path in a different field from your major. What was the most difficult experience in the process of making your career as a singer?
It was the hardest thing to completely decide to do music. When I entered my senior year, my peers got jobs one by one, and I felt like I had become a fool who couldn't decide. I thought that I should do everything others do, so I attained various certificates and prepared hard to apply for open recruitment at large companies. My parents declared that they would cut off all assistance if I were not preparing for employment. I felt like everything in the world wasn't going my way. However, sometimes I felt that my mind was directed toward music, and I didn't want to be a coward who kept music as just a hobby.
Despite the difficulties you have experienced, you didn't give up your dream of becoming a singer. We wonder how you continued to move forward.
After I became confident in the genre of electro-pop and the songs I made, things started to work out little by little. I think there are many songs that stand out with catchy melodies and refreshing arrangements. They didn't seem to have that musical color at first, but it became clearer as time went by. Fortunately, my debut song "Be Your Breeze" was loved by many, and around the same time, I was able to win the Naver Music League Music Contest and both big and small awards. Two years ago, I was able to perform and show my talent thanks to being selected for a promising new musician support project called "MUSE ON 2021" organized by the Korea Creative Content Agency. It was difficult to be selected, and it was an opportunity to be sure that if I continued to try, I would gradually succeed.
Your music has a bouncy melody. It seems you write almost all the songs yourself. Where do you usually get inspiration?
In the past, I answered this question by saying, "I don't work on music by getting inspiration." I just did it like I was breathing without thinking and walking down the street. However, from a certain point, I started to think that I should make music strategically. It's a world where hundreds or thousands of new songs are poured out a day, and I think the songs that are loved for a long time are few. I tend to use a lot of catchy lyrics or melodic leaps to make it memorable even if people listen to it only once. To come up with an arrangement idea for beat making, I listen to other artists' music a lot, analyze, and study.
These days, lyrics that can touch people's hearts are also attracting attention in addition to melodies. What do you pay attention to the most when you write lyrics?
Since the pre-work is all done in English, taking notes of ideas that come to mind in everyday life was a great help in writing Korean lyrics. I think lyrics that are uncomfortable to sing and can't fit with the melody well are not good. When I write lyrics, I first check if the pronunciation fits the melody. The debut song "Be Your Breeze" was recorded all in English before the Korean lyrics were written. I found as many Korean words that sound like English words as possible and work in a way that can make the melody work well. Since I am aiming for easy-listening music, I try to draw people's interest with only everyday words from easy topics.
Participating in various fields such as composition and arrangement, you might feel and experience things differently when you make your own songs and when you make other people's songs. We wonder what the difference is.
The goal of making good music is the same, but there are definitely differences. Since I am an independent singer-songwriter, I manage everything from financing to arranging and recording. It's hard to manage everything by myself, but it's fun to follow my direction of work without interference from others. On the other hand, writing a song for other artists needs to make sure it reflects their color as much as possible.
You actively communicate with your fans through social media. What's the most memorable interaction you've had with your fans?
It was fun to meet a fan sitting at the next table while eating at a restaurant in Busan during the national tour busking in June. Since I thought I was not famous, I was eating rice soup without thinking anyone would recognize me. However, they recognized me and talked to me. It will be more and more difficult to hide in the anonymity of unfamiliar cities in the future, but I think it will always be fun to have fans come up and say hello.
There is an attachment between you and your fans through those exchanges. What kind of singer do you want to be remembered as by people and why?
I want to be remembered as an irreplaceable artist like some singers who are told that their voices are "fingerprints." To have a unique sound and color that can only be found in my music, including a popping track and catchy melody. I want to be an artist who makes songs that come to your ears at once. I haven't had many opportunities to be recognized by the public yet, but I want to appear on a variety show someday.
Do you have a song you want to recommend to Sookmyungians who are working hard for their career? Please tell me the song and why you recommend it.
I'd like to suggest the song "Our Youth" from the album Rainbow Promises. "Our Youth" is like a letter to my friend who suffered from depression in the past. Many people liked the first line of the lyrics: "What happened in the past always becomes precious memories." We all get frustrated with small mistakes. However, if you take a step away from current difficulties, something wonderful might be waiting for you. It is a song made by paying attention to brilliant daily lives everywhere, so it delivers a message of support for those who are confused in their youth. If people have someone who supports them, they can reduce their mental burden and look at the world with a hopeful attitude.
Lastly, please tell us anything you want to say to Sookmyungians who want to be encouraged.
It can be a short or long university life, but I guess it's up to you how you mange that time. Regardless of my major studies, my time at Sookmyung made me into a challenging and enterprising person. I also spent a lot of time and energy exploring my career, but I wasn't 100% sure of all the choices I made and still, these concerns continue. I hope you can enjoy the pleasure of living as the main character of your life and growing up in a self-directed way. I will also always try to become an alumna who can change the world with soft power, as taught at Sookmyung. Thank you.
- Sookmyung Women's Univ., (B.A.) School of English Language & Literature (2014)
- Discography of STARLIGHT - Jeon Hyo-seong (2019)
- Awarded at SNOW X Musician League Music Challenge (2020)
- Selected artist of "MUSE ON 2021" organized by the Korea Creative Content Agency
- Discography of Mistake (feat. Woo Tae-woon) – MK(ONF) (2021)
- EP [flowerain] (2021), EP [when the stars are aligned] (2023)
Lee Han Jiwon / Woman Section Editor
Kim Park Yeonhoo / Reporter