Kaamaakshi Bhat, Zirakpur, Punjab
Daniel Kim is a songwriter and music producer from Seoul, South Korea who has worked with artists such as MONSTA X, The Boyz, SF9, EXO, Loona, Twice, GOT7, and many more. He started his career after graduation in 2012. Working alongside the music publishing company “Melogram” in 2017, he has been giving us one of the best songs in the industry.
On behalf of Hallyuism, here’s an excerpt of the interview conducted with him:
You have graduated as an audio engineer. How did you discover your passion for music and writing songs?
Actually, I’ve been writing songs for quite a while even before I entered school. I must say I chose to learn audio technology not because it was my passion but I just thought it would be of good help for my songwriting/production skills.
Creating music has always been my biggest passion ever since I’ve been introduced to pop music when I was a child, and then to rock ’n roll sounds afterward. I think I spent my entire teenage life dreaming about becoming a musician so I can’t say I “discovered” my passion for it because it has been always there.
How was your experience composing the recent song Tear Drop by SF9? This song has been making a buzz lately among K-fans. Please share with us how was this entire process of composing this song took place.
It’s very nice to hear the fans are loving it. I feel this is a very special song as I’ve put more emotions than usual when writing and that makes me feel even more special to have this many great reactions from people, actually this is more than I expected.
This was written the last autumn-winter I remember, we used to have a songwriting camp in FNC Entertainment but it was difficult to do so this time because of the covid crisis so they suggested making it an online setup instead. For this camp, my British friend Geek Boy based in Manchester sent over this very special track tailor-made for SF9 and I was instantly inspired by it.
Before I started writing, FNC got me this couple of lyrical wordings they wanted me to use in the song so I tried humming through the track with it and then the chorus melody just “fell out of my head.” After about 20 minutes I found out the song was just done. Sometimes you get to write a great tune without effort or struggle and this was just that case. In my experience, those songs mostly get the best reactions too.
You have co-written SF9’s song Believer which was performed by them on the Kingdom stage. What aspects do you usually keep in mind working on a song?
In fact, I didn’t know it was going to be used in that show but somehow it ended up being such an epic performance which surprised me a lot. That was a hell of a stage!
Believer does have that great performance-friendly vibe and power by its beat arrangement itself, I could imagine how the scene should be looking like or what kind of choreographies should be coming along just by listening through it. This maybe is one of the most important parts of my songwriting philosophy – to be able to have a picture or visions through the sounds.
You have also contributed to the b-side track ‘Fanatic’ in Turn Over album by SF9. How was your experience producing this song?
We had a songwriting camp in Seoul last February just before this covid got serious. We were writing many great songs there with my Melogram writer Takey (who co-wrote “Off My Mind” included in the same album) and our friends from Europe and it was one of its outcomes.
I remember it was written on the 2nd day of it, my friend Joe Lawrence and I started writing it from late afternoon hour but we thought the song was coming out very smoothly. But after we finished recording the demo to present to FNC staff we found out we have to re-write it because we originally used some motives from one of Beethoven’s classics and another artist just release a song with the same approach. So, we had to go back to the studio to spend a few more hours to find even better melodies and it is how it turned out in the end. Luckily everyone was happy with it.
How did you start your journey within the K-Pop industry? How has been this experience so far?
Even though I’ve been dreaming about it for a very long time but I started quite late. I was almost 30 when I just started working in this business. I had no clue on how to start a career in music, no connections nor mentors to provide me any advice so I had to find it myself. I chose to take a course in school but it was in Japan so when I was back in Seoul I had to start from the very bottom.
I literally had no choice but to go knock on each label’s doors myself in the first place and that was what I did. Luckily a few of them called me back and I could have my first K-pop song out in 2012. There were many ups and downs before I come this far, many happy or unhappy accidents, countless broken promises, and broken hearts have happened on the way. It really wasn’t an easy career to build, I was literally thinking about quitting at least 300 times a day in the first 3-4 years.
I think I’m having my reward for my hard work throughout this decade now but I can’t take it for granted because even though I’m in a better place than before but the competition is still going hot and there are still too many songs to create. I just keep on grinding every single day to get better at what I do.
You have also started your company, “Melogram.” What’s the meaning behind its name, and what all do you do at Melogram. Is it any different from your personal or individual projects or ventures?
I love melodies and that’s why we music people want to make music I guess. This name “Melogram” reflects such thoughts of mine. I came up with this name by combining “melody” with “program” because I thought that’s what we actually do. Although some say it sounds like melody + Instagram…well that’s kind of cool too. (haha)
This is a publishing company basically, it is not at all my personal artist project or anything. Under this company I discover new songwriters and producers, create new music with them or sometimes help them to polish their musical skills, and introduce the outcomes of our musical creations to many of my clients and friends in South Korea, Japan, China, and so on. It’s been only about 3 years since I launched it but I guess I’m having a very fun trip on this ship watching it growing slowly but steadily. I could run into many good friends and build even stronger networks with many talented people and some other business partners from around the world.
Since you have already worked with so many K-Pop artists such as The Boyz, MONSTA X, SF9, Taemin, Loona, etc. Do you have any memorable experiences that you would like to share regarding working with them?
Each artist provides very different working experiences for sure. I love working with them even though the process is usually very long and requires you some good patience. Every recording session makes me feel like I’m in a battle that requires you to have a great focus on what you do and I believe that’s what the artists feeling as well.
