It’s one way to start your morning by taking your time to get ready for another work-from-home day at 9:15 a.m. But then there’s beginning your day with a Zoom call to talk about your life, work, and your future at 6:15 a.m. Woosung is experiencing the latter. Calling in from his humble abode in Los Angeles, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter and frontman of The Rose hopped on the call, camera off, with a soft hello hinting he may have just awoken from slumber. But that didn’t stop him from opening up to me during our conversation.
Dating back to a decade ago, Woosung first made his appearance during season one of Korean music survival show K-POP STAR, joining and meeting other young hopefuls that wished to get into the K-pop industry. Though he may not have stuck until the end, the young artist managed to befriend and stay in touch with other contestants who soon became artists like him.
A couple of years after reality survival music shows, Woosung made his debut as the leader of alternative rock band The Rose in 2017. It was from that moment on that Woosung’s professional history began to overflow with vast opportunities to showcase his true self through singing, songwriting, producing, touring, and emceeing. By 2019, the singer released his first solo EP WOLF with the lead single “Face;” a pop-rock track consisting of a funky-disco bassline that compliments flirty lyrics bluntly saying “I like your face.”
Fast forward to today, and even through the struggles, Woosung continues to pave the way for himself by creating a company of team members that he has single-handedly picked and trusted for years. Releasing his newest single “Lazy,” there’s irony in a title that stands in opposition of the person Woosung has been for the last ten years. Moving from the US to South Korea and back to complete his debut while juggling band life and a solo career, Woosung has not only carried the weight of his endeavors, but also continues to discover his voice and identity within his music and the Asian-American community.
Let’s talk about “Lazy.”
To be honest, I had this song for around 2 years. I wrote this song right after my first solo mini-album. So I’ve had it for a while but it really just came from, you know, I was busy for like a couple of months and when I’d come home and when we’d come back from a big tour, I just felt really lazy to just not do anything, just stay home. And I felt like it was just something that people could relate to. Over the years of having this song, it kept evolving and evolving and the ideas I was imagining became detailed and prompt. I think mostly though it was just me staying home one day and literally I was like “I’m so lazy to do anything” and I really felt like people all feel like this. I felt like we could just all feel lazy one day, and I felt like people could like it, too.
Your first solo track “Face” was an upbeat lustful track that captures this charismatic side of you whereas “Lazy” showcases a soft, mellow version of you. In the type of music you’ve produced thus far, do you think you’ve found your sound? Why or why not?
I think I definitely have my niche and tones and everything and sounds. And if you think about “Face” and “Lazy,” they do have similar tones, in a way.
And in terms of the message, yes, “Face” is very straightforward and lustful, but the meaning of “Face” for me was more like, “Yes, I like your face” but at the same time, everybody has different taste so we shouldn’t be the judge of that. So I try to showcase many faces on the track and the music video. The two songs might be very different. One’s more upbeat. “Lazy” is like the title, very lazy. I love to do music where people could really listen to it and say “Yeah, I like this because I go through this every day.”
My niche for sound though, I have to say, is if you listen to the guitar tones in my solo stuff, it’s very similar – electric guitar tones.
What kind of message do you want to portray with your music?
I like for my music to be like a comfort thing where it’s not a big deal. If you’re lazy, it’s okay. If you like a certain face, it’s okay. I think that’s always my message, like, it’s okay. Listen to this, it’s not like you’re alone. We’re all going through the same thing. I think that was the message for The Rose, as well, all the time.
You’ve started your own venture, created your own team, what’s the most exciting part of making your own empire?
To be honest, the most exciting part for me was when everything was coming through, when everything was becoming this one big piece and everybody’s doing their part and everybody’s so passionate about it. Because in the beginning everything was hectic. I didn’t know where everything was going. I was shooting the music video, I have these visuals, everybody’s doing their part but I’m just in the middle thinking, “Okay, am I getting this right? Am I getting the details right?” But as time passed, I felt very secure. I can’t predict the future, but you know, with these things usually I feel like I could guess. I could guesstimate.
No day is the same, but there are days, especially in the creative process, where you’ve set a routine for yourself. How does an average day in the studio go with Woosung?
