Seungyoon will be gracing Fashion magazine, ESQUIRE Korea’s May 2021 issue with an 8-page feature!
esquire. You must be very busy lately with album promotions.
seungyoon. Yes, I’ve been working hard. On top of music shows I’ve been featuring on TV shows and a variety of Youtube contents. There was actually a day when I did three different radio appearances in one day. Oh, and an online fan sign too. So yeah, it’s been busy, but I’m just happy that I’m getting the chance to see a lot of different people through this promotion.
esquire. Do you have a set time period for the promotions?
seungyoon. Well officially, I think I’ll do music shows and the works until the end of April. But of course, I’ll continue to participate and make appearances whenever the opportunity presents itself. And aside from music-related activities, I think there’s a possibility I might get to act again.
esquire. And will that possibility come in the form of a drama?
seungyoon. I’m really sorry, but I’m not at liberty to share right now. The details are still in the works so if I say anything even slightly incorrect, it might inconvenience the other people who are involved. Each party still has a lot to talk out. But what I can say is, ‘I think I’ll come bearing good news soon.; That’s the most I can say at the moment, I hope you’ll understand.
esquire. This is your first time appearing alone in a men’s fashion magazine, right? Is there a “manly” facet to you that you think has changed now that you’ve entered the latter half of your 20s?
seungyoon. I think I’ve become more mature in a lot of different ways. I guess you can say I’ve become more determined and better at making decisions. There was a time when I used to just roll over and let things be, but now, I’m trying to be more intentional and clear-cut. I’ve also learned to be more considerate of my hard-working colleagues, co-workers, and staff members.
esquire. So what’s a decision that you made most recently?
seungyoon. To gift and play music for my fans as often and as much as possible. I told my agency recently that I still want to be active and have a lot of different schedules even if things get busier.
esquire. Apparently your fans call you, ‘King of Communication’. And you’re pretty active on Instagram, too.
seungyoon. I enjoy leaving a record of the day. That way, I can go back and look through my feed to recall things I might’ve forgotten. I think it’s also because I’m pretty interested in fashion, too. When I need a little bit of an outfit inspiration, I go back and look through my old photos. I either get an idea of what to wear or realize that an outfit may have been a miss. I don’t ever really go back and erase photos.
esquire. What’s the caption for today?
seungyoon. Hm, maybe ‘Coming soon!’ (Laughs) Just a little something to fan the flames of anticipation. But then again, I could end up posting something completely different. (The photo that he uploaded that night was captioned, ‘Good night’)
esquire. I love your title track, ‘IYAH’. But who’s the ‘kiddo’ that you mention in the lyrics?
seungyoon. Right, so I address ‘time’ in verse 1 and a ‘kiddo’ in verse 2. Honestly, it’s not directed at anyone in particular. But if I had to choose, maybe my juniors? Anyone with any sort of social life will have a junior. I feel like I have yet to become this cool, worthy senior, and meanwhile all these juniors are fighting their way up. So I guess I’m trying to tell them, ‘Hey, don’t grow up so fast,’ in a mixture of a playful, childish, and jealous way. I think the song’s found popularity because of how honest it is. You don’t have to be a singer to understand what I’m saying. Anyone can relate.
esquire. Exactly. That explanation you just gave me was the reason why I like the lyrics for ‘IYAH’ so much. It’s like a balm for the stresses and troubles of the modern individual. (Laughs)
seungyoon. There’s a line in the chorus that goes, ‘Don’t pressure me / I’m human too / So how can I be good at everything?’ It sounds like I’m talking to someone, but I’m really just addressing myself. Sometimes, it feels like I give myself more pressure than anyone else. So ultimately those lyrics don’t mean, ‘Would you just leave me alone?!’, but more along the lines of, ‘It’s okay. Take it easy. Don’t feel too pressured.’
esquire. Is there another song on the album besides ‘IYAH’ with a special backstory?
seungyoon. I wouldn’t say a ‘special backstory’ per se, but there are tracks that are filled with sincerity, like ’IYAH’, ‘BRUISE’, ‘365’, ‘WE NEED LOVE’, and ‘SKIP’. Wait, that’s kind of a lot, huh? (Laughs) But there’s a part in ‘SKIP’ that goes somewhere along the lines of, ‘You’ve got me by your side so what’s got you so worried, skip all your worries and let’s get out of here’. In this case, the person who’s hesitating, and the person who’s suggesting the getaway are both me. It’s like the optimistic Kang Seungyoon talking to the Kang Seungyoon who’s always worried.
