Korean-American artist Kevin Woo has conquered K-Pop, and is now chasing the American dream. The 29-year-old was a member of Korean boy band U-KISS and he is now charting a solo career path in Hollywood, experimenting with a more mature style of music and leveraging on the power of social media to connect with his fans—whom he adoringly calls Klovers (short for Kevin Lovers).
For the uninitiated: Kevin Woo grew up in Danville, California before moving to South Korea at the age of 15 with his mum to pursue his dreams of becoming a global K-Pop star. In 2006, he launched his career as part of XING before joining U-KISS, a boy band consisting of six members.
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Not one to rest on his laurels, Kevin has since parlayed his U-KISS fame and talent into successful second acts as a television presenter, social media star (4.8 million likes on TikTok, 714k followers on Instagram, and 160k subscribers on YouTube), musical theatre performer as well as a solo singer—and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Case in point: Kevin just released a new single titled ‘Got It’, which is about a toxic relationship he experienced.
Ahead, we speak exclusively to Kevin Woo to find out more about the inspiration behind his new music, creative process, style evolution, NFTs, time in U-KISS, upcoming projects and more.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your new single ‘Got It’.
I wanted to write about my feelings regarding toxic relationships and how it’s hard to leave something that’s bad for you but also makes you feel good. This is one of the first songs that I’ve fully written and I wanted to write something that was honest to me that hopefully the audience can resonate with.
You’re very active on social media. Where do you get your inspiration from to create content and what is your creative process like?
It really depends on which platform I’m using because each social media platform has its own unique characteristics. But overall, I get inspired by my favorite things like K-Pop, dance, food, and culture. Sometimes it takes a lot of planning and sometimes it happens spontaneously. At the end of the day, I like to produce what translates best to each platform and to my fans.
What do you miss most about being part of U-KISS, and what do you love most about being a solo artist?
There are pros and cons to both. I miss the camaraderie we shared during our boy band days. It was like having six brothers to laugh and cry with through our long journey together. No matter how much time passes, I love how we can always support each other and keep each other accountable. After going solo, I love the fact that I can have full creative control over my music and artistic direction.
How has your K-Pop training helped you in your career, especially now that you’re a solo artist?
It instilled in me a high work ethic and professionalism from an early age. The training process to become an idol is cut-throat and intense. I’ve learned to always keep myself prepared for anything that comes my way. Having these skills allowed me to push myself to become a better artist and ultimately a well-rounded person.
How different is your music now as compared to when you first started?
I feel like my music has matured as I have matured, in other words, my lyrics have gotten deeper and more sophisticated. I’m still evolving everyday and I want to explore more sounds as a solo artist to showcase the spectrum of colours within me.
What was it like to be part of the Joy Ruckus Club concert, and what are your thoughts on virtual performances?
I felt honoured to be part of Joy Ruckus Club 2 online concert. I think even after the pandemic, virtual performances will continue to thrive as many people can easily access content from all parts of the globe. It reaches more audiences in a more economical fashion and it creates dynamic, fun, and comfortable engagement for both artists and fans.
What are your hopes for the future of K-pop and the music industry in general?
I hope that K-Pop continues to reach new milestones and captivate audiences all over the world with its positivity and catchy music. K-Pop has made a big impact on the music industry by becoming a household genre of music but it also has showcased the power of foreign music in general to be more globally accepted and accessible.
Tell us about your relationship with fashion.
Fashion has always been a huge part of me. I’ve experimented with a lot of different styles ever since my debut and I think every era has led up to my current style. I can see that the colours have definitely changed from vibrant ones to more muted tones. I still love to challenge myself with different fashion styles to constantly switch things up and keep myself up to date with current trends, while keeping the essence of my original style.
If you could go back in time and tell your 15-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to learn how to play more instruments and languages in my free time. After debuting, I found it difficult to learn new things due to busy schedules. If I were to pick things up sooner, I wouldn’t have regretted not doing so. But it’s never too late to keep building on skills and I think it’s important to be curious about everything.
What would you like to say to all of your longtime fans in Singapore?
Singapore was one of the first countries I visited after debuting in U-KISS and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I want to let my fans in Singapore know that I’m always grateful for their support and loyalty towards me. I had the most wonderful intimate fan-meeting in Singapore before the pandemic and I will never forget it. I hope to meet them in person again soon.
Apart from new music, what else do you have in the pipeline?
I have very exciting news: Along with my new global release of ‘Got It’, I’m also dropping my first NFTs with a company named KLKTN, which I am the creative director at. Fans will be able to own and collect my art, music, moments, and more. Also, I’m working hard to achieve my dreams of acting in a TV series or film.
Fill in the blanks:
a. If I could guest star in any television series currently on air, it’ll be…The Umbrella Academy.
b. My dream musical collaborator is…Ariana Grande.
c. My dream dinner party guests, dead or alive, would be…Tori Kelly.