Let’s see, hmm. Usually, my everyday… I don’t have a schedule, it’s very different.
I literally go around 1 p.m., stay until 10 p.m., and we have this creative moment where we don’t know where we’re going, we don’t have a theme we’re trying to go for, but whatever our mood.is that day we try to just kind of write it off and see where it goes so it’s very different. With “Face” and everything prior, I feel like I was doing mostly everything on my own – the melody, lyrics, arrangement – it was mostly me. But with the newer stuff that I’ve been writing, it’s coming together as a group. It’s kind of like The Rose, where we all write together, but for this we’re all writing with different producers and different writers so… a great experience.
You have your band, you’ve done hosting gigs, soundtracks, what do you wish to do now with your solo ventures?
Wow. I didn’t think about that. I was just so… I was looking forward to putting out the music and everything that I haven’t thought about, but now that I’m kind of processing it, I would love to do more collaboration stuff. I want to collaborate with DJs. I want to collaborate with rappers, other singers, and musicians.
What have you learned in your career thus far that’s stuck with you? Are there any regrets? Anything you wish you could’ve done better?
No, I’m really happy with how things happened. It was not an easy process. I was from America, and I came to Korea. I didn’t know much rules or manners. It was very different.
But now thinking back at it, everything happens for a reason. If I debuted right after K-POP STAR, I could say that I was not ready. I was not ready to take on tours. I was not ready for anything. I thought I was when I was that age. I was barely 20, and when you’re that age you just feel like you can do it, you can do anything, which is great because you’re so passionate. You’re like a horse. You’re just running but what I didn’t realize is there’s so much that goes into this process, and there’s so much that I have to be prepared for.
So, in that term, yes, I’m glad that everything happened the way it did, and it took me a while to really come out to the public as an artist and I’m happy with that because I came out with The Rose. We really got to grow together before we came out. We were ready. Very ready. And I love… even with the music… even with our debut song “Sorry,” I’m very proud of that.
What more is there to come from Woosung?
So much more. I feel like I’ve only shown you guys 20-30% of my music style. I venture into things. A little tease to my solo album that will be coming out soon. There’s a little bit of retro to electronica, kind of R&B, and everything else there is. For me, the most anticipated one is the retro genre, which I don’t even know how much I want to say and how much I can say.
So this next single that we’re expecting is pretty much your baby. It’s your child.
Oh my. Let me tell you a little detail about this single. I was going to put it on my Wolf album with “Face” but I didn’t because I felt like the sound didn’t match. This song hits differently. At the same time, it’s really upbeat and exciting. So yes, it’s my baby. Every song is my baby, but this one I do feel strongly towards.
Once this global pandemic is over, what’s on your agenda, whether it’s career-wise or just for personal leisure?
I want to start touring. I know it’s been a minute since people have been doing that, but I’m really looking forward to touring. And it’s so different, right? I mean, I know it too because I love live shows. I love going to live shows, and when you hear live singing, when you hear the music, instruments, it hits differently so I miss it, too.
With the rise of happenings in the Asian-American community, in between there are artists who dream to be where you are right now, what would be your words of encouragement?
I know I’m still young, but what I’ve learned is sticking with it, you know? Even if I couldn’t debut after K-POP STAR, even if certain things didn’t work out, even if I felt like I had to give up on my dream which was music, the one good thing I was good at or that I’m glad that I did is sticking with it. I always kept with it. Music was always there. I was still chasing it after certain years, you know, I was so discouraged, but I just couldn’t let go. I chased after it. I stuck with it, and, you know, life is funny because if you stick with it, the opportunity comes. Just be ready to grab it.
Do you have a message to your fans who’ve been patiently waiting for your return into the scene?
All I want to say is thank you. Literally, I don’t think I could’ve gone through this without the Black Roses. None of our members could have. We talk about this all the time. The little letters and the supportive words that you guys throw our way; it’s been great.
I know it’s the pandemic and everything kind of stopped. Before I was so busy touring all the time, meeting all you guys, really working to, like, nothing. It really hit differently, and we were going through something that was just not easy. We didn’t really know what was going to happen so really, thank you for sticking with us. We’re all, the members, excited for the future. To show you guys what we really have ready and, yeah, I love you.