RM Discusses BTS’s Rise To Global Fame, The Unique Way He’s Inspired By Visual Artists, Plans To Open Art Collection, And More
BTS’s RM has shared his candid thoughts on life, art, music, and more with Marc Spiegler!
Marc Spiegler is a journalist and the global director of Art Basel, an international art fair. BTS’s RM recently joined Marc Spiegler as a guest on the June 28 episode of “Intersections: The Art Basel Podcast” where he spoke about the formation of BTS, their rise to fame, his thoughts on collecting art, and much more.
In his first-ever English-language podcast episode, RM started off by describing where he was, saying, “I’m in Seoul, because I live in South Korea, and here it’s 7 p.m. I’m in my studio.”
Regarding his start in music, RM explained that he was first exposed to artists like Eminem and Nas as a teenager, which helped him transition his dream from being a poet to being a rapper. He continued, “I just wanted to enter an underground label in Korea so I actually sent my resume – my music, and I got in. But, the final test was to have a real performance with the musicians. But I was just 16 so I forgot my lyrics on stage. I was so nervous, so I sucked,” which led him to believe that he was only talented in the studio, but not as a performer.
Despite the initial disappointment of that performance, RM revealed that Korean rapper Sleepy had seen him forget his lyrics, laughed at his mistake, but still contacted him on behalf of BTS’s current agency HYBE and its CEO Bang Si Hyuk, who was looking for young talent at the time.
RM continued, “I was the first one to be a BTS member. Actually, Mr. Bang, our CEO, started the team with me.” He added, “BTS, we started as trainees and there were more than 30 people for BTS but, many of them dropped out.” Once those 30 trainees were narrowed down to the seven members of BTS that we know and love today, their official debut happened in 2013, but RM stated that it’s been 12 years since the group first began living together.
For the first few years of their career, BTS steadily gained popularity throughout Korea and the rest of Asia, but began to reach new heights of global popularity about five years ago. RM gave all the credit to BTS’s fans ARMY and shared, “They’re not just about the enthusiasm or the energy. They actually did something. They send the letters to the American DJs to stream our songs on the radio because airplay is really important for the Billboard charts.”
RM said that being at “the eye of the hurricane” is really strange, but he was able to use fine visual arts to help him stay calm at this stage of BTS’s career. Elaborating on how he became more involved with art, RM shared, “It was in 2018, so four years ago. Actually, I got plenty of time when we were on tour in America or in Europe.” As he spent most of this free time hanging out in his hotel room, RM said this boredom led him to start sightseeing.
He continued, “The first site [I visited] was the Chicago Art Institute and it was 2018. I just went there and saw the amazing paintings they got,” describing his excitement to see artwork by legendary artists like Seurat, Monet, and Picasso for the first time.
RM added that although these artists are no longer alive, he was thrilled to encounter a piece of them and their time through their art. He commented, “I was so jealous. [I thought,] ‘What is art? What is this painting? What is this color? What do they mean?’ That first experience got me really interested and I had many chances to visit all the famous museums because I was always in Paris, New York, and LA.”
After BTS first appeared at the Billboard Music Awards in May 2017, their global ventures only became more common and more grand. RM shared that while appearing on these prestigious global stages and meeting his idols was a dream come true, the experience brought him back to his roots and inspired him to go discover all the art in Korea.
RM also talked about how most visual artists reach their peak of success following their death, which has allowed him to be brave and think longer about the trajectory of his career. He expanded on this, saying, “I’m 29 in Korea. When we turn 30, it’s still young, I’m still just a young man, but in a world of boy bands, turning 30 is something different. That’s really sad, but it’s a fact.”
RM continued, “I just want to make music like the timeless [fine art] pieces that I admire.”
When asked if he thinks there will one day be a Kim Nam Joon [RM’s birth name] private museum in Korea, RM responded with a laugh, “Museums itself are really complicated, right? They need curators and exhibitions.”
He added, “This is my first time actually saying this but seriously, I’m planning to make a small space of my own private collection. Just make a café on the first floor and set up my collections on the second floor and third floor and people could always see the collections when they want to see it.”
In early June, BTS released their anthology album “Proof” which has since seen tons of success on various Billboard charts. Shortly after the group’s ninth debut anniversary, on June 14, BTS announced their indefinite hiatus and plans to focus on their solo careers.
You can listen to RM’s entire discussion with Marc Spiegler in English on the June 28 episode of “Intersections: The Art Basel Podcast.”