When South Korean R&B singer Seori began writing songs at the age of 17, she did not expect her music to eventually become well-loved by artists the likes of Day6’s Jae Park and BTS’ Jungkook. After catching the eye of the YouTube music community with her covers of hits such as Abir’s ‘Tango’ and Khalid’s ‘Talk’, she later signed with Warner Music Korea and made her official debut last year as the first artist under the ATISPAUS collective.
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From working on an original song with Park – under his solo moniker eaJ – and featuring on K-pop boyband TXT’s latest single ‘0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’, to her partnership with American label 88rising, the 25-year-old singer has had a whirlwind of a year since the release of her debut EP ‘?Depacse Ohw’ last May.
Now, back with a brand-new single called ‘The Long Night’, featuring South Korean rapper and producer Giriboy, Seori has sat down with NME to discuss her meteoric rise to fame and the future of her blossoming music career.
Hello Seori, congratulations on the release of your third single album! What was the inspiration behind the title track ‘The Long Night’?
“Thank you so much! First, I’ll explain the meaning of this track. ‘The Long Night’ is about the emptiness after having a great day and having to say goodbye at night with the person you love. I think I’m someone who tends to feel lonely a lot. When I was writing the lyrics and melody, I saw an empty bed, and that was when the idea hit me.”
You collaborated with Giriboy for ‘The Long Night’. What was the creative process like when you were working together?
“I was so excited to work with Giriboy because I’ve always wanted to work with him. Thankfully, he listened and understood what type of song I wanted and was a really great guide. I had a wonderful time and I hope we can work together again if we have the chance.”
Also, a big congratulations on also signing with 88rising! The single ‘Lovers In The Night’ was your first release with them – tell us how working on that song was different compared to your previous releases?
“The newest experience I had working on ‘Lovers in The Night’ was having to receive instructions through a video call while we were recording because of the pandemic. That was the most new and different thing that I went through. I was also worried if I could pull through but fortunately, it went well.”
How did you know that you wanted to be a singer?
“When I was a kid, I kind of had a fantasy about singing in front of people. Other than that, I didn’t really have any other dreams. But I couldn’t gather the courage to pursue it because the industry is so narrowed.”
“But after entering high school, I kind of thought that I should decide what I wanted to do. The only thing I wanted was music and so I challenged myself with it. Now that I think about it, I can’t imagine myself doing anything but music.”
You started out with singing covers on YouTube. At the time, was your initial goal to make it big in the industry – like you now have – or was it just to make music because of your passion?
“I was doing music even before starting YouTube, but I only focused on writing songs then. But then I started to wonder what people would think of my songs, and that’s when I started uploading my music on YouTube. At that time, I didn’t expect much. I was just into music because I was passionate about it. That’s why I started. The only reason was my passion for music.”
Did you expect your songs to gain as much popularity as they have?
“I didn’t expect or imagine that this would happen at all. When me and my producer Graphix were preparing my first album, we only focused on enjoying writing songs together. The process of making songs was the most fun part and that’s how we wrote each song one by one.”
“I was really amazed that people like what we made. I’m still really amazed and thankful for that, and that’s why I want to write better songs. Now that many people around the world like my music, I have much more courage to make even more music.”
What has your experience in the K-pop music industry been like so far?
“The Korean music industry is full of great and talented artists, and I’ve learnt a lot from watching the passion they put into creating every song and performance. In the future, I would like to collaborate with many artists and stay close with them.”
It’s been about one year since you made your debut. If you could go back to that point in time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
“If I could go back in time before my debut, I’d tell myself: ‘You’re doing well, but if you can, write as many songs as you can.’ Because while I’m still working hard on songwriting now, I write songs like a diary, so a lot of it depends on what I feel at that moment. What I feel right now would naturally be different from the feelings that inspired songs I wrote a year ago. So, I’d like to tell myself to write more songs and record them.”
You also recently featured on TXT’s title track ‘0x1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’, which has a rock-inspired sound that is quite different from your own music. Is that something you see yourself experimenting with for your future releases?
“Fortunately, I’ve been listening to pop rock and rock songs since I was a little girl and I really like them. So, I thought it would be really fun when I received the suggestion to feature on ‘0x1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’. It was my first time challenging myself like that because I’d never done this kind of song before. So, I was really happy about it and very much enjoyed the process. The fact that I got to work with TXT was also a really interesting and joyful experience for me.”
Are there any other genres you would like to try your hand at?
“I really like alternative rock music, and it takes up a lot of my playlist. Even though I haven’t tried it yet, I think it would be great if I could challenge myself one day with it. Coincidentally, since the work with TXT was also a little bit rock-inspired, I would like to try rock someday.”
In the past year, you have collaborated with quite a few different artists. What do you think you have learnt from working with a wide variety of musicians?
“Thankfully, in the short time since my debut, I’ve worked with so many great artists and I’ve learnt so much from them. Their interpretations of the songs [we worked on together] are really new and stimulating. It’s also amazing that they can write such a wide variety of stories with a range of directions and ideas, especially when it comes to lyric-writing.”
Which artist was the most fun to collaborate with so far?
“Of course, I cherished working with each artist and every single one of them was a memorable experience. But since I am now releasing ‘The Long Night’, I want to talk about collaborating with Giriboy. Out of everybody I’ve worked with, I think I spent the most time with Giriboy. It took a really long time to make this song – it’s been about six months. We had a lot of concerns over deciding what kind of track we wanted it to be. Thankfully, he sent such a wide variety of options for the track. I’m very nervous, but I’m so happy that the song is finally out.”
I noticed that a lot of your album covers and music videos have a very dream-like aesthetic and vibe. What is the inspiration behind it?
“At ATISPAUS, we have staff working on various fields from video to art, story and fashion. We all share ideas throughout the process, and that’s how these beautiful and unique world views and artwork come to life. So, whenever I release a song, I also look forward to how the visuals will turn out.”
Are there any artists or songs you have been listening to a lot lately? How do you think they might influence your future sound?
“Recently, I’ve been listening to a band called Seafret. Whenever I find music I really like, I end up listening only to that music. Right now, I don’t know exactly what the thoughts and inspirations behind their music are, but I think the lyrical mood also affects what I do with my own sound.”
The COVID-19 pandemic began rather close to your debut and is still affecting music scenes around the world. Do you have any regrets or goals that you didn’t get to achieve in the past year?
“The saddest and most regrettable thing is that I haven’t been able to perform on stage in front of an audience since my debut. But it’s not just me, everybody around the world is having a really hard time right now. So, I’d like to think more about and hang on to the future that is to come, and also write more songs to bring comfort to those who are having a difficult time.”
Seori’s latest single album ‘The Long Night’ is out now.