esquire. Let’s say you can jet off to anywhere you want without the fear of COVID. Where would you want to go?
seungyoon. I was in Yeoju recently to film something, and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom over there. There was this really nice moment when I was driving and this breeze had the flower petals falling all around me. So I don’t really mind where it is as long as I can relax and enjoy a drive.
esquire. Do you drive a lot?
seungyoon. No, I don’t even have a car. (Laughs) Nor do I feel like I need one yet. It’s not like I drive every day like other people do, so I don’t see the point in investing a large amount of money for something I probably won’t use that much. I can just rent a car whenever I need it.
esquire. So you collect watches instead. Do you have any specific criteria for selecting your watches?
seungyoon. I like clean, classic designs. I’ve tried out a lot of different styles but in the end, I always find myself drawn to the minimal ones. I have small wrists, so I prefer watches with diameters of less than 40mm. I’ve been really into vintage ones lately, especially since vintage reissues are the trend right now. You know, like the old models from decades ago that they reboot?
esquire. Where do you get your information on watches?
seungyoon. There’s a Youtube channel that specializes in watch-related things, and I’m also subscribed to a watch magazine. Or sometimes when I’m bored I skim through online forums and community groups for watches. I used to just be interested in whatever was the newest thing out on the market, but now I look for watches that are better suited to my tastes.
esquire. Let’s go back to your music. I was recently surprised when I heard you sing on Begin Again. I remember wondering, ‘Has Kang Seungyoon always been this good at singing?’ And the comment section was full of compliments. Has something changed recently?
seungyoon. No, nothing really changed, and there’s no particular reason or story, either. Maybe my age and life experiences are finally kicking in. (Laughs) Music’s about telling your story, right? I think the depth and range of my emotions have grown, and that ends up naturally reflecting in my singing. In terms of the technique aspect, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to iron things out and practice during my activities for WINNER.
esquire. I always hear people talk about how powerful your voice is and how well they can feel your sincerity when you sing. This was no exception when you came out on King of Mask Singer to perform under the alias ‘Joo Yoonbal’. Was it sort of a ploy to hide your identity even further?
seungyoon. I try hard to put that element of genuineness in my singing. I mean obviously, when I was younger too, I would practice with the intention of understanding the song. I’d take my time mulling over the lyrics and really tried to understand them, but I don’t think I ever truly felt the emotions that were there. I’d sing heartbreaking songs as sadly as I could but I was never moved to tears. Things are different now. When I sing warm songs I feel warm, and when I sing sad songs I tear up. I came to the realization that I need to feel these emotions first in order for the listener to feel them too. Maybe that’s why people who haven’t heard me sing for a while think that I’ve changed.
esquire. Who do you talk to the most about music?
seungyoon. Usually with my agency’s in-house producers, but out of the members I mostly talk to Minho about that sort of thing. Sometimes I get really cold, objective feedback, but that helps me a lot. It’s reassuring.
esquire. You’ve been preparing for this album for a very, very long time.
seungyoon. Yes, for quite some time now. (Laughs) I’ve been working on my songs consistently, though. Like the sketch for ‘IYAH’, the title track, came about a long time ago. But even after it was ‘done’, I went back to edit it again and again because I wasn’t satisfied with it. And I guess this is sort of an excuse, but I was also really busy with WINNER-related activities, too. I found myself having a little bit more time on my hands since last year, which gave me the opportunity to focus better on my solo album. Thanks to that, I was able to pack each letter of every verse with emotion.
esquire. Where do you get your inspiration from?
seungyoon. There is no one, single, set thing. It’s a lot more free and loose than you might think. I’d be on a walk, for example, and an idea will suddenly hit me so I’ll record it on my phone, decide ‘I gotta make this song!’, and go back to the studio to think about it a little more. Or sometimes, through conversations like this, a keyword stands out to me and I’ll make a note of that later. If you aren’t open to all the possibilities, then you’ll just end up making the generic, similar-sounding songs. I know I’m kind of going off-topic here, but once this album came out I realized that a majority of the songs had a guitar as its base. (Laughs) And I try hard to make songs of different genres, too! I guess people really don’t change. (Laughs) But I was able to really spruce up this album because of the people featured on it and gave their advice.
esquire. I get the impression that you cherish your guitar a lot. Does it have any particular meaning or significance?
