Woosung has been just a little too underrated throughout his colourful career as an artist, despite his unique voice and obvious abundance of sheer talent. Be it his appearance on South Korean TV talent competition K-Pop Star in 2011, the slow climb of his alt-rock band The Rose or his fourth place ranking in 2019’s Superband, the American-Korean singer has unfortunately been – as the kids say – slept on.
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However, that hasn’t stopped Woosung from running headfirst towards his dreams. So far in his decade-long career, he’s created a string of memorable tunes – like his 2019 solo debut single ‘Face’ and The Rose’s 2018 gem ‘She’s In The Rain’ – and rubbed shoulders with the who’s who in K-pop, making some good friends along the way. At one point, the singer even tried his hand at MC-ing on the beloved Arirang music request show, After School Club. So, in a way, it’s ironic that his latest single ‘Lazy’ is titled as such, because Woosung has proven that he’s anything but.
But as Woosung himself explains, the “only thing” he feels he isn’t lazy about is music. “So I wrote a song about it,” he previously said in a press release. “I think we can all relate to our inner laziness and appreciate both when we are being lazy and being proactive. Balance is key.”
To celebrate the release of ‘Lazy’, NME caught up with Woosung over a phone call to learn more about the laid-back new song, his upcoming album as well as potential collaborations with Day6’s Jae and KARD’s BM.
Hello Woosung, congratulations on the release of your brand-new single ‘Lazy’! How does it feel to finally be back with solo music after so long?
Woosung: “Oh, you know what? It’s really, like, I always say this, it’s like butterflies in my stomach. It feels good. I feel nervous at the same time, you know, it’s like a mix of a bunch of emotions.”
You previously said that the song and its video had been in the works for at least two years. What pushed you to finally release ‘Lazy’ now?
Woosung: “I think, I always wanted to release it once I had the chance. I always had the same plan. I saw the music video the way it is now. And, the timing was right to be honest. I was just able to do it. We were gone for almost two years and you know, we couldn’t release music, but I did have plans for myself in my head to release the song.”
Tell us more about the story and inspiration behind the creation of ‘Lazy’.
Woosung: “Basically, the track and everything, when I first heard it, when we made the sounds, it was just more like, ‘Okay, like, what am I feeling?’ I like the track that we made, but I just hadn’t written anything for it.
“But one day… [laughs] I got ready to go, I had a schedule. Washed my face, put on all my lotions. And then I had to go to my hair and makeup place, but I forgot to shave, which is really annoying because now I’ve got to wash off the lotion, put shaving cream on and then shave and put lotion on again. And I’m already late. You know what I mean?
“That’s when it kinda just like, you know, started falling in pieces. And I was busy at the time, so I really just wanted, like, to be lazy, to be honest. I felt like I was on point every day, like fancy, fancy every day. And at one point I was just like, ‘Now, I just want to just be lazy, just doing nothing, all day’.”
‘Lazy’ also features ‘Show Me The Money’ rapper Reddy. What was the experience like working with him and how did the collaboration come about?
Woosung: “So what happened was Reddy, I think, was a fan of The Rose’s songs. He started uploading stories and he was tagging us, which I was very thankful for, and I somehow came across it. And, yeah, I started commenting on his photos. He started commenting on mine and we were like, let’s meet up, drink some coffee.
“I checked out some of his stuff and his voice. I felt like it fit perfectly with this track. So I brought it up to him. I was like, ‘Here, I have this song. Um, do you want to rap on it?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, why not? I think I’d do good.’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it’. Very simple.”
Musically, ‘Lazy’ sounds almost like a laid-back counterpart to your funky solo debut single ‘Face’. Was this parallel between the two songs intentional, or do you think it’s just part of your special touch as a songwriter?
Woosung: “I think for me right at that moment, which was like two years ago, I think that’s the sound that I just had in my mind. You know, because, like right now, the songs I’m writing now, the sound is like a lot more… I don’t want to say mature, but it is definitely different from the sounds I have for ‘Lazy’, for ‘Face’, you know?
“So I think it was just the timing at that age, at that moment in my life. That’s what I was feeling. It wasn’t like intentional, but I think the tones that I really liked, that sounded good to my ears, were that at that moment.”
So you’re working on new music right now. What can fans expect from you next? And when can we expect it?
Woosung: “Oh my god. So the album that I have finished, I just, I’m finessing it right now, it’s all songs that I wrote before I went to America. All the songs that I’m about to release for my new album, after ‘Lazy’, are songs that I already had for at least a year – like longer, like three years. I already have the next album ready, but it’s just like, I just can’t release it all at the same time.
