Hello once again readers! Happy 12/12/12 (and apparently the last time we’ll have the same numbered day, month and year in our lifetime). We hope you’ve been sharing the blog and interviews with your friends and family. Thank you so much for all your love and support! To show our gratitude and to quench your thirst for another interview, here is our next one: enter 24 year old Chicago native and singer Sam Ku!
rhythm.connection: For those who aren’t familiar with who you are, please introduce yourself briefly.
Sam Ku: Hi, my name is Sam Ku. I’m a singer from Chicago, born in Korea but raised in the States. I moved from Korea to the States at the age of six and moved back to Korea when I was 19. I’ve always wanted to do music professionally, and I feel that my music is greatly influenced by my American upbringing. I am currently signed to a small label in Korea called GNG Productions.
How long have you been doing music for?
I’ve basically been doing music all my life. I mean, I started playing violin and piano when I was three years old. I did musicals in high school…I was in the orchestra also. Back then I was really into playing violin more than piano, but even more passionate about singing, if anything.
One question I’ve gotten from fans a lot is: what is your connection with singer John Park? We know you’re both from Chicago, but is there a bigger story as far as how you guys met and such?
To be honest, this is a topic that was kinda blown out of proportion when people found out. To set the record straight, back in high school, John and I had mutual friends in Chicago, and he had even seen me perform once in high school. While we never officially met in Chicago, after John did Superstar K, my boss wanted to contact him, and so we met up for dinner when I went back to Korea. Apart from that, we met up before I went on “The Voice Korea”. So while I did tell Mnet that we had met and such, they took it out of context and told people that we were very close and such. But that being said, John and I know do each other.
Earlier this year, you gained notoriety for auditioning for the Korean version of the hit show “The Voice”, and got picked to be on singer Shin Seung Hoon’s team. How was that whole experience for you? Any memorable moments you want to share with the fans?
Being on that show was such a great experience. By being able to sing on a live televised stage, in front of a Korean audience, and getting used to their reactions, as well as the way things work, in terms of performing on TV, I definitely I learned a lot. And working with Shin Seung Hoon was…indescribable. He showed me so much love. Like, he had so much stories and experience that he shared with me and the others on his team. He also taught me how to have good stage etiquette as a singer. It was great to learn from him, and he’s always out there trying to teach the young ones.
Is there any particular artist that you would love to work with in the future? Either in Korea or elsewhere?
If I had to pick one from North America, it’d have to be The Weeknd. I’ve been listening to a lot of his music lately. He has a very different style, like his lyrics and his singing and producing style is very out there. It’s so unique and that’s what makes him stand out to me. For Korean artists…probably Yoo Young Jin (SM producer). Not many people know that he is also a singer, but I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time. As an artist I hold in high regard, he is a creative
genius. But as he is a producer for one of the largest labels in Korea, it’s very difficult to work with him currently. I hope that someday I’ll be able to work with him.
As you’re originally from the States, what made you want to pursue your music career in Korea as supposed to staying in the States for that?
Honestly, I felt that the likelihood of getting signed and being successful as a singer was bigger in Korea than in the US. Thinking about all the hard work my parents have done all my life, I really wanted to become successful, and I felt that I would be more accepted as a singer in Korea than in the States. It was a huge gamble moving back out here as I didn’t know anyone out here and couldn’t speak Korean that well at the time. But I’m working hard now to show people what I’ve got!
Can we expect to see you release some original material in the near future?
Definitely! I’ve actually been featured on a single coming out at midnight (KST) on December 13th that was produced by JoyJin (조이진). Also I’m currently working on my first album which I hope to have released in the new year some time. I write all my own music, but I’ve got some amazing people working on this album with me. I’m working on a few songs right now with producer Lee Hyun Seung, who’s produced songs for Kim Tae Woo and Baek Ji Young. I’m also working with one of my best friends from Chicago, who’s also a producer. Be on the look out for that soon!
It was reported some time ago that after the end of “The Voice Korea”, you signed with GNG Productions, which is the home to several well known actors and actresses as well as recently debuted girl group Tiny-G. Was there any particular reason that drew you to sign with them?
I was actually in contact with GNG before I was on the show. I saw potential in this small company, and when people asked why I signed with them instead of a more well known label, it was because I wanted more creative freedom and being able to work on my own, as well as being able to work as a singer-songwriter and producer, which GNG has given me the chance to do, rather than sign to a bigger label with artists and music that it’s already generally known for.
As far as music is concerned, who gives you your inspiration? Who did you look up to when first starting music?
Definitely Yoo Seung Jun. He has a similar background to me I think, being Korean-American also. And seeing him as a successful artist in Korea when I was growing up, that made me think, “It’s great to see that a Korean-American can be successful in Korea too”. Also, growing up, I listened to a lot of R.Kelly too. His music definitely inspired me.
Do you have any other aspirations that you want to fulfill?
Aside from music, I want to become a businessman that can promote music in the States and represent Korea. I also want to produce more. Being a Korean-American raised in an old-school Korean family, I grew up knowing American pop culture and the American rhythm and style of music. I want to make music for the Korean audiences with an American touch.
What are your five most played songs on your iPod currently?
Honestly, it’s really hard to say. I don’t really pay attention to the title or artist, I just listen to so much music in one day. But I have been listening to a lot of The Weeknd and R.Kelly lately, as I mentioned before.
Who are some of your favourite Korean artists?
To name a few…Dynamic Duo. Verbal Jint. And Wheesung also.
When you have spare time, what do you do for fun?
When I’m not working on music, which is something I do to de-stress from singing, I watch a lot of movies. The last movie I watched recently was ‘Lawless’.
Name one thing that fans may not already know about you.
People might see me as a happy, tall, pretty boy. Honestly though, that’s not me. Growing up, my family and I had a lot of struggles, and so I want to be able to convey the emotion brought up by those struggles through my music. I want to show people the real Sam Ku, not just what they see in front on them, but the real me.
Do you have any advice for those who want to audition for a Korean audition singing program such as The Voice Korea?
While musical and vocal ability are important, those are not what you should be focused on. The question you should ask yourself is, “Am I ready?” Are you ready, as a person, for this type of experience? Personality wise, if you don’t feel you’re ready, it will affect you for sure. Respect for elders is important too, especially in Korea. But essentially, it’s music plus the person you are and the person you reflect that matters in the end.
Any finals words for the readers?
It’s only the beginning, watch out. I’ll be releasing my music soon, and my hope is that I can show you guys a different side of KPOP. KPOP with an American touch. I’m not sure if people are ready for it, but I know I’m ready to show them what I mean, to give it my all. I don’t want to “beat around the bush”, musically speaking. Just like with who I am, I want my music to be real. Thank you so much for your support, and I hope to meet you all like this again soon!
Bigups to Sam for taking the time to let us interview him, and to GNG Productions for allow us to do so! Please be on the look out for his new album coming out some time early next year, as well as the single he featured in (produced by 조이진), dropping at midnight (KST) on December 13th (which pretty means it’s out now). We’re excited to see what Sam does next! Until next time readers, that was a rhythm.connection exclusive!