seungyoon. Whenever I do anything for a TV show, I always bring the guitar that my fans gifted me. It’s got a bunch of doodles and stuff all over it. I brought it with me on YHY’s Sketchbook and War of Villains, too. But I couldn’t use it recently when I filmed for Begin Again. We were shooting outdoors and the weather was so cold that the battery ran out. I mainly switch between the guitar I bought around the time I debuted, and the one that my fans gifted to me.
esquire. We briefly addressed this earlier, but we just can’t skip over the story of you and acting. You appeared in KAIROS last year. What kind of differences are there when you sing versus when you act?
seungyoon. There’s a huge difference. Music is about self-expression whereas acting is about transforming into the character in your script. So long as the cameras are rolling, you need to live out the life of someone else. The process of working is totally different, too. When you promote your album you’re going out on music shows and trying to share your music with everyone in a lot of different ways, but I think for actors it’s sort of the opposite of that. When you’re still shooting you refrain from a lot of public appearances in order to protect your character. But switching from singing to acting is a lot of fun because I find myself working hard in both fields. When I’m singing, I find myself missing acting. When I act, I want to sing again. It’s also a plus that I get to show different facets of myself through working in these different industries.
esquire. Do you have a specific genre or role you want to try out?
seungyoon. I want to try my hand in just a really…human project. Like My Mister, you know? Acting out someone who’s realistic, who seems like they’d actually be living out there somewhere. I’d like to try romance as well.
esquire. How do you find satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment with acting?
seungyoon. It’s definitely when I get to bring joy to a wide audience and receive love from them. Or, to be more specific, I really like it when people see me act and say, ‘Wait, that’s Kang Seungyoon?!’ Once I saw that someone asked on a Naver Ask page, ‘Who’s that actor on Prison Playbook who looks like Kang Seungyoon?’ I interpreted that as that person seeing me not as singer-Kang-Seungyoon, but rather as actor-Kang-Seungyoon.
esquire. (Laughs) Do you check your comments a lot?
seungyoon. Kind of? I usually check comments under video clips rather than social media posts. It’s a good way to check whether or not I’m doing well at-a-glance. If I took on the role of a villain and I see a comment cursing me out, I consider that a compliment.
esquire. I think it’ll be nice to wrap up with a little conversation about WINNER. You’ve been leading your team with great responsibility as the ‘youngest member/leader’. Would you say you’re a natural leader?
seungyoon. No, I’m definitely a rise-to-the-occasion kind of guy. I was given the role and responsibility of being a leader, and I tried my best to execute that as faithfully as I possibly could. If you’ve known me since SuperstarK 2, you’d probably know that I have a bit of a raw, abrasive personality. I bet no one could’ve expected me to change this much. (Laughs)
esquire. Maybe that’s why Yoon Jongshin said to you, ‘You’ve grown up well’.
seungyoon. There’s probably a lot of different meanings to that, don’t you think? In a way, Mr. Yoon was the man who helped me start my career as a singer. So I think when he said, ‘You’ve grown up well,’ it was his comment in reference to seeing the songs I created, how I sang them, and my character as a whole.
esquire. In a different interview you said, ‘Each member has a different color. But those colors mix well together to create a unique shade, just for WINNER.’ So which color are you?
seungyoon. White. If I were to compare all of us to specific colors, I think Minho would be purple or red, like a bold, primary color. And when I think of Seunghoon-hyung I see a pastel hue, and with Jinwoo-hyung, something toned down. And I think white is the color that allows these other shades to come together, mix, and balance each other out. Sort of like a blank canvas that ends up becoming the background of a painting.
esquire. Can we look forward to any WINNER-related news this year?
seungyoon. I’m not sure yet. Seunghoon-hyung and Jinwoo-hyung are fulfilling their mandatory military service right now, and from what I understand, they’ll be discharged next January. I think they need to come back first before we decide on anything. But I’m really eagerly anticipating the next time we get to all stand on the stage together again.
esquire. It took 10 years between the time you first appeared on Superstar K2 to the release of your first solo album. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans who’ve waited all this time?
seungyoon. As long as you’ve all waited for [PAGE], it also contains that much more of who I am. Thank you so much for understanding that and cherishing this album. I want [PAGE] to be the starting point of a lot of great things I can show and share with all of you. Knowing that my music was received with empathy, relatability, and consolation is all that I need to be happy. And if you’re reading this right now and you haven’t heard my album yet, I hope you’ll give it a listen at least once. I bet there’ll be at least one song on there that you’ll like. (Laughs)
Translations by softboimino