Unique: James Lee Talks About His Incredible Journey From K-Pop Star To Solo Artist, His New Single, Collaborating With Amber, + More


Whereas gearing up for the discharge of his new single “Erase”—due out on Might 22 native time—James Lee took a while to mirror on his previous and future as an artist!

Though 2020 has been a troublesome 12 months for all of us in some ways, James Lee has managed to discover a silver lining to those bleak occasions: cooped up at residence, the singer-songwriter and former Royal Pirates member has turn into extra productive than ever, churning out a formidable six releases in simply the primary 5 months of this 12 months.

The previous bassist—who left the Ok-pop band Royal Pirates after a devastating freak accident in 2015 severed his hand, leaving him completely unable to play the bass—most not too long ago collaborated with f(x)’s Amber on the comforting observe “Alright.”

Lower than a month later, he’s already ready to drop his subsequent track, “Erase,” which is able to take him farther away from his rock roots than ever earlier than. He’s additionally planning to launch his first bodily EP in two years subsequent month, and in a considerate gesture of gratitude to his followers, he shall be printing all of his Patreon members’ names on the bodily album.

Amidst his busy schedule writing and producing all of this new music, James Lee took the time to reply some questions for Soompi:

Your story is unimaginable (and well-known), however for any of our readers who aren’t acquainted with it, please inform us a little bit bit about your journey.

I was in a Korean rock band known as Royal Pirates. We made a reputation for ourselves doing covers on YouTube and ultimately promoted on reveals like “M Countdown,” “Inkigayo,” and “Music Financial institution,” like most Ok-pop idols do. We have been making progress, however a freak accident in 2015 ended my profession. I used to be strolling right into a restaurant when an enormous glass panel out of the blue collapsed and severed my left hand, sprained my shoulder, and left glass caught in my head. This was through the MERS outbreak, and I keep in mind the emergency room was full of sick folks. It was a traumatic time, particularly as a result of the physician stated he may need to amputate proper earlier than surgical procedure.

5 surgical procedures later, I left Korea and began my very own solo undertaking with a profitable crowdfunding marketing campaign. The album, known as “The Gentle EP,” hit No. 1 in Southeast Asia and high 10 in a number of international locations. Witnessing the potential of creating music independently throughout this new period within the music trade, I made a decision to launch a model new track each month in 2020. I’ve written greater than sufficient songs already [during the COVID-19 lockdown], so I’ve determined to launch an EP with the names of members of my Patreon printed on the bodily album as a thanks to those that have supported me. 

How did you initially find yourself making the massive resolution to maneuver to Korea to hitch Royal Pirates?

I used to be the final one within the band who determined to commit. Rising up, I didn’t have many Korean associates and thought it was an amazing alternative to be taught extra about my heritage. Doing music as a profession appeared so far-fetched, and it appeared like a once-in-a-lifetime alternative, so I took a big gamble and determined to attempt it out. I additionally noticed a lot potential in my band members, in addition to the corporate we determined to go along with on the time. 

Was there something you have been significantly shocked by or discovered troublesome about being in Ok-pop when you have been in Korea? Do you assume it affected or modified you in any means?

There was an enormous cultural distinction in the best way I approached music earlier than and after I went to Korea. Regardless that our firm tried to take care of our creative values, the thought of being groomed right into a brandable band was so new to me. Additionally, as a result of the market is so aggressive, the requirements are very excessive, however skewed. We had spent years making an attempt to determine find out how to carry out one track on TV, however our core identification was a rock band, not TV present personalities.

Past that, the thought of perfection and outworking your competitor was daunting, however that very same aggressive nature of the trade additionally improved my work ethic. I might not write music to the identical commonplace if I had by no means gone.

Do you may have a favourite second (or moments) out of your profession with Royal Pirates?

There are two. The primary was happening the present “Legislation of the Jungle.” I had such a blast, and I had by no means seen something so stunning up till that time. The second was after we have been on a TV present and Moon (our lead singer) pretended to play the guitar along with his enamel. It was so hilarious to me, and I nonetheless have a look at the video clip every time I want amusing.

Different teams have been at all times working towards their dance strikes within the dressing rooms and specializing in ironing out each imperfection. I feel I had a beard and was pretending to play DJ turntables that have been dealing with the unsuitable means throughout our efficiency on stage. It was only a testomony to who we actually have been. Our ardour was taking part in reside reveals and writing music.

Inform us a little bit bit about your upcoming EP.

The brand new EP is a set of songs self-written and produced, made potential by my followers. I spent a lot time over the previous two years producing for different artists in Asia, I really feel like my manufacturing is lastly at a degree the place I can write songs how I intend, from begin to end. I used to be actually in a position to have enjoyable with the songwriting and sound design, and I feel individuals who take pleasure in ear sweet will recognize this one. I grew up listening to emo and metalcore bands, so you possibly can positively really feel that affect within the association and manufacturing. The lyrics are additionally much less dramatic than “The Gentle EP,” the place I had written the tracks [for what I thought at the time might] probably be my final undertaking ever. Nonetheless, I really feel these lyrics set the scene and illustrate a setting folks will be capable of join with.

It’s been practically two years because you launched “The Gentle EP.” How do you assume you’ve modified as an artist throughout that point? Are there any vital variations between “The Gentle EP” and your new music?

