Kim Bo Kyung, best known for her appearance on Mnet’s audition program “Superstar K2,” has released a new digital single “Like Spring” last month. This track is originally from her first mini album “The First Day” released in January, but due to popular demand following its inclusion in the music video of movie “Romantic Heaven,” Sony Music Korea decided to put it out as a separate digital single. A lot of you may be familiar with her strong vocals on “Superstar K2” when she gave a cover performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” Her poor upbringing and personal history made many viewers to shed tears, while her dismissal prior to the “Top 11” left many in disbelief. But even without the “Top 11” credentials, Kim Bo Kyung was the first “Superstar K2” contestant to release an album, and her first single, “The First Day (Haru Haru),” topped most Korean music charts upon release. This time with her new single “Like Spring,” she returns with a pop tune that reminds you of a bright sunny day. Soompi was given a special opportunity to personally interview Kim Bo Kyung and talk about her new album, future plans, and advice to anyone aspiring to become the next KPOP star through audition programs, e.g. “Superstar K2,” just like herself. The following is the full interview:
Q: Tell us more about your new song?
A: The new song is called “Like Spring.” It was on my last mini album but it was so popular I decided to make it a separate single album. It’s a song as bright and lively as spring, so it’ll make you feel really good. It’s easy to listen to, like when driving, so a lot of people will enjoy it.
Q: It looks like you’re trying to change your image?
A: I always thought to myself a bright song wouldn’t fit my image. But my staff told me this song (“Like Spring”) would sound good on me so I just recorded it, and the response was overwhelmingly good. Since I like songs with strong beats, like rock music, I was biased against soft, smooth songs, but after recoding this song, I really started to like it.
Q: Tell us a bit about your first mini album. Did you write any of the songs?
A: I wrote the fourth track of my last mini album, “Thinking of You.” Aside from the title track, “Haru Haru,” all the songs contain a positive message. The first track, “Brand New Day,” is also an upbeat song, encouraging you to break out of your daily routine life. Overall, it contains a lot of positive messages about hope and strength. The title track “Haru Haru” best-suits my style. I thought it’s good to have bright songs but it would be boring to fill the album only with bright songs, so I added a track with a slightly different feeling.
Q: Why do you like Kelly Clarkson so much?
A: One of the main reasons I applied for “Superstar K2” was because I thought she was going to be one of the guest panels. Her voice in “Because of You” is so amazing, I can tell why people love her so much. She’s the first winner of “American Idol” and so a lot of people really like her, just as I do. Despite growing up in a poor family, she turned out to be a very successful musician with a strong heart—and I would like to really shape my career after her. I also heard she’s got a great personality so everything about her is just so appealing.
Q: You even released a remake album of Clarkson’s “Because of You.”
A: I always thought the song reminded me of myself so I really wanted to put out a cover song. It’s a remake album, but I was really excited to produce that album.
Q: Now you’re a professional singer. How does is feel?
A: When the mini album first got out, people only recognized me when they were told I’m the Kim Bo Kyung from “Superstar K2.” But now after promoting “Haru Haru” for three months, a lot of young people know who I am. Older people still don’t know me that well but I want to do more promotions and make myself better known.
Q: Your path to becoming a singer was quite a struggle, as seen on “Superstar K2.” It must feel different to finally become a singer and have your own album.
A: Well, compared to other singers I don’t consider myself to have gone through that much adversity. In fact, I consider myself to be lucky compared to others. A lot of people remain trainees for years and some don’t even end up debuting as signers, but I somehow appeared on an audition program and fortunately got to make my debut—so I feel very thankful for that and would like to work even harder. Some people tell me this is sort of a reward for all my hardships, but I try not to think of myself as having struggled to realize my dream. I was just really lucky to get myself in a great TV program. Even when I saw my first album, it didn’t’ feel any special for some reason. I just thought, “Oh, this is my album,” because I listened to the songs so much and just practiced them countless times. But after the album release, I received a lot of congratulatory phone calls and I could hear my songs on the streets, and that’s when it kind of really hit me. Also, when my mom called in tears, and told me she was so happy to hear her friends talk about my song, I realized I became a real singer.
Q: How does it feel to see your first mini album?
A: Obviously it feels different from my previous single album or OST album. It was a great feeling to see my single and OST albums too, but this mini album is the first one with my name on it. I feel more responsible with my songs and as much as I want to promote myself as a singer, I want to leave a good first impression more than anything.
Q: What kind of first impression would you like to leave?