Most K-pop stars are very hard-working people in the studio. They are all super focused when they’re in front of microphones and sometimes get very much tensed so we’re mostly under great pressure during the process but sometimes when there’s this “spark” happening that is just the moment you live for.
I still remember the time when The Boyz’ Sunwoo did his rap in one of the songs I wrote for the “Tattoo” he literally gave me a shiver down my spine when he was done his bit. He was going through my demo guide in the first place but it didn’t sound very right. So I asked him to “become himself“ then he spat out those lines in one take right away. I was speechless. One of the unforgettable moments from 2019.
Also, what groups or artists you would love to make and produce music for? Is there any such group on your wish list, or the work is already in progress that we can expect anytime soon. K-Pop enthusiasts across the world would love to know.
Well, I’d love to have a chance to work with IU or Hyun-A’s songs personally. Some stuff I can try new things plus they always pull out their music with great performances. Plus my wife will go crazy too if I get to work with them! I’m afraid I can’t reveal which project I’m working on right now because that would be my clients’ secrets but there will be more releases so please stay tuned.
How would you describe the music or the style that you typically produce? What kind of genre/sounds do you like the most?
I’m afraid I don’t think I can define the style I’m doing because I think it has a little bit of everything! I don’t like to stay in just one or two genres nor I don’t think that’s a healthy thing to do musically. I want to explore as wide areas as possible while I’m running this career. I love to try new things and make twists so it is really hard to describe it in one or two words to define the genre/style I’m making. I just like to put it as “pop.”
Is there any music style/genre that you haven’t tried yet but would like to try in the future?
Many obviously. I’m willing to discover and try any new things like I said above. Maybe I’ll try to adopt some traditional Indian vibes into my tracks soon. I love authentic traditional music from different countries.
If you want to suggest to someone one of your composed songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?
For boyband songs, I’d like to suggest “Now or Never” by SF9. I think that one has a very strong character. For girl band, I’d go for “Love Song” by MissA. Although it’s a bit old catalog I’m still quite proud of its instrumental drop. I made it in the early stage of my career but somehow I think it’s one of the best work I’ve ever done production-wise.
Who are some of the artists or producers who you look up to or who inspires/ influences you to make music? Also, what prompts you to find your own unique style of producing music?
I was always a huge fan of Michael Jackson and I think his music still inspires me in many ways. The music nowadays is quite different from what we had when he was around but I often go back to his records to remind myself of the thrills I had when I was a kid. The most important influence I had in my life I must say. I actually don’t pursue anything to be “unique”, nor even try to think of it because I believe the uniqueness is already there even if you don’t try to. Everyone has their own unique characters, aren’t they?
Yes, I used to mimic someone else’s styles but that was when I was a starter and didn’t have much confidence in what I do. Now I’m a grown-up musician and if you’re a grown-up you need to have your own ideas and eyes to catch your own sounds. If you do have them you don’t have to be motivated to be “unique.” Everything you do will naturally have your own color.
In the past recent decade, there has been a shift in people pursuing non-traditional or creative career alternatives. What advice would you like to give to such people who want to make a career in music just like you?
Just try it don’t think too much. If you think too much you’ll lose because the world is changing faster than you. Just go get it.
Since you have composed songs for boy groups, solos, and girl groups as well. What’s the major difference between composing songs? Is there any specific parameter you keep in mind while making music or does it differ from group to group or artist to artist?
Every artist has their own characters and colors so of course, you need to keep them in mind when writing on some level. But if you mind it too much it will become restrictions on your creativity and will make you go through a hard time coming up with ideas. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to work if you’re in this business. Maybe this is a kind of sensitive area to discuss because every songwriter/producer have different workflows and styles but in my case, I just briefly look into what kind of elements are needed and simply do what I do to see what happens because my biggest interest is to find ways to make my taste work with an artist NOT to stay in the safe zone by strictly following the requirements. If you don’t venture you won’t gain any in my opinion.
I just work on a very simple principle – if you like it yourself there’s a high chance the others will like it too. So you just believe in your music and see how it works. Sometimes (or many times) things just happen in unexpected ways and that’s when you feel the magic.
The world is still coping with the pandemic, and many people resort to music for comfort so much so that it is now a huge part of the daily lives of people. How has COVID-19 affected your daily lifestyle? How do you keep yourself motivated during these hard times?
The first big thing is that I can’t travel as before obviously. I used to fly every month for business or songwriting trips in the different countries that I hated to be on flights but now I’m terribly missing the days of myself doing it. I think that’s the origin of my corona blue at the moment. Other than that, actually, there are not many changes in my basic lifestyle because all I do is just make music and go to the gym even on normal days. I guess I’m kind of a work addict.
K-Pop in India is a growing market. Lately, there has been a sharp rise in the consumption of K-Pop in the country. How do you look at this opportunity? And what would that mean for the fans in India from your perspective as someone who has been closely associated with famous K-pop scenes in the industry today?
That’s amazing news! Actually what’s going on in the K-pop scene in the world right now feels very unreal for me even to this day. When I was starting this it was just getting better from the old days and no one could tell we’re gonna be reaching out to the world this way.
I’m very happy to hear Indian fans are loving it and they are feeling our music in the same way we do. I’m feeling very grateful for their love. It’d be a wonderful thing if both countries and cultures can communicate more musically. I hope someday I could run into many Indian songwriting talents as well. That should be a very exciting experience to have!
Our entire team of Hallyuism extends gratefulness to Daniel Kim for taking out time for this interview! Enjoy the latest song ‘Trauma’ by SF9 from their latest album Rumination released today in which Daniel Kim has participated as well!