“I can’t really say when the next album will come, but hopefully soon, because I want to keep releasing music. I want to show my progress, I want people to hear the different sounds and the different vibes. So yeah, definitely something to look forward to.”
You’re good friends with Day6’s Jae and KARD’s BM. I believe you guys met through ‘K-Pop Star’ way back when.
Woosung: “Yeah. Season one. Yeah. I was 19 when I first met them.”
Could we potentially see a collaboration with one or both of them in the future?
Woosung: “Definitely. Maybe sooner than people think.”
Could you maybe give us a small hint?
Woosung: “Small hints? [Laughs] I’m trying to think, to see how much of a hint I should give. But definitely something to look forward to. Um, maybe this album.”
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
Woosung: “If we’re talking about pop artists or K-pop artists, I think I definitely want to try to collaborate with some DJs. I think that would definitely put a different style in my music as well. In terms of artists, I think definitely Lauv is one of them. LANY is another one.”
What about their music attracts you to them?
Woosung: “I think for me, like I always say, it’s the tones of their voice, of their sounds. Like when the tone just sounds so good to my ears, that I cannot ignore it, you know, when I hear their songs. Lauv and LANY definitely have two different sounds, but really with the music and their voice and their whole production is just… it’s something that catches my ear for sure. So I love all their songs. I know every single one of their songs, basically. I’m a big fan.”
Speaking of this tone that you like, how would you describe it? What about this specific sound do you love?
Woosung: “It’s more like, you know, we all have different ears. Everybody likes different things, but to me, this kind of like, wow, like reverby like guitar sounds. A sound that has a lot of space in them. I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s so hard to describe in words, but a sound that is kind of dreamy. But at the same time it’s not too stacked on top of each other. Like all the tones are really separate and all the tones are unique and distinct. Those things really catch my ear.
“I can try putting it into words and that’s the best I got. But yeah, I think it should make sense. If you think of it like, for every person, you know, you could like a ballad genre, you listened to more of the lyrics, you listen to more of the voice or you listen to more of like the drum beats, you know, I think it’s different for everybody. My go-to would just be the tone and that’s just, it just… it just sounds too good to my ears to ignore.”
So who are your major influences when you were growing up and how did they affect the way you create music now?
Woosung: “I mean, like, I think as I was growing up, I had many, many influences, like starting from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, you know, Aerosmith, moving on to like All Time Low, We The Kings – All these alternative bands.
“Like Coldplay has a great guitar tone. It’s beautiful. Like when you hear it, you could imagine things. Like when they play a note, they purposely make you feel like in a certain mood, like it gives a visualization of like a forest, for example, you know. For ‘Fix You’, for some reason, I see like a very dark space with a bunch of stars, beautiful with highlight lights. I don’t know what it is, but I’m a very visual person. And when those things are so prompt, I just get hooked.”
How has the global pandemic affected the way you and your collaborators create music, for better or worse?
Woosung: “To be honest, up until now, it didn’t really. Like collaborating or making music hasn’t been affected too much because, you know, for me, I’ve never had that many people in the studio when we wrote songs. I think the most I had was with The Rose, which is the four of us.
“For me, I like to keep it very limited and, kind of just comfortable people, people that I’m close with, people that I know. Because I think once we get to open up and really explore and share our feelings, I think when that connection is there, the music just happens.
“So the only thing the pandemic made hard to do was traveling to other countries. So if I have producers in Korea that I used to work with, that I want to work with, it was just harder because now, you know, we have to quarantine and it’s hard to go back and forth.”
What do you miss most about pre-pandemic times?
Woosung: “Of course, touring. I’m pretty sure all the musicians feel a similar way. Touring is a different experience. Like music is great, but live music is amazing. You know, like once, once the energy is there, like you’re connecting with the people that are there and it’s a whole different experience. Even watching a show and being, you know, or, or playing a show, there are two different things. I love both sides and. It’s something that is so beautiful. Almost sacred. It’s that connection.”
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share with your fans after such a long time away?
Woosung: “I know I say this a lot, but like, I can’t thank them enough because we have been MIA for a bit. But the support and love that they share, the patience that they showed us, it really felt like I wasn’t alone. Like we weren’t alone. And it’s something, you know, like how you could get connected to fans with just music, even if you haven’t seen them.
“Like the support and the love messages. If we could make music and people could feel that energy, and that connection is there, you know, I’m doing my job right. And that’s all I ask for in life. So I’m very happy to be back. I’m happy you guys are here, the fans are here, and let’s get excited for the future. More things are coming.”
Woosung’s new single ‘Lazy’ is out now.