Throughout manufacturing for “The Gentle EP,” each second was fleeting. The joy of the crowdfunding success was overshadowed by my dedication to carving out an opus that represented my wrestle. After my accident and my stroke, I’ve felt a constant hum of worry reminding me that it might all be taken away at any second. Now that that’s been launched, I’m within the section of acceptance, the place I’ve accepted that I’ve no management over something however my output. The brand new undertaking is much less determined and extra about having fun with the second.

Additionally, on “The Gentle EP,” the one observe I utterly self-produced was “Good”. On the brand new one, I did all the pieces high to backside, so listeners can know I meant each single observe, sound, and lyric. 

You lately collaborated with Amber Liu in your new single “Alright,” which, in some ways, is precisely the form of track that folks want to listen to proper now.

Amber is an angel. She typically spends extra time serving to different folks than herself, so I recognize the truth that she was in a position to make a while to document “Alright.” When she featured on my track “Good” [from “The Light EP”], I wished to make use of the feel of her voice as an instrument and a layer, however when she hopped on “Alright,” she actually took it to a different stage. I wrote the unique observe in about 30 minutes. The lyrics have been what I needed somebody would say to me after I was having a horrible day, however with Amber on the observe, there’s a way of consolation that makes it hit in all the fitting locations.

Amber truly featured on a track of mine known as “Truthfully” again within the day, nevertheless it by no means noticed the sunshine of day. She’s simply such a very good pal with an amazing voice, so the collaboration was meant to occur. The collaboration occurred so naturally. We have been on the cellphone at some point, and she or he stated we would have liked to collab once more, and I despatched her “Alright.” She stated sure instantly, and it was a wrap!

Your music video for “Alright” was one thing straight out of a sci-fi film, which was an fascinating alternative for a track with such a soothing and mellow vibe.

We shot the music video the final day earlier than the lockdown went into impact. Amber directed it with a pal, Director Homie. We didn’t know that the lockdown would final this lengthy, however we knew that the scenic view can be one thing folks might recognize whereas being caught at residence.

What are you engaged on proper now?

I’m ready for the grasp recordings to return again for the brand new EP, and I’ve simply began selling the marketing campaign to have the names of my followers printed on the bodily EP. I really feel fortunate that I’m in a position to contain the followers this fashion, with out leaping via hoops like I might’ve needed to up to now. In addition to that, I’m already engaged on the following EP as effectively, and the music is popping out very well.

Inform us about your newest single “Erase,” which is due out on Might 22.

“Erase” is a step within the new path I’m taking. It’s a departure from my consolation zone, out of necessity, that has pressured me to develop. I’ve mixed components of digital music, emotional lyrics, and the percussive ear sweet that metalcore songs typically have. I actually was so comfy with the guitar, however I’m lastly discovering my very own sound with digital music.

What would you say your objectives as an artist are proper now? Have they modified over time?

Earlier than I went to Korea, I wished to be an artist. After I was in Korea, I feel I wished to be well-known. Now, I simply need to write songs which can be genuine and folks can join with.

What conjures up you most as a musician? The place do you get your concepts when writing new songs?

Love conjures up me essentially the most. I really feel like all the trials and hardships we face can by some means be cured by love. I used to assume that ache gave me the perfect songs, however I’ve discovered the foundation of all of it has at all times been love. 

You’re within the lineup of performing artists for the upcoming livestream live performance “Dwell From Dwelling.” Are you able to inform us a little bit bit about what you’ve ready for the present?

There’s an acoustic model of three of the songs I’ve launched, as a result of I really feel it should swimsuit the format a little bit higher. There are some oldies, and I’ll additionally sing “Erase” for the primary time ever. 

You additionally went on a stateside tour with former U-KISS member Kevin Woo final 12 months. What was that have like?

My first tour was truly in a metallic band after I was 16, however for my first solo tour, it was simply means too quick. With the ability to carry out on stage with him is one thing I’ll always remember. We’re so completely different as artists, however I’m completely satisfied to name him one in every of my finest associates.

Do you continue to comply with Ok-pop in any respect? In that case, are there any particular artists you’ve been listening to/have your eye on?

I used to be actually shocked by ITZY. I’ve solely seen a couple of movies right here and there on Instagram, however I’m actually impressed with how briskly they will transfer their shoulders. I don’t assume I might transfer that quick if my life trusted it.

Other than ITZY, it’s unattainable to not see BTS in every single place. I keep in mind after we used to share dressing rooms with them, and I had no thought they might be as large as they’re now. I don’t assume anyone did, nevertheless it’s unimaginable to witness. I’m most excited to see what BLACKPINK comes again with.

What do you miss most—and least—about being a Ok-pop star?

I miss my associates, consuming good Korean meals, and feeling the fraternal bond that solely Koreans appear to have with each other. I don’t miss the nervousness and stress that it’s essential to be higher than everybody else, particularly with music. I really feel you need to at all times be essentially the most real model of you, whether or not it’s marketable or not.

Are there any artists you’d need to collaborate with?

This at all times adjustments for me, however as a result of Soompi is a Ok-pop targeted website, I’ll concentrate on the Korean artists I’d prefer to work with. I feel IU has a timeless voice, and likewise, I’ve at all times favored G-Dragon’s voice, so possibly sometime!

Lastly, is there something you need to share together with your followers, Ok-pop followers, or Soompi readers on the whole?

Soompi has at all times been good to me. I’ve bought nothing however love for you guys; thanks a lot for at all times masking my work. To the followers and readers, thanks for taking the time to learn this. Prepare for some new music!

James Lee’s new single “Erase” shall be out there on all main streaming platforms, together with Apple Music and Spotify, on Might 22 at 12 a.m. PDT. Take a look at the track right here!


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