A: I think a lot of people remember me as the depressed and broken-heart Kim Bo Kyung from “Superstar K2,” so I would like to leave a brighter image this time. That’s why I kind of changed the lyrics of “Brand New Day” because it sounded a bit depressing at first. Now it’s a completely different track with a livelier tone.
Q: You’re the first contestant from “Superstar K2” to perform on network TV and the fastest to debut as a signer.
A: A lot of people helped me. They all said “You work so hard it makes me want to help you.” So things worked out faster than I imagined. When I made my first network TV performance, everyone around me was really surprised. None of the other contestants has done it yet. There’s this rumor that network TV doesn’t like “Superstar K2” contestants, but I guess a lot of people really worked hard for me and liked my work, so I was able to be the first one to make it on network TV. I don’t know how exactly things worked out, but I never really pushed for network TV. I just thought since I’m going to be a singer for a long time, and if I really do my best, then my work will be recognized by more fans, and then, the network TVs will have no choice but to have me on their shows—so I didn’t put much thought on it, but when I heard the news I was really happy.
Q: Do you still get really nervous on stage?
A: I guess rather than being nervous, I’m more excited now. I prefer singing in front of a crowd than just a camera. Since I go on a lot of TV shows, I have to care about the camera more, and I’m still getting used to that. But I think I was more nervous on Mnet than network TV shows, perhaps because I still have memories of being really nervous on “Superstar K2.”
Q: You look a lot more professional both on and off the stage now.
A: I think if anyone goes to the beauty shops I get to go to and gets the treatment I’m getting, they would get prettier. But in terms of singing, I have much more responsibility now. I have a different mentality compared to my audition program days. I have to continue growing, you know? I’m a professional now so I can’t just remain an amateur anymore. You have to keep developing yourself.
Q: Since when did you dream of becoming a singer?
A: Since I was a little kid, I wanted to become a singer. I never hesitated to go in front of an audience and sing. In high school, I started a band and did an audition once for JYP Entertainment, when my little sister did it as well. Of course I didn’t pass and my sister’s now majoring in modern dance.
Q: What are your thoughts about being a singer?
A: I was searching the web this morning and read this article about singers having the highest suicide rate. I think the reason singers are ranked #1 is because they’re constantly under pressure to please a lot of people. You have to enjoy that part of your job as a singer, but I think it’s very hard to do so. I think my view on a singer has changed a lot compared to my pre-debut days. I heard a lot of people quit being a singer after realizing this job is different from what they imagined. But to me, it’s still very fun. I get to meet all these different people and singers I never imagined to get to see. It’s almost surreal how I got to meet Tony Ahn, my childhood idol. And it’s still fun to see myself on TV. Sometimes during a press interview, I get into intense debates with the reporters and it always feels like I’m learning new stuff. I guess these experiences translate into new songs later on.
Q: Any advice to future audition program contestants?
A: You applied to the audition program because you had a dream. But during the show, you might get turned down by the harsh criticism you never expected to hear, and might lose your confidence after seeing other really talented contestants. But if you really want to do it, always remind yourself that you’re the best. If you keep getting stressed over small things, you won’t last long. I just hope you enjoy the moment because everything becomes a valuable lesson eventually. There will be someone noticing your talent, so just keep chasing your dream.
Q: Who’s your role model?
A: I love Yoon Do Hyun and Yoon Mirae (Tasha). Yoon Mirae is a female singer but has a strong image, so I like her. I also admire Big Mama’s Lee Young Hyun, as well as Lee Eun Mi and Hong Kyung Min. Once you meet these people, you realize they have their own values and clear goals.
Q: Any goals for this year?
A: I want to promote myself as singer Kim Bo Kyung, not as one of the contestants from “Superstar K2.” I want to lose the audition program image, and publicize myself as rookie singer Kim Bo Kyung.
Q: What’s your final goal as a singer?
A: I want to do a world tour. It’s my dream since high school days. When I say this, people ask me if I’m going to quit singing after the world tour (laughs). But to be honest with you, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to visit all those countries before I die. I dream of going to the Amazon with just a guitar. But first thing is to get myself better known in Korea.
Q: What does music mean to you?
A: In the past it was the escape and exit from my regular life, but now it’s just a road, a long road. I just want to be with it till the day I die because I love it so much. Some say if you make your hobby a full time job, it gets boring; but I think if I were to hate singing, I was going to hate it in high school when doing guest appearances at others schools and competing in singing contests. It’s sad that I don’t have enough time to practice these days, but it’s still so much fun and I’m enjoying every moment of it.