Interview: Woojin opens up on his India tour, says he is a fan of Aamir Khan
Kim Woojin, a former member of Stray Kids, quit the group in 2019. He then launched his solo career with the debut single Still Dream in 2021.
It is past 10 pm in Seoul, and the end of what has been a packed day for Woojin. However, his infectious energy bounces off the screen, as he sits down for a Zoom interview with Hindustan Times, for his music comeback, The Moment: Bounce. Describing it as a coming-of-age story, a phase of introspection and exploring their individuality, the singer says it's a continuation of the story from his first mini album, The Moment: Minor, which released in August 2021. (Also Read | From K-reality shows to Nayanthara's wedding documentary, Netflix looks for an ‘unscripted’ success)
The Moment: Bounce is an extension of the first album. It is a coming-of-age story, it is more transitory in nature. From adolescence to adulthood, is a phase when one has finally overcome the uncertainties of those teenage years. The different emotions that form our teen years, where there is a bit of sadness and also hope for a better future to finally gaining confidence and positivity in oneself. “Bounce is positive and remembers the good times of the past, something like a reminiscence,” says Woojin.
A collection of six tracks, which includes the pacy On My Way, the lively Song Of Icarus, and the rhythmic Tryin’. A blend of various genres from punk rock to soothing R&B, The Moment: Bounce, also brings to the fore Woojin’s rich vocals and perfect pitch. The singer says his fans can expect something reinvigorating and energetic from the album.
The former frontman of boy band Stray Kids, Kim Woojin quit the group in the latter half of 2019. The management, JYP Entertainment, had announced his decision to leave was due to personal reasons. The singer popularly known by his stage name Woojin, launched his solo career with the debut single Still Dream, in July 2021, followed by his album The Moment: Minor a month later.
Learning to improvise
So are his albums semi-autobiographical, a reflection of his journey and growth as an artist? "The experiences I have had over the previous years, the way they have shaped me, the feelings, emotions I have felt, is something I have poured into this album (The Moment: Bounce). It is a reflection of my journey and all that I have experienced the many highs and lows. During the first album, I had many international performances and tours, it was also a time I worked on my skills as a musician, and performer. I feel the one difference between the first and the second album is that I have improvised as an artist and have a better understanding of my craft. Also, this gap was a learning period of sorts for me," he answers in full honesty.
But, to chart the course as a solo artist in a hyper-competitive industry such as K-pop can be a daunting task. With the number of debuts, comebacks and the constant stress of being one up in your game, can it be a challenge of sorts?
He says, “It’s challenging, as it is a competitive space and one has to constantly reinvent and work on your skills. You cannot be laid back. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and work on my skills and talent constantly.” He also expresses gratitude to his fandom, the CUBS "who have stood by him for the better and worse".
Woojin who also has several drama soundtracks to his credits, including In The End (for Reborn Rich) recalls how just before the recording of the hit Dive for King The Land, he came down with a cold.
Woojin says, “It was a very challenging moment for me to record as I kept wondering will I get the tone and chord right”. He admits to singing for dramas and his compositions are as easy or tough since the process and situations are different.
So if he were a drama which one does he think describes him best? King The Land is his immediate response and a musical collaboration with its lead actor Lee Junho would be a dream come true, he says with a broad smile.
Bruno Mars' impact
But is there an artist who has had an impact on him? "It is hard to pick one since there have been various artists who have inspired me whilst I was growing up. Even today there are several who continue to influence, motivate and inspire me through their journeys, stories as well as in their range and repertoire as artists. But if I was to choose one artist I truly admire, it would be Bruno Mars," says Woojin.
He also holds fellow S Korean singer Gaho in high esteem. The two collaborated to sing the cover version of Olivia Rodrigo’s Driver License, in 2021, which garnered over one million views on YouTube. “I admire Gaho and cannot wait to work with him again," he says.
As K-pop as a genre gathers momentum, Korean artists and acts are a regular feature on Billboard charts. As concerts are sold out within hours, what Woojin feels has contributed to the mega popularity of the genre, beyond home shores, is the unique essence of the genre in itself.
Woojin responds, “K-pop comes with exciting and well-choreographed performances, there is a variety of genres within it. The tempo of performances ranges from fast, slow, strong and mellifluous. Apart, one of its biggest strengths is that K-pop imparts a message of hope through its songs. There is always some encouragement to take from the melodies, and songs have profound meaning that strikes a chord amongst fans."
Coming to India
Woojin is all set to tour India in October 2023, with his album. The singer says he cannot wait to visit and perform as well as eat tandoori chicken, his favourite dish.
“I have been to India before and cherish my memories of my visit. The food, the culture and everything were just amazing and I am looking forward to coming again and performing and especially tucking into Indian food, especially tandoori chicken," he reveals. Like most Koreans, he admits he is a fan of the Aamir Khan-starrer, 3 Idiots.
As we wrap the interview and Moment being a recurring theme in his music, what have been the best and toughest moments of his life? “The best moment was when I released my first album and my fandom chose their official name Cubs, and the worst was when I was unable to meet them,” he says with his characteristic shy smile.