“So, I couldn’t work out today,” Wonho casually says with a chuckle, as we wrap up a 40-minute conversation. “I tried to put it in between my schedule today, but I didn’t have time. So, I’m planning to do it after the Zoom calls.”
If you don’t know Wonho, it’s very Wonho of him to say that. After all, he is K-Pop’s Adonis — known to be an avid gym rat and a walking thirst trap to many. But beyond the strong looks, chiseled muscles and perfectly toned figure, Wonho’s thoughts on his music and work on this call are only a small, refreshing glimpse to how simple yet thoroughly eloquent he can be.
Seated in a conference room, dressed in a grungy black and white striped long sleeve, and occasionally shifting his gaze from the camera to elsewhere, out of frame — to what seems to be my face projected on a television screen, Wonho’s getup coincides with the sounds of his new lead single “Don’t Regret,” off of his single album Bittersweet. The song takes a shift from his usual pop, dance and electric sounds and leans toward a mesh of rock and ballad. Nonetheless, the “Open Mind” singer is in a good mood to take on this night-long press junket. And it has only just begun.
But he’s used to it by now, considering he’s been in the industry for over seven years. Not to mention, just successfully ended his first-ever European tour last month. (“Besides working out, I like sightseeing the streets of the particular place when flying abroad.”) His tone and tenor contains a sense of excitement, knowing he has new music to release just five days away.
Bittersweet is the name of his newest single album, and it contains two tracks, “No Regret” and “On & On,” both co-written by him. Ahead of the release, Uproxx got a chance to catch up with Wonho to discuss the album, the process and how it feels to be standing strong in the K-pop industry.
In the process of going from tour to preparing for your comeback, how do you do it all?
When it comes to my work schedule, the distribution of the work schedule is always well-coordinated by our company. For example, I came back to Korea and I practiced and then right before this interview, I had to film the promo – those liners and content and other Korean content/video contents that I had to shoot. Now, I’m on Zoom right now.
What made you want to name it Bittersweet?
So, it’s just about my story. I just wanted to tell my story – put my story in it. I was thinking of what kind of performances I can show myself while being trendy so I tried to incorporate those too in my mind.
Compared to your last releases, “Don’t Regret,” is more of a rock ballad, how did this come about?
So, I’ve always loved the genre of rock and I really enjoy it more these days because I know that rock is pretty trendy and famous in the music industry. I’m enjoying the music of 5 Seconds of Summer and Fall Out Boy at the moment!
Would you say “Don’t Regret,” is a personal motto you follow?
It’s a saying to myself that makes me look at the person rather than dwelling on the past itself. And it’s like a new challenge, from now on, to move forward as an artist and as a person too.
So, “Don’t Regret” is more of celebrating one’s self and “On & On” is more of moving on?
I would say it depends on how the listener and you interpret it? It is one of the themes that the song (“Don’t Regret”) has. Different people perceive it so I’m very happy that you interpreted it a particular way. It’s another interesting thing to me and you’re right on track about “On & On,” it’s talking about the past, moving forward.
And speaking of “On & On,” I actually made this song thinking about YUNHWAY from the beginning. I contacted her saying I really wanted her to do a collaboration with me. And the process itself was very smooth. The idea just came in, then the speed of the whole process of making this song was very quick.
What would you say is the best part of preparing for this release overall then?
I was very happy that I could give out the songs with this – the lyrics itself and super happy that I’m able to give out 2 songs to my fans. Before the release, so my fans wouldn’t know it right away but once they hear the song and see the lyrics, I’m pretty sure they will be happy.
For the lead track, I usually have the melody and the song itself. And I would often have the basic ideation of the lyrics so I would put it into the song itself that I needed first.
When it comes to using different words or unique phrases that I wouldn’t often use, I find it kind of difficult. I still have a lot to say, still have a lot to share. It’s one of my agonies and I keep thinking to myself how would I express this in my music?
Since you just talked about expressing, you’ve been replying to your fans a lot on Twitter. How important is communication to you as an artist?
Wonho: If I didn’t have that, there’s no point in being an artist for me. I love hearing phrases like “I will always be by your side, Wonho.” Those are the most memorable notes I keep from my fans and having it brings me full support, strength, and energy. One of the driving motivations for me.
Every time you make a comeback, is there even any pressure or no? Or is it gone because you’re such a pro now?
Whenever I make my comeback, I wonder if this is like a new challenge or if this is the right challenge for me. But when I’m in front of my fans, giving a new song, I really have this confidence in my mind that WENEE will like this.
Do you feel like you have more to prove of yourself than what’s already out there from you?
There’s nothing to prove more. I think I’ve shown enough of what song, what dance, and what stage I can show to my fans. But one of the things is how to prove my love towards WENEE.
Your Instagram bio changed quite a bit. You’ve listed dates of the comeback and then a line that says “the last stop of one’s journey.” What does that mean?
My Instagram profile, I put it as a travel guide for myself. It’s my journey with my fans, sharing my journey through photos taken and from abroad. And it’s similar to my album, it’s sharing my sole journey with the fans. The meaning of “the last stop of one’s journey” would mean that with this album, it’s one of the – I’m putting a conclusion for my first journey and I’m ready to make another move forward.
In this new chapter of my journey, I am thinking about making my own world with WENEE, just WENEE and myself. And making new things, facing new challenges with WENEE.
Because you’re in your seventh year in the industry, considered a legend, what would you like to be remembered as?
I want to be remembered as a person who provides comfort. Someone who can reach out very easily and you can easily come and talk to me. Share stories.
Now, if you were in my position, what would you ask yourself?
“Are you happy right now?” I would say, “Yeah.”
There’s actually a line in “Don’t Regret,” where you sing “‘cause I’m happier than ever in this moment, I have no regrets.” So why are you happy with where you’re at right now?
There’s three things to mention. One of them is that I’m super happy that I’m doing well as a singer and artist. Second of all, I’m happy that I’m able to eat my favorite food — ramen and frozen yogurt — and learn and taste other delicious food. And third, I’m happy being on the Zoom call with Lai.
After this, what’s to come? Anything you want to say? Speak now or forever hold your peace.
My biggest happiness is having more and more songs in the world. So I would just like to say please look forward to what’s more to come and continue to support and wait for me.
Thank you so much for reading this article, my WEENEES. I hope we can have a great time together when I come back again. Please look forward to me, love me, and please keep your attention on me. So maybe next time we can do another Zoom call?