Interviewed By: Smiti Iyer (New Delhi) and Aanchal Tekriwal (Godda, Jharkhand)
Junhyung Kim aka GLOWCEAN is a South Korean artist, music producer, Beatmaker and Sound Designer. He debuted on June 16, 2019, with a remix single Clap With Me. After around 1 and half years, his comeback was with his first debut album ESSENCE on 18th January 2021. GLOWCEAN started learning classical piano when he was 7. In 2012, he started majoring in Jazz Piano at Berklee College of Music. But soon after, he decided to become a music producer. And after finally graduating from Berklee, GLOWCEAN came to Seoul for his music career and joined hands with LYL Culture and Entertainment. He has done a handful of collaborations with various artists as well. Thank you so much GLOWCEAN for doing an interview with us.
What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name ‘GLOWCEAN’ and where did it come from?
The name GLOWCEAN is a combination of ‘glow’ and ‘ocean’. It is a stage name that I named because I like the reflected light in the water.
What encouraged you to start your career in the field of producing music?
My parents have liked a variety of music since I was young. I think growing up in a family that loves music such as jazz, classical, pop, R&B, rock, etc. had a big impact. Maybe because of the influence, I dreamed of becoming a classical pianist since I was young and I learned classical piano from the age of 7 to the second grade of high school.
How would you define your own music and style? Are there any artists that have inspired you a long way?
I can’t define my music style as one, but I think I like delicate expressions. And I think it’s my style to make familiar and unique music by combining it with hip-hop, soul, pop, and electronic genres with that sound design. I like various artists such as Flying Lotus, Tokimonsta, Mura Masa, Honne, The Internet, etc. I was also inspired by the music of legendary artists in the hip-hop scene such as Timbaland and Missy Elliott.
Most of your songs since 2019, in which the tune and the beat you give are soothing, light, and relieving, which easily blend with the artist’s voice such as SUZANNE, THAMA, YESSEO etc. with whom you have collaborated so far. How would you describe working with these artists? Is there any memorable experience from these collaborations?
First of all, all the vocal artists who worked with me understood the track very well. I think such high-quality artists can pull off their skills well in any genre. Thanks to you, it was very easy to complete with the music I thought. Especially, when I told Suzanne about the song “Wheels” and asked her to write the lyrics, she made the lyrics so sophisticated, not too direct or too abstract. I remember liking it.
This makes me ask you another question, which artists you are planning to collaborate with in the near future? What are the projects you would like to make in the future? And what all can your fans expect from you?
After releasing the first regular album, I thought it would be nice to do more popular music. I am making various efforts to make music that many people can enjoy when they listen to it. Pop music such as R&B and hip-hop will be released. I like SOLE these days, and I want to work with musicians such as Hyukoh and Sumin.
Looking at your song credits, it is clear that you have definitely done a lot of hard work such as producing and composing when it comes to making your music. What does your creative process look like? How does your initial inspiration take shape of the music that we listen to as an end result?
When I came up with a full-length album, I thought that the composition of the song is consistent, so I wrote it while thinking about it. I don’t work and complete it as inspired as people think, but think about what kind of track I’m going to write strategically. When I start to get the main theme or melody of the song, I choose or make sounds that would suit me. I like to make sounds that are different from each other in song sections. So, each section will have different sounds. And when I move on to the next section, do chord progress or sound design so that I can naturally develop.
Let’s talk about your album ‘ESSENCE’. We came to know that your album includes a mix of genres such as classical and jazz. These forms you have learned during your childhood. How did you resonate and merge them with electro-pop? Which song from this album would you describe as your signature GLOWCEAN music?
When I made ESSENCE, I wrote it without thinking about classical elements or jazz elements. I mixed the sounds I used to listen to freely. I think “Wheels” is a representative song that can reveal me well. The sound is designed in my colour and I think the melody can appeal to many people.
Your remix “CLAP FOR ME FT. MOSTACHO XPRMNT” was released in 2019, the music here is very much similar to most of the tracks you have produced so far in your album, which gives us a calm and relaxing feeling after listening to it. How would you describe working on this remix in your words?
CLAP FOR ME was my first remix song. It was a challenge to make a completely different song in my style. It’s similar to EESENCE. It’s a song that I put in my favourite sounds. It was a song that I worked on with delicate sound design such as harp sound, water sound, bird sound, etc. It was the first song to be released under my name, so I think it wasn’t enough.
Your track number five “WHEELS FT. SUZANNE, THAMA” from your album “ESSENCE”, is slightly more minimalistic and takes a turn almost towards R&B. Of all the tracks, I would say this is the most chill although it still has a lot going on in the background. How were your experiences moving into R&B from electronic pop?
I used to enjoy listening to R&B, soul, and hip-hop music, and I aimed to make them my own style. I wanted to make music with a unique personality rather than making tracks that people all look alike, and I put electronic elements straight away.
Your first release “ESSENCE” and then your new single “ZERO GRAVITY FT. SUMMER SOUL” came just after five months after your album release. What were the origins of the new single? How would you describe the overall vibe of this single?
It’s a track that expresses the anxiety and obsession I felt when I was in love. That’s all I could think of because we were in a relationship that was so hard times. I wanted to solve the constant anxiety and unstable feelings that I felt in a cosmic way, and I wanted to give a complicated, dark, and deep feeling that I couldn’t explain in words.
We got to know that you have achieved a milestone as your recent album “ESSENCE” had been selected as the ‘Album of the Month’ by Music Bugs Korea. How do you feel about it?
It was my pleasure to be selected as the song of the month by Bugs Music. In fact, I wasn’t famous as an artist and I wasn’t well-known, so it was a more valuable experience. The fact that the critic commented and selected my music itself was a great comfort and driving force to me.
An artist grows when their work is being appreciated and acknowledged by so many people or their fans. We can also see your work being appreciated by many fans as well and they can also see you soaring to new heights. How would you describe your relationship with your fans?
I still can’t believe that I have fans! (lol) I’m so thankful that people listen to my music and I have a fan. I think I would not lose my own colour when I make music because my fans like my own music style and detailed expressions of mine. I would like to send a message to my fans around the world that I feel very grateful once again.
How would you describe a regular day in your life? And how is it different when you are not working? How do you spend your time when you are not making any music?
I’m going to spend a day like a normal office worker. In Korea, people usually go to work at 9 a.m. and get off work after 6 p.m. So I follow that routine, too. It must have physically and mentally difficulty when working until dawn or being night flip. When I’m not at work time, I just take a nap because I want to empty my head. Or watch a movie, go to an exhibition, or eat something delicious. Like everyone does, I won’t get a good idea if I have too many thoughts.
What are some of the challenges or difficulties that you have experienced in your career? How did it shape or affected your music ever since you started?
It’s not easy to make money by succeeding in the arts field. Therefore, I think it is difficult to make a stable income. Those things definitely made me tired and I regretted doing music at one time. However, those things give motivation to me. There’s a saying that once you look at great artists, masterpieces come out when you’re in hardship.
Hallyu Wave, the spread of Korean Culture in India has been massive, especially during the pandemic. And we also know that there are many fans in India who listen to your music as well. What message do you wish to deliver to them?
I didn’t imagine there were fans in India, but I’m so happy! It was a very nice interview and I want to do better on music for fans. I really want to visit India someday. And I want to collaborate with musicians in India.
Thank you so much for taking out your valuable time for this interview on behalf of our entire Hallyuism Team. Watch Glowcean’s latest